The Mo’Kelly Report

The Gun-Toting Black Athletes Affect All Black Males
01.18.2010, 2:11 PM
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Gilbert Arenas

Few debates in all of my years of editorial journalism have been this simple. For all the usual pushback Mo’Kelly would get in the discussion of guns within the African-American professional athlete community, the opposition is largely silent these days.

No surprise there.

With the death of boxing champion Vernon Forrest, murdered while chasing after a robber and his stolen Rolex; gun enthusiasts twisted the truth arguing that his social status and success made him the target. The truth of the matter was much less convoluted. Forrest’s gun only ensured his murder. If Forrest isn’t carrying a concealed weapon, he does not chase after armed robbers down a dark alley.

Barring any future unforeseen circumstances, Vernon Forrest would be alive and well today.

Last week, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty to felony gun charges in relation to bringing four guns to the Verizon Center. It is his second gun-related offense, meaning he’s had more than one opportunity to act with good sense.  While awaiting sentencing, Adidas dropped Arenas from his $40 million dollar endorsement deal and the Wizards are presently working to void his contract in full.

Guns just might have ended Arenas’ career, destroyed any level of marketability and most importantly may take away his freedom for an extended period of time.

Yes, guns have done a wonderful job protecting the life and livelihood of one Gilbert Arenas.

But wait, there’s more.

Marvin Harrison

Former NFL wide receiver Marvin Harrison is presently being investigated, under suspicion of murder. Depending on which reports you read, charges are on the way. Yes, guns have done a yeoman’s job in protecting athletes and their interests.

That’s not including former Tennessee basketball player Tyler Smith. Guns likely have ended his professional career before it even began.

Plaxico Burress anyone? Normally I would hope he reads this, but Mo’Kelly doesn’t think Plax will get to check his email from jail. Even if he does, he probably doesn’t want to hear from Mo’Kelly on this subject.

Usually there is one exception and they also say the exception proves the rule. As it stands, there is no exception here. Guns outside the home, obtained or transported illegally have not made athletes safer and its a specious argument that needs to end. Guns are ending the careers of African-American professional athletes, not protecting them. Mo’Kelly can’t find ONE example of how concealed weapons have protected the professional athlete carrying it.

Not ONE.

How many more must lose everything before we get the message?

Yes, “we.”

Given the prevalence and persistence of these issues amongst Black athletes and not White ones it must come down to a difference in choices. Black athletes are not “more” likely to be targeted than White ones, only seemingly more likely to make choices in which put their safety in doubt.

The worst part of all of this is that these athletes are willfully contributing to the negative stereotypes of Black men that the whole of our community must deal with incessantly. Gilbert Arenas puts Mo’Kelly in danger. Marvin Harrison puts Mo’Kelly in danger. Plaxico Burress puts Mo’Kelly in danger. Society treats Black men relative to incidents like these. Legislation is created in relation to incidents such as these.

Thank you guys for helping legitimize the stereotypes of Black men as being violent and felonious, irrespective of educational or financial status. Their collective criminality affects all Black males, not just the ones who willingly gave away their careers (and lives) for the sake of faux machismo.

Few debates in all of my years of editorial journalism have been this simple. For all the usual pushback Mo’Kelly would get in the discussion of guns within the African-American professional athlete community, the opposition is largely silent these days.

The truth of the matter is that there is no “other” side to this discussion. There is no opposition. It is a figment of one’s imagination. There is no good reason for professional athletes carrying concealed weapons when legal, private security exist as an affordable option. For all the entourages and worthless “associates” on athletes’ payrolls, it’s even more ridiculous why some African-American athletes can’t make the right decision. Affordability is simply not an intelligent excuse.

The desire to carry a concealed weapon is nothing more than misguided machismo wrapped in stupidity. The actions of Arenas, Burress, Harrison et al. don’t only endanger lives of those carrying the guns, but the collateral damage impacts the perception and safety of all Black men.

The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published weekly at It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse…as well as entertain. The Mo’Kelly Report is syndicated by Blogburst. For more Mo’Kelly,  Mo’Kelly can be reached at and he welcomes all commentary.

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62 Comments so far
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No disrespect, Mo, but this does not affect me.

It troubles me, but it doesn’t affect me. There’s a difference. I doubt that a racist police officer is going to be thinking about Gilbert Arenas if he has a bone to pick with me. He’s going to be thinking about his hatred for black people, and most likely, that hatred was formed many years before Arenas was even born.

You can look at my nerdy self and tell that I couldn’t conceal a butter knife, let alone a gun. I think it depends on the young man’s demeanor.

Comment by Zack

And the difference between Morris’ point of view and Zack’s is their age.

Morris and I met at the New York Times in a reunion of those who participated in a discussion some time before that on racism in football relative to McNabb, Limbaugh and society in general. I made the argument that young people are not bothered or affected by the episodes of the past. Morris and others (Dwayne T, for example) patiently explained to me that this sort of thing goes on all the time, today, right now, all over America.

Then Gates/Crowley blew up.

Then that stupid Dallas cop video went viral, chasing those folks whose Mom was dying and detaining the driver for 20 minutes.

Morris knows exactly how I feel about this issue, but it’s time to have the real conversation. There is no point in bringing this up other than to get right to it.

And this will address Zack’s perspective as well.

