If A Tree Falls...
by Mychal Massie (bio)
If a tree falls in the forest with no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?
Likewise, if someone says something inappropriate and Al Sharpton isn't around to hear it, is it really racist?
Sportscaster Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel is likely pondering this right now.
She's apologized for a recent ill-considered comment and has been suspended by her employer, but Al Sharpton - coming in late in the game - wants more. He belatedly wants her fired, and he is taking the Golf Channel to task.
During Golf Channel coverage of the Mercedes-Benz Championship on January 4, Tilghman and co-host Nick Faldo discussed how newer, younger golfers could emerge from the impressive shadow cast by Tiger Woods. Speculating about their options, Faldo said, "To take Tiger on, well yeah, they should just gang up for a while until..."
That's when Tilghman interrupted, interjecting, "Lynch him in a back alley."
If she had said "kidnap him" or "beat him up," that probably would have been the end of it. Tilghman picked pretty much the only word that cannot be used in that sentence these days.
Tilghman made the comment on a Friday. By Sunday, the Golf Channel apologized. She later publicly apologized and personally apologized to Woods, whom she has known for 12 years. When word got out on the Internet about the incident, and the clip was posted on YouTube, the Golf Channel also decided to suspend her for two weeks.
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said about the comment: "Tiger and Kelly are friends, and Tiger has a great deal of respect for Kelly. Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill-intent in her comments."
Days later, however, the media began asking Al Sharpton his opinion. Having temporarily ousted shock jock Don Imus last year for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," Sharpton could smell a media opportunity. He will settle for nothing less than the Golf Channel sending Tilghman packing.
"What she said is racist," said Sharpton. "Whether she's a racist - whether she runs around at night making racist statements - is immaterial." The term "lynch," according to Sharpton, "is a specific term that this woman should be held accountable for."
Sharpton, by the way, demands Tilghman be fired for something the Woods camp considers "a non-issue."
I probably watch an average of ten hours a week of the Golf Channel (more when there is an interesting tournament). I am well-acquainted with Tilghman's work, and I've never heard her speak an ill word about Woods. In fact, I distinctly remember her lavishly praising him and his family just last month. This indicates to me that Sharpton's rant only seeks to create conflict where none exists.
Tilghman's words were offensive only to those who trade on race-mongering and/or capitalize on creating strife for personal gain. The Golf Channel viewers owe it to themselves to stand with Tilghman or risk having the network destroyed by someone who, until last week, might not have even known such a channel exists.
The English lexicon should not be held hostage by self-serving individuals who trade on race and immiseration. We should be able to speak freely, within reason, without fear of harsh consequences for utilizing innocuous and jocund adjectives that are in no way intended to cause harm or offense.
It is time for America, all the young golfers gunning for Tiger and Golf Channel viewers to "lynch" those who would subject our nation to unreasonable and fallacious accusations of malicious intent. Such should be "hung" by their thumbs in the town square for provoking racial discord where none exists and none was intended.
# # #
Mychal Massie is the chairman of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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