When I read (or hear) the word, Negro, my ears perk up (in a manner of speaking). I’m sure that’s true for many of you as well. The reason that happens is because the term has all but been eliminated from our vocabulary. When I was a kid, it was commonplace. But at that time, it’s what our Black brothers and sisters preferred to be called. That was highly understandable considering some of the other despicable terms that were openly tossed around at the time.
“I was a bit flabbergasted…”
So yesterday, I was a bit flabbergasted to read the words “mediocre Negroes” in print. My immediate assumption was that another Black person had used the term, and I was right. There aren’t too many white journalists around who would have the audacity to toss that word around as far as I can tell (and rightfully so).
Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN contributor, used the phrase to call out fellow Blacks who took the time to meet with President Elect Donald Trump. He called them mediocre because they were not policy makers. He was referring to men such as Steve Harvey (comedian, entertainer, and game show host) and Rev. Darrell Scott (pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland, Ohio). Apparently, they don’t have enough gravitas or clout to suit Mr. Hill.
When he was called on his use of the expression, he argued that he was not name-calling. Still, he had issue with them because he felt the President Elect and his team was using them as pawns. So, he was not name-calling. He was merely… Well, I’m not exactly sure what he was doing. It couldn’t be name-calling, however, because he said so.
“I was never a hippie.”
Since he is Black himself, Mr. Hill can seemingly get away with what he just said (at least the Negro part—the mediocre portion might be a tad stickier). I, myself, don’t like being called an old hippie (even though I look like one). But another guy with long, gray hair and a gray beard could get away with calling me that, I suppose (he’s earned it). The fact of the matter is, however, I was never a hippie. I’ve never even played one in a movie—thank God. Nevertheless, I am old. Harvey and Scott, on the other hand, are anything but mediocre.
Interestingly enough, a small Twitter war broke out after the incident. It was sparked by Sherriff David Clarke (another Black, Trump supporter) who called Hill an old epithet I just can’t bring myself to reprint in this space. After that, all hell broke loose, and it started sounding like Mississippi in the 1930’s.
Somehow, I can’t see how a national journalist can get away with calling an accomplished entertainer mediocre. And the pastor… His list of accomplishments is a mile long (See Dr. Darrell). I think I understand Hill’s point, but it’s not very well taken. Nor is it very well stated. Methinks he’s looking for specks of sawdust (Matthew 7:3).
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]