I will speak in a factual tone of voice as I proceed, but please understand this is opinion and observation:

I’m fairly well read in black culture from the 1960s onward. I know who the key players are. I’ve read “Soul On Ice”. I’m aware that there was a belief by Dr. King and his followers that “non-violence” was the correct response to white domination and brutality. I know that Cleaver, Malcolm, Gregory and others vehemently disagreed.

I know that there were riots and the destruction of cities. I know that urban blacks were abandoned and left to despair. Left to fend for themselves.

I know that gangs became the safe haven, the antidote to being a victim. Gangs provided safety in numbers and a ruthless yet effective system of justice. Gangs provided security.

And guns.

It became understood that you reached a certain age, you joined a gang and you got a gun. And that gun was for using. If you got in a scrap, be ready to out-draw the other guy.

I would speculate that most urban black men have lost friends or loved ones to violence.

Of course Morris is correct when he says that the image of black men carrying guns, and not afraid to use them, makes innocent black men less safe.

Of course he is correct that rich men don’t need to pack their own heat and would be wise not to.

And we’ve talked before about these rich men trying to represent a culture, trying to remain relevant, to maintain the respect that one gets by “keeping it real”. You don’t get more real in that culture than by packing heat and being ready to use it.

The larger point is this: The threat remains. Black men are at a much higher risk of being incarcerated than any other population segment, by a large margin. The disparity between black men in society in general, and black men in prison is an obscenity that makes the United States a joke in human rights terms.

Except nobody’s laughing.

Yes, rich black men need to repudiate lives of violence, and try to lead other young black men to do the same.

But unless and until we as a society decide to get serious about healing wounds and closing divisions, the source of all of this is (a) justifiable and (b) unlikely to change.

We’re a lot closer to 1968 than we’d like to admit.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Hey Walt,

I think you’re missing my point. You and Mo are subscribing to stereotypes about black men in the inner city. I know that I’m an exception rather than the rule, but everybody doesn’t feel the way you two do.

Comment by Zack


I see this issue as bigger than how you, Morris or I feel. There are historical facts at work here.

How about the young man in Chicago who got beat to death walking home from school? He was not, as far as I know, a member of a gang nor any kind of thug.

Could that you man have been you? Have you ever found yourself walking in a part of the city where you did not feel safe? In other words, membership in a gang might have been a “street-wise” move if you were trying to survive in a lawless environment.

White society spends a lot of time blaming blacks, especially urban blacks, for their own fate. “These people kill each other, destroy their own neighborhoods, chase out honest businesspeople and scare away anybody who tries to help.”


“They deserve what they get.”

My intention is to have the next thought, to ask questions in search of answers. Why would a people want to tear down their home? Why would they see each other as the enemy?

These are complex questions and not only do they affect you, they affect us all.

Surely you concur that the term “post-racial” is highly contested as a general description about the current state of the union. I suppose it would depend on your particular circumstances. In other words, not exactly a sure thing.

I live not far from Harrisburg, PA. That is a city which is spiraling down very rapidly, due to the economy and financial mismanagement. Those who are suffering the worst are predominantly poor, black and urban.

That’s what I meant when I said we aren’t so far from 1968: The more you abandon and marginalize a people, the more you encourage them to “go rogue” and fend for themselves.

In other words, the problem about which Morris is writing needs to be viewed from the inside out, not the outside in, and it’s a very scary sight indeed.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Walt, you hit upon my thoughts quite nicely. I’m not necessarily worried about “me” in specific terms I’m worried about the broader range of implications that affect all those who are Black like me. And to Walt’s point, it’s situations like these which make Gates/Crowley even more possible and frequent.

Comment by mrmokelly

And to Morris’ point, we start getting into the differences between “racism” and “predisposition”.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Walt, that’s an important distinction. One can be predisposed to see Black males as felonious and/or violent and not be racists.

Comment by mrmokelly

Just such media-enhanced fears are at the heart of “Bowling For Columbine”.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Hi gentleman. Thanks for talking around me and proving why “all viewpoints” are not valued at the Mo’Kelly Report. Instead of generalizing young black males in the inner city, how about asking one how he feels. Oops! Somebody already did that. I wonder who that was?

I don’t think Derrion Albert has anything to do with police brutality, but more so black men who are violent. And what happened to Derrion almost happened to me in 1999 when I happened to be about the same age he was. I was beat up for minding my own business. And it wasn’t a white cop who did that to me because I was a black guy with a gun. I was beat up by my own people because I was a black guy who didn’t look threatening.

That’s the argument that Mo skips past. What about black men in the inner city who are trying NOT to be thuggish? Who’s writing our blog?

Never mind. I’ll do it. And Mo, next time you want to ignore me, just ask me to leave your blog.

Comment by Zack

Damn, Zack. You just proved Walt’s point. Difference in ages/generation. Nobody is talking “around” you. And to your specific point, I AM one of the Black men in the inner city not trying to be thuggish. I live in the hood, work in the hood and go to church in the hood.

So yes, I am already writing that blog.

There are two separate issues you raise Zack. INTER-racism and INTRA-racism. The issue I touched upon in this piece speaks to INTER-racism. How African-Americans are perceived beyond our communities.

Comment by mrmokelly

I would certainly like to be addressing Zack’s point, and have been trying to. Zack, the next question is: Why do young urban black men join gangs? Why do they possess and use guns? Why are they more likely to be dead or incarcerated by age 18 than they are to be in college?

You, so far, have made it out. Your number could still come up, let’s hope it doesn’t.

