Compiled by Courier Staff
Several weeks ago local radio talk show host Charlie Sykes raised more than eyebrows when he decided to play excerpts from a racist video on his show.
The video of the “parody” rap song “It’s Free, Swipe Yo EBT,” includes two African American women talking about how they were going to use their food stamp card to purchase liquor, and included references to African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Sykes, who hosts his show on WTMJ AM 620 has a history of racial insensitivity.
The song and video have been celebrated on neo- Nazi websites and by white supremacists. The producer of the song is a White segregationist named Christopher Jackson.
Jackson has written a series of essays claiming to have at one point been a teacher at a school in Los Angeles. One of his essays was titled, “What Is It Like To Teach Black Students?” and was promoted by the racist Vanguard News Network Forum. Jackson concluded that essay with an endorsement for a return to racial segregation in schools.
After airing the original clip, Sykes continues to promote it and promote it on his right-wing “Right Wisconsin” electronic platform, another property of Journal Communications.
Sykes also sent out a series of mocking Tweets after complaints were raised about the racist song and Sykes’s use of it. Joel McNally, a former colleague and friend of Sykes wrote in a recent article in the Shepard Express, found it “simply reprehensible. It also was a new low for what, for many years, was Milwaukee’s No. 1 radio station.”
Arbitron ratings now have WTMJ wallowing in eighth place among key demographics during the hours Sykes is on the air, which may explain why any previous standards of decency are now gone.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate sent a letter about the racist video to Steve Wexler, vice president at WTMJ AM 620. Instead of responding to the concerns raised in the letter, Wexler in turn handed the letter to Sykes, who again mocked the concerns raised and continue to promote the racist parody of food stamp recipients.
Tate asked that Sykes be removed from the public airwaves. As you can see that has not happened. Nor has Journal Communications offered any form of remorse or apology to the African American community in Milwaukee or elsewhere.
Days passed before the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which frequently makes the troubles of African American politicians the subject of its coverage, even mentioned the Sykes racist video incident. When they did mention it, it came in the form of a few paragraphs in a blog post.
“There can be no doubt that this “parody” is racist on its face and is animated by stereotypes that have long been used to oppress African Americans. It is pernicious for Sykes and Journal Communications to make false claims that this is about food stamps and not about ugly racist ideas,” Tate said in an interview.
What is also so irresponsible regarding the circulation of these type of racist messages is that it often provides negative and false fuel to the fire for advocates who work to eliminate food share programs.
As McNally also wrote in his piece, the fact is that nothing the video implies about food assistance is true. Nearly two-thirds of those receiving food assistance are White, not people of color. About 40 percent are working at jobs that don’t pay enough to feed their families. They don’t have the time or money to par-teee!
And those big taxpayer bucks? Food assistance for hungry children and adults works out to about $2 a meal for each family member. Try eating on that. McNally also stated that Sykes ridiculed a complaint from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and bragged on a right-wing pay site marketed by his company that he’d used the hate material plenty of times before. He defended it as “satire.”
Tate responded by saying, “”Let Sykes make his case with a straight face to anyone from Milwaukee’s Black community, who have had to suffer his bigotry for years.”