Clear Channel’s missed opportunity
By Ralph Hollmon
President & CEO
In the aftermath of the tragic death of Derek Williams, a young African American man, while in police custody, we have a family mourning the loss of a father and son. After seeing the video of Mr. Williams in the back of the police squad car – pleading for help for 7 to 8 minutes before he collapsed and died, we have a community that is mourning, angry and hurting as well.
We clearly support “free speech” but just as we oppose the divisive, inflammatory rhetoric from the American Nazi Party and other hate groups, we also oppose the insensitive, disrespectful and disparaging language that Mark Belling used when talking about Mr. Williams and African American women.
Words are powerful because they shape how people think about and view other people. In this instance, was Mark Belling trying to dehumanize Mr. Williams to justify his death by saying “he was just a dirty rotten thug”? Even though Mr. Williams had a criminal record, he still had basic human rights and did not deserve to die the way he did. In the case of African American women and infant co-sleeping deaths, was Mr. Belling saying, “what can you expect, they’re just pigs and elephants anyway”? Only Mr. Belling can answer these questions – but I don’t think we are going to get an answer.
This is why we called on Clear Channel Broadcasting to denounce these vile, illtimed statements and send a clear message to Mr. Belling, his listening audience and the entire community that they do not condone this type of inflammatory rhetoric.
But, instead of responding in a positive, responsible manner, Clear Channel Broadcasting chose to add another insult to the African American community by trying to deflect attention away from the real issue – by calling those of us protesting “opportunists”.
If trying to reduce tensions and help heal a hurting community is being an opportunist, if speaking out against insensitive derogatory rhetoric is being an opportunist, if trying to build bridges of understanding between diverse sectors of our community and eliminating stereotypes is being an opportunist, then I will continue to be an opportunist working to help improve our community and ensure that none of our citizens have their basic human and civil rights diminished.
It is unfortunate that Clear Channel Broadcasting does not get this point and missed an opportunity to be a part of the healing process as well.
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