But the complexity arises when we try to make sense of this. It seems to lead to no good end, so why do many choose that path?

I admire you for your stand, Zack. You have the right to reject stereotypes and roles of the past.

Morris’ point is that many black men do not work as hard as you do to reject those things even in the face of very clear evidence that they should, and even though money is no object to preserving their health and welfare.

The issue is: Why?

And that’s the conversation I’m trying to have.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Wow Morris. With age comes wisdom and courtesy. Can’t call you a grumpy old man.

I know that you’re patting yourself on the back for “handing me my ass”, as Walt Bennett would put it, but you didn’t. My ass is keeping me warm as we speak. LOL!

I understand the difference between the two. My point is that you tried to make a blanket accusation about racism, police brutality and black athletes. I never said that you didn’t live in the ‘hood. I’m saying that you can’t say that white folks hate because of what an athlete does. They hate because it was taught at the dinner table. (i.e. that scene in “American History X”)


There but for the Grace of God, Go I. I am one of 6 boys. Some of my older brothers WERE athletes, but still chose the street life. I don’t know why I didn’t fall down that path. Maybe because the police didn’t beat me up, according to Mo’s argument.

Just send me an e-mail because I don’t want Mo to keep reaching for my ass. I’m not welcome in this discussion and neither are any other black males who want to defend a different viewpoint.


Comment by Zack


I don’t know what you’re reading, but nowhere in print will you find me patting myself on the back for anything I said in reference to you or your point. I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea you’re not welcome in this discussion. Don’t know what to say and I surely don’t know what thread you’re reading.

Comment by mrmokelly

Damn, Zack. You just proved Walt’s point. Difference in ages/generation. Nobody is talking “around” you. And to your specific point, I AM one of the Black men in the inner city not trying to be thuggish. I live in the hood, work in the hood and go to church in the hood.

You wrote these words. Not me.

I’m not taking away from what you wrote. I just wanted to feel free to add to it. Sorry for participating. You and Walt can have the floor. I’m grabbing my coat and heading for Rush Limbaugh’s blog- where he talks about poppin’ pills and hatin’ black people.

Comment by Zack

Damn, Zack. You just proved Walt’s point. Difference in ages/generation. Nobody is talking “around” you. And to your specific point, I AM one of the Black men in the inner city not trying to be thuggish. I live in the hood, work in the hood and go to church in the hood.

How is that patting myself on the back? I’m acknowledging your point, addressing it and countering it. The conversation began with you saying that you’re “troubled” by these actions but NOT affected by it. You spoke to how Black folks treated you and I responded saying two things, I AM in the hood (which you brought up…the hood and those not trying to be thuggish) and oh never mind.

You’re clearly not reading what I’m writing.

There is a generational gap here that you’re somehow not seeing. And that gap speaks to a shortsightedness in our communities. Absolutely the actions of a few affect the many. Otherwise there would be no such word as “stereotype.”

Comment by mrmokelly


Let’s add another angle to this whole discussion: “Racism Fatigue”.

I can tell you that a lot of white folk are tired (damn tired) of “everything” being viewed through the prism of race.

I can tell you that most young people I know consider it to be an old folks discussion. That includes young people of all ethnic backgrounds.

Perhaps Zack falls into that category in some way. Or maybe he’s just angry. Maybe to a young, educated, well mannered black man, the whole idea that he should be judged based on the actions of clowns is upsetting. Perhaps he rejects the premise because that’s not the kind of world he wants to live in.

And you and I have kicked this ball around plenty: Is it the talking about it that keeps it alive?

By now I see that more clearly, thanks to you: It’s still alive because it’s still alive. We see it every day, all across this country. Some of the Blago discussion headed in that general direction.

These are difficult, complex times. Some people just don’t want to think that hard.

Comment by Walt Bennett


You said that you want to represent another point of view. You seemed to sense that this other view was not welcome.

I know that Morris cleared that up; I second it. The more views in a discussion, the more robust the discussion.

You wrote:

My point is that you tried to make a blanket accusation about racism, police brutality and black athletes. I never said that you didn’t live in the ‘hood. I’m saying that you can’t say that white folks hate because of what an athlete does. They hate because it was taught at the dinner table.

I think you’re both right, and I would also point out that “predisposition” enters into this somewhere. In other words, a white person may not be racist, but he may be predisposed to fear getting shot by a black man, especially a black man who seems to be representing a gang stereoype or a thug stereotype.

Let me ask you this obvious question: Do you know how to dress to make white folks nervous?

That’s the sterotype that too many rich and famous black athletes have chosen to portray, and it does damage racial relations, and that does affect us all.

What I’d like to know is, are you fatigued by this sort of discussion? Do you have a feeling that we should be moving past these sorts of issues, as a society?

Do you live your life in such a way that these issues are not relevant to your daily life?

Comment by Walt Bennett

Morris, I would still be interested in examining the deeper issue: What is it that attracts young black men to the gun life, which leads to the question of why rich black men feel the need to represent that life. In other words, what are the social conditions from which this methodology springs?

When we start getting to those things, we have a chance to learn something that we can apply usefully toward a solution.

I tend to think of things in broad terms. I’m not interested in how many individual people I can influence with something that I say or write. I care about how true it is, and how useful it is, because if it is those two things it will live on without me.

Comment by Walt Bennett

The easy and quick answer is generations of socialization is the catalyst for young Black males and the gun life. It’s in our music, movies, magazines. It’s passed down from father to son often times that use of a gun is a rite of passage to manhood, (along with jail unfortunately).

This portion of the discussion relates back to Zack’s intra-racism discussion. This is what is going on inside the Black community that is unrelated to what others may be doing to us outside of it.

I would disagree with you when you say that rich Black men “feel the need” to represent that life. They don’t “feel the need” (I would argue) I say they are simply searching for an excuse for inexcusable behavior. There is no “need” to carry a gun, it is a willingness to carry a gun against all good sense and reason.

Comment by mrmokelly

In 1988 I had the police, in a city noted for police brutality (ironically featured on this very article in editorial cartoon), enter my apartment without warrant, handcuff me, put a gun to my head with verbal threats of killing me on the spot, physically assault me while in restraints, and maliciously and intentionally implode my eardrum with a cupped hand blow to the ear.

What had I done to deserve this pernicious attack? I stopped a former girlfriend from attempting to drive home to Los Angeles conspicuously DRUNK after we had attended a Halloween party together in the city of Inglewood where I at the time resided.

I was rewarded for confiscating her keys by her drunkenly telling the police outside of my building that she didn’t know me, that I had come out of my gated apartment complex at 4:00 a.m., accosted and robbed her, taking nothing but the keys to her car (still parked at the curb), and had run back inside.

After the unprovoked police assault and my subsequent arrest, my landlord told the police that the young lady had lied, and knew her to have spent several nights at my apartment in previous months. Undeterred, the police put me in the squad car.

Booking me, they fabricated a tale of the officers seeing me running into the apartment, and that same landlord standing in the courtyard saying they didn’t know if I lived there or not, and who also just happened to have the keys on them (at 4 a.m.) in the officers attempt to justify “hot pursuit” and the warrantless entry.

The police report then claimed I barricaded the door with several chairs, leapt and attacked the officers upon their entrance resulting in my sustained injuries.

I was held for eighteen hours without benefit of medical attention because on the booking report where it inquires as to whether medical attention was required, they had crossed out my affirmative request and put, in their own hand, “no”.

I spent the next six years of my life attempting to exonerate myself and assuage the wrongs that had been perpetrated onto me that night.

My self esteem was dramatically impacted as I watched even those of my own community, those who had suffered under similar discriminatory practices, look at me after hearing my story and say, “Yeah, but what did YOU do?”, as if my persecutors had to have had some kind of justification for perpetrating these heinous acts on me. Blame the victim.

I was exonerated by a jury six years later: they found that my civil and constitutional rights had been violated. In my consuming desire to be vindicated, I wanted desparately to put this chapter of my life in my rearview mirror. I was awarded a judgment and moved on with my life.

My point is that stereotypes are dangerous. They allow those whom they are foisted upon to be caricaturized into something less than human; something that deserves less considerations of compassion, empathy or human decency in society’s dealings involving them. The Germans did that to the Jews; the Jews, the Palestinians; the South Africans, the indigenous African population; the cowboys, the Indians; the United States, people of the Islamic faith and ergo ‘terrorists’.

Once one dehumanizes the stereotype, one justifies and rationalizes the atrocities they very easily commit against that stereotype, because they are deserving of less than human consideration.

The police in my story never saw me for the things that I have done or accomplished: they saw a dangerous, hostile Black man. Were they predisposed to see me that way? Were they already inherently racist? I leave you to consider those questions. But the dangers Mo and Walt describe that the senseless acts of elite Blacks who command the national spotlight puts each and every other Black person in is a reality of the collective conscience of the American psyche with regards to race.

If one does not have personal interaction, one knows only of the prominently featured members of a group receiving media exposure, third party analysis or the stereotype perpetuated concerning said group.

We are not post racial. “Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it”.

Comment by Roger Reid

P.S. Zack, my demeanor was gracious when I opened the door to two guns and then was throw over the back of my sofa. I had attended the University of Oregon. They had a percentage of 1% Black population: suffice to say I have white friends.

Comment by Roger Reid

Hey Mr. Reid,

Sorry that happened to you. I was 4 back in 1988, so I have no idea about what was going in then. Mo was about 19 years old, so he knows a little bit more than I do.

You keep missing my point. I’m saying that if police HATE already, no stereotype from a basketball player is going to be the basis of it. I’ve written it NUMEROUS TIMES on this thread. Please read my comments before you take them out of context.

But you all keep proving my point right- black folks always attack each other when we’re supposed to fight against injustice.

Does anybody else want to make an example out of me? Sorry for cussin’ Mo but this is some bullsh*t. Nobody reads what I wrote in its entirety, but wants me to do the same for them. F*ck it! I give up.

Comment by Zack


Twenty years after 1968.


Wasn’t it around then that West Coast rap was bubbling up?


By the early 1990s, LA. Police Brutality was becoming a cliche. Gang life flourished. A lot of today’s star athletes got their start in such environs.

Morris, I can’t accept that you’re satisfied that athletes are merely copying. They are embodying and it’s important to understand why.

There is a war going on.

Comment by Walt Bennett


I completely understand what you’re saying, and I do believe that predisposition weighs heavily in the way that others approach a racial situation (or one that has the potential to be evaluated along racial lines). If one is going to be biased because of upbringing or influence that occurred before an incident, this is going to flavor their opinion of what occurs.

I think where we are departing in concensus from one another is when that person is not of an opinionated point of view and is persuaded negatively by what is ascribed as ubiquitous behavior by the subject group rendered under the magnification of its sensational or inflammatory aspects by the media.

Anger, distaste, mistrust and hated are powerful sensations. If you don’t believe that, consider the recent loss of Ted Kennedy’s former seat. Maybe you’re to young to remember Willie Horton, but your generation can see for itself the vituperous, vehement railings of the right wing against President Obama.

People who sit on the fence eventually get pushed one way or the other: products of their environment, their environment fosters their opinions. Once they internalize those opinions, they become opinionated; once opinionated, they are open to immediate rejection of that which is antithetically stereotypic to their beliefs.

The right has developed this into an art form, driving their agenda, as Walt so aptly pointed in another post, by narrowing their parameters. Because they are so skillful at exclusionary bias, the actions of the few become the cross borne by the many.

The minstrial act of Flava Flav; the misogny of Urban rap music and their videos; the demeaning of Black women by word and deed; gang violence and Black on Black crime; the educational divide between Blacks and other races; the economic divide; all of these things affect us since we can not control the classification processes that others utilize to filter their perceptions.

Light skin Negro with hardly any detectable Negro dialect unless he wants one, versus a light skin Negro with a detectable Negro dialect. We are all affected when there is a shift in the paradigm.

Zack, do not be so ready to “go to the matteresses” every time that others question or raise the issue of debate. There are no right or wrong answers, and no one is here to belittle what you believe; only to receive it and test its validity in communicated discourse.

Don’t jump ship, don’t jump to conclusions. What you have to say has merit.

Comment by Roger Reid

Willie Horton, I remember that like it was yesterday. I cringed then and I cringe now. My short response is what (Harry) Reid said is undeniably true…but tasteless nonetheless. I can walk into a man’s house and say, “your wife is a skank who used to service the basketball team.”

It may be true and accurate, but it’s a tasteless and classless thing to say. Nothing good comes of it. Nothing good could ever have come out of Reid “going there.” His remark was true, but tasteless and classless.

But let Reid’s remarks be indicative of the larger perception of Black males and how that plays into politics, from legislation down to community policing.

But back to the Horton timewarp. It has long been known that lighter-skinned African-Americans (i.e. Adam Clayton Powell to Thurgood Marshall) were more easily accepted in bridging the gap between colors and communities, dating back to the days of the house and field Negroes. This schism in our community is as old as the African diaspora.

Perceptions of the Black man are often built upon fear. The actions of Arenas and the like feed that fear and fuel the stereotype. A stereotype that Harry Reid (not Roger) basically acknowledges in terms of what White America will accept in terms of Black men.

In short, the perceptions of a few affect the many.

Comment by mrmokelly


“Tasteless”? “Classless”?

You do understand that Reid believed he was speaking privately, yes?

I keep seeing these situations as opportunities to explore social conditions; you keep taking them personally.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Tasteless and classless aren’t bound by privacy. If he were to refer to Black people as N****** in the privacy of his own home or in a private conversation with a friend, that doesn’t make it any less tasteless or classless. It just makes it less public.

Comment by mrmokelly

Walt, I’m afraid that I don’t understand your privacy argument.

Mo’s point is well taken; crass is crass whether accepted as a private convention in secret circles or bandied about garrulously on the streets. Please explore the social condition that allows for the acceptance of this and elaborate.

Comment by Roger Reid

Sorry gentlemen, you do not get to restrict free speech.

Are you complaining about the thoughts in his head or the way he expressed them?

Be very careful here.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Free speech is not the issue here Walt. The remarks, regardless of when or to whom they directed were crass and tasteless. We’re not talking about George Orwell thought crimes, or Minority Report thought crimes, we’re talking verifiable actions.

He could have made the argument (although still uber-foolish) in a more sensible and intelligent way with some semblance of common sense. Like I said, it’s not that WHAT he said was “untrue.” But at the same time, it was ridiculous the way he went about it. Not only that, just because it’s true doesn’t mean it really needs to be said or discussed openly. There’s nothing shameful about a self-edit button. (See skanky wife/basketball team analogy.)

Not only that, free speech (as I always say) guarantees that no law be created abridging one’s right to it, but doesn’t in any way guard against persecution for the things you say.

I can’t worry about someone’s thoughts, but one’s actions are always subject to revision, prevention and persecution. I don’t need or care for everyone to love African-Americans.

But open disrespect is a different issue.

Comment by mrmokelly

Morris, you must be as light as a cat to be so far out on that limb without breaking it.

Seriously – this man is a POLITICIAN. That’s his PROFESSION. He is talking, he believes privately, to a political insider slash writer about the dynamics which make Obama an electable candidate.

Once again: Are you faulting him for thinking it, for saying it, or for how he put it?

Shall I tear down whichever answer you choose now or later?

Comment by Walt Bennett

My advice: Retreat.

Comment by Walt Bennett

I mean, I know you have home field advantage, but you are about to fumble in your own end zone here.

I know you to be a mature and sober thinker. Surely we do our best thinking when we distance ourselves from visceral, emotional reactions.

So we can have a therapy session about why a white man uttering the word “negro” send you spinning, or we can wait for you to calm down so we can discuss the social conditions intelligently.

I have rarely seen you this insistently emotional versus rational.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Free speech is an oxymoron when it is delivered by a public servant; one who is elected by the people, to be for the people, and is supposed to speak,express and implement the will of the people. All the people.

The thoughts in one’s head is anyone’s guess, whether sound or mad. The manifestations enacted from the thoughts in one’s head is the communicative link that allows us an analytical inroad to their thought processes. If what you do or say seems to comport with what I think that you thought, I would be hard pressed not to believe my eyes, my ears, and my discerning judgement.

Put much more succintly, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….then lays a goose egg?

Comment by Roger Reid

“Seriously – this man is a POLITICIAN. That’s his PROFESSION. He is talking, he believes privately, to a political insider slash writer about the dynamics which make Obama an electable candidate.”

There’s the other anomaly. Reid IS a politician: what is politics if not seeking a majority concensus? His words do not engender such.

You say its his profession, but he did not indemnify the potential losses brought about by his actions; not the considerations one associates with a professional.

You say he was talking to a political insider slash writer PRIVATELY! Be sure to let me know how that worked out.

Comment by Roger Reid

I stand corrected. The same thing happened to “everybody’s favorite CNN anchor” some 25 years ago. He wrote this just hours before the quake in Haiti hit and that’s why it didn’t get air time.

Comment by Zack

Walt, you’re reaching. I’m only dealing with what he has done (read: said). I’m not debating what he “might have” been thinking. I’m literally taking him at his word. I don’t believe the remarks were uttered with contempt or malice in his heart. So an analysis of Reid is not necessary here. The issue here is the inappropriate and offensive nature of what was said. I don’t need to look into his heart or read his mind to know that what passed his lips was both wrong and inappropriate. You can “attempt” to tear down this answer but it really isn’t subject to debate.

You’re arguing something in the neighborhood of what the man might have been thinking…which in this discussion is irrelevant. I’m only dealing with the actions, not any possible motivations for them. If the sign says “keep off the grass” and Reid tramples on it…I’m only dealing with the actions not whether he intended to trample the grass or not.

Let’s liken this to basketball. If a player commits a foul or violation (i.e. traveling), intent is not a mitigating factor. The only thing that matters is the action. Same applies here. There are no dynamics to consider or whether the foul was committed privately or publicly. It just is.

In terms of Reid being a “politician” you’re trying to argue a nuance that simply doesn’t exist. His job title is neither here nor there. I’m not any more open to the same remark being made by anyone, irrespective of job title or job description. the remark(s) in and of themselves were offensive, having nothing to do with the lips they traipsed off of or the job title of the owner of the lips.

Reid could have been a political insider (which he is) or a political outsider like most of the Republican operatives I’ve lambasted for similar transgressions. It’s all the same. It’s not the orator, it’s the action. I look at this like any law that’s broken. To break any law, it doesn’t matter “who” broke it…only matters if the law was broken.

The same applies here. The action was unacceptable, regardless of Reid’s lofty title or the circumstances/place/person to whom it was uttered. Rush Limbaugh’s private commentary that he “thinks” is off the record isn’t somehow more appropriate or less offensive because he thought he was having a private, off the record convo. It just means he was trying to be private with his ignorance.

Comment by mrmokelly


Please answer the question:

Do you object to the thought, the vocalizing of the thought, or the way it was expressed?

Comment by Walt Bennett


Same goes for you: What, specifically, was the offense?

Comment by Walt Bennett

Definitely the WAY that it was expressed!

Comment by Roger Reid

As best I can tell, this is the line from the book:

He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he later put it privately.

So, he got the “African-American” part right. So this really is about him using the word “Negro”.

A word that was plenty good enough for Dr. King.

So, it can’t be considered “dirty” or “slanderous”, only perhaps “old fashioned.”

Three things:

1. Reid was probably trying to be “proper”, not wanting to use a slang term which might offend.

2. What word should he have used?

3. Was he wrong?

Comment by Walt Bennett

I did answer the question Walt. I don’t need everyone to love African-Americans (i.e thoughts). I do object to the expression. I’m not going to mince words and split hairs over “the way.” I don’t think there was a good way to vocalize or express it. He should’ve kept it to himself altogether. There was no good way to vocalize or express it.

Comment by mrmokelly

So, he got the “African-American” part right. So this really is about him using the word “Negro”.

A word that was plenty good enough for Dr. King.

Dr. King has been dead more than 40 years and lived in a world in which I wasn’t allowed to use the same water fountain as Harry Reid. That’s not a good argument. Dr. King also thought women had no business as part of the movement. He is not a good litmus test in this respect as being progressive in all ways.

No, it’s more than just the word “Negro.” It’s insulting and condescending in the same way Joe Biden was insulting and condescending with his remarks at the beginning of the campaign. There wasn’t malice in Biden’s heart either. It was still offensive. It comes down to this once again. There was no good way to say it. And it’s even more offensive coming out of the mouth of White man talking about a Black president (his boss per se). Such statements diminish President Obama’s achievements and when it comes from a subordinate it’s even more offensive.

But back to “Negro.” Something else that hasn’t been discussed. “Negro” isn’t even “the most recent” nomenclature for Black people.

In between there’s Black, Afro-American and now African-American. If anything, Reid just pinpointed in terms of era just how ridiculously oblivious he is…which is relevant too.

“Negro” hearkens to a specific era in history, one pre-civil rights movement.

Comment by mrmokelly


So you are in favor of abridging free speech.

There is no way to read what he said and infer offensive intent. He already apologized for the old-fashioned choice of words.

Please be specific: What was his offense? Why are you beating around the bush on this?

Comment by Walt Bennett

Biden’s remarks WERE condescending. I believe he used the word “clean” in there somewhere.

Biden was demented compared to Reid.

My point about Dr. King is that he did not consider the word “Negro” to be offensive and it’s just possible that Reid took his cue from that.

I still say he was just searching for a way to speak “properly” and avoid the use of slang.

But you’ve been clear: It wasn’t the word, it was the thought.

I’m going to let you flap in the breeze over that one. You deserve to.

Comment by Walt Bennett

I guess I need to ask: Is it offensive to use the word “Negro”, or is it simply old-fashioned?

And if it has become offensive in the last 40 years: Why?

Comment by Walt Bennett

My point about Dr. King is that he did not consider the word “Negro” to be offensive and it’s just possible that Reid took his cue from that.

And like I said, Dr. King died in 1968 and African-Americans hadn’t been using or been referred to as “Negro” for about as long. That’s a silly argument in support of Reid’s statement. If he had been in a time capsule for 40 years maybe. But he wasn’t, so no go.

Comment by mrmokelly

Walt, you’re not reading any of my words. I said it was what he said and what he said there was no good way to say it. I don’t care what he thinks, although sometimes what we say as people gives us insight to what one thinks in our hearts.

He could have and should have kept that to himself. No flapping in the breeze here. I’ve been abundantly clear.

Comment by mrmokelly

You’ve been clear in digging a nice trench for yourself.

So we agree that “Negro” is old-fashioned. Is it offensive? If so, why?

As regards expressing the thought, when you say there was “no good way to express it”:

(a) What specific thought are you referring to?
(b) Why should it not have been expressed?
(c) What is the rational difference between thinking a thought and expressing it verbally?

Comment by Walt Bennett


No shovel here…you just haven’t been reading my responses too closely. But I will go back and say it again.
The Senate Majority Leader commenting on the electability of his boss on the basis of his skin color/hue and “dialect” is offensive. There’s no good way or appropriate way to have that conversation. That is why it should not have been expressed. You’re being contrarian again.

The difference between thoughts and expressed ones can be thought of in this way. I don’t care how many guys “think” about sleeping with my girlfriend. I’m not the thought police. But the moment they start verbalizing it…there’s a problem. It’s called crossing the line. Reid crossed the line. It’s a very well defined one at that.

I don’t care what David Duke and Tom Metzger “think” about me and President Obama. When they start verbalizing it, I’m more than allowed to be offended accordingly and voice my displeasure…which goes back to your free speech argument.

Free speech is a dialogue, not a monologue. Free speech means that Reid is “allowed” to say it. Conversely, I’m allowed to respond and rip him for it.

Only the Bible puts thoughts and actions in the same bucket…sins can be of thought, word or deed. But in our physical world and none of us is the creator here…we’re limited to taking people at their actions…which include words.

Comment by mrmokelly

I get it.

I’ve really gotten it all along, but I got you to basically say it.

You’re offended that black folk can’t catch an even break.

Here we have a well educated, well spoken black man, highly qualified to run for and win the presidency, and we have to deal with discussions of “is he white enough?” and so forth.

In other words, you’re offended by the inference.

Do you remember the basis for our original dialog? I remember clearly. I was convinced that “talking about it” (it being racism and related issues) “keeps it alive” and that “young people, if we would let them, would not be bothered at all by these issues.”

You took the position that things were not as upbeat as I portrayed them. You assured me that racial tension was alive and well for any black person of any age or social status. We had many discussions, many of them right here, on many subjects which touch on this theme.

You educated me. That education continues.

Now we come to Reid. He speaks not of things as they ought to be, not of things how he wishes they would be, but of things as they are.

Morris, surely you agree that the only way to resolve complex issues is to be honest about them, to be willing to see them as they are.

In other words, the very act of voicing an issue cannot be allowed to be labeled “offensive” and dismissed as an outrage. Why? Because whoever’s in charge gets to decide what to bury and what to deal with. That’s too much power.

Freedom of speech means freedom of thought and freedom from worry that speaking a thought will get one into trouble. “Obscenity” and “Hate speech” are narrowly drawn exceptions, and many good people believe there should be no exceptions.

What Reid expressed was true. I believe your problem is not with what he said but with the reality it reflects.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Freedom of speech means freedom of thought and freedom from worry that speaking a thought will get one into trouble. “Obscenity” and “Hate speech” are narrowly drawn exceptions, and many good people believe there should be no exceptions.

I think that’s a generous read Walt. Freedom of speech originally was done out of freedom to express oneself without thought of prosecution. Again, persecution is different. Not every idea was intended to be accepted equally. But there is room made for all ideas. You’re equating freedom with equality. Two different things, two different discussions. We’re all free in America, but definitely not all equal…for a variety of reasons.

Now you may argue that the PC country in which we live has gone too far, but these are elected officials and work in theory at the behest of one’s constituency. Reid is “free” to espouse whatever theory he wishes. And his constituency is “free” not to support or re-elect him. No one has truncated Reid’s freedom. But if he wishes to continue in politics, there are some areas that his “freedom of thought” is simply not welcome and I agree with that premise.

You can’t be a police officer and making political speeches on the side or giving seminars to espouse your theories on the supposed racial superiority of this group or that group.

I mean, you “can”…it’s not against the law (as per freedom of speech) but you don’t have the inalienable right to be a police officer or a politician for that matter.

I’m not angry over the reality. I’m disappointed that Reid was so casual in his disrespect of President Obama in diminishing his election.

Nobody is disputing whether a “certain type” of Black candidate would be more appealing to the White masses. That’s obvious. The issue for me is whether the Senate Majority Leader has any business giving his opinions on it while his boss is still his boss.

Absolutely not. Personally, to be so comfortable to do so speaks to the disrespect that I and others find so bothersome. How could he not know better. He’s not a political commentator, he’s the Senate Majority Leader.

Comment by mrmokelly

And might I add that never was “Freedom of Speech” to lack accountability. You still can be held accountable for what you say…you just won’t go to jail for it (save for “fire” in a theatre, or “bomb” in an airport).

Comment by mrmokelly

“I guess I need to ask: Is it offensive to use the word “Negro”, or is it simply old-fashioned?

And if it has become offensive in the last 40 years: Why?”

Walt, I am somewhat surprised that you have raised these questions in light of your affinity for the cause of liberty and equality.

Self determination is the ultimate objective of any persecuted people: the ability to define the terms by which others engage and interact with that population.

When Africans were first brought in chains to this country, they were not allowed to determine what they would be called or how they would be addressed. They were not allowed to specify what affiliation they desired to embrace, what region or tribe they hailed from; not what family they belonged to or even what they own name was.

We did not hail from the land of Negroes. We were TOLD that that is what we were (the same as the “Indians” were told that that is what they were, even though they had never seen, been to, or even heard of India).

The turmultuous civil rights era shepherded in by your beloved Dr. King was about us, as a people, struggling to be identified, on our on terms, with parity and equality.

That term, Negro, was not one of ours and was the subject of much debate among the movement leaders even as developments unfolded. The more militiant factions called for embracing “Black” as a way of cultural identification, “Say it loud: I’m Black and I’m proud”.

With the passage of the civil right bill, Blacks in American began to search out their connective roots, embracing a Pan-African movement to address the diaspora of the Black experience and forced migratory patterns induced by the world-wide slave trade. The term of preference in addressing Blacks in America was Afro-American.

With the realization and continued sophistication of determining exactly what we as a people would call ourselves. Afro-American (which inferred cultural identification around a hair-style, the Afro) was replaced by African-American, which was adopted with the same cultural coding as other immigrant populations in the United States: country of origin hyphenated with country of citizenship.

You (and Harry Reid) have shared this past with us, even supporting our cause. To have this disparity of understanding 40 years later harkens again to my oft stated sentiment: Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it.

Comment by Roger Reid


I am well aware that nobody says “negro” anymore. I bet you knew that :-)

My question was: Is it offensive?

I still don’t know. Wouldn’t the context matter?

Morris, I believe that Reid’s comments were made before Obama became a candidate.

I would agree with you that such a statement, if made post-election by the Senate leader who is also a Democrat, would and should be seen in ill light.

But at the beginning of the campaign? That was yesteryear. We didn’t know then what we know now (he was embraced; he won) and speculation was rampant. In that light and in that circumstance, of course it was talked about.

Do we agree that when it was said is of some import here?

Comment by Walt Bennett

I would put the remark, regardless of when it was said in the same bin as Biden’s (also made at the beginning). I look at them both the same in that regard.

Comment by mrmokelly

Then we’re at loggerheads.

Politicians discuss political reality and you seem more irritated at the politicians than the reality.

Comment by Walt Bennett

The reality is what it is…the politicians in this instance are slowing the process to move forward beyond what it is today.

Comment by mrmokelly


Politicians seek the broader consensus of their constituency. You yourself complained that the problem with the Republican Party is that they have tried and succeeded in narrowing the consensus of their base.

To whom then is the “light skin” and “Negro” more palatable, more politically correct than African-American? What political reality is that? That more Whites believe that it is still proper and PC to call African-American or self avowed Black people Negro or rank them by skin tone?

Walt, as a political reality, that dog cain’t hunt!

Comment by Roger Reid

This is one of those times when I feel like I’m in an echo chamber.

We can only make progress if everybody tries.

Roger, Morris, you’re both too interested in defending an entrenched position to actually have a nuanced discussion.

Are we actually going to question the political slash social reality that this country has shown reluctance in the past to broadly support a black presidential candidate?

And I can’t even make sense of an assertion that talking about a political reality is in any way an impediment to making things better; quite the opposite, I would strongly assert.

And Morris, this is you so confused about your stance on this that you are taking a position completely opposed to the lesson you taught me not that long ago.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Sometimes our emotions can cloud our judgment and our rationality.

Morris, especially, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself if you really have any problem with Reid at all.

This really always struck me as a funny sort of thing, and I am still in search of any valid reason to take it any other way.

Not that you need to keep trying to find one, Morris. It’s OK to stop the play, call an audible and slowly step back from an untenable position.

I can only know I’m right if I’ve ever been wrong.

Comment by Walt Bennett

I stand corrected. The same thing happened to “everybody’s favorite CNN anchor” some 25 years ago. He wrote this just hours before the quake in Haiti hit and that’s why it didn’t get air time.

Comment by Zack 01.20.2010 @ 11:20 PM

Dear Zack,

In our rush to comment on the contentious, we have overlooked the courage of your statement.

It takes wisdom, not age, to alter one’s opinion in the light of substantial evidence to the contrary. I applaud you and hope that you revisit this posting of comments to receive your well deserved, albeit late, appreciation.

Comment by Roger Reid

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