Dear Tomi Lahren,
After watching your recent rant on Jesse Williams' humanitarian award acceptance speech at this year's BET Awards, I thought I should take a moment and write you a letter. Who knows if you'll ever read it, but I'll certainly feel better for writing it.
A little about me. I'm 39 and have actively hosted a radio show for 18 years of my life. I began broadcasting in my native Alaska before taking a morning gig in Philadelphia, and ended up in New York where I've had the fortune to broadcast for over a decade. Currently, I host Power 105.1 FM's public affairs show.
I've come to develop a great deal of respect for the New Yorkers who have established anti-gun non-profits, who have formed non-violent coalitions to protest police brutality (as is their Constitutional right) and who have put themselves on the front lines of community activism. If I told you the amount of times I've been reduced to tears hearing direct accounts of racial profiling or police brutality in New York, you wouldn't believe me. These are mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, everyday people galvanized enough by injustice in their communities -- in their country -- to do something. Their work doesn't make them rich, their accomplishments are oft unsung, but they are steadfast in their efforts. It has been the honor of my life to provide them with a platform.
Which brings me to you.
In recent final thoughts on your show, you go in on the BET Awards, noting they were "very black." You pause, adding, "oh, but can I say that? With my whiteness and all? Well, too damn bad." Just so you know, it's cool for you to say the BET Awards were "very black" -- they were. I mean, black people have no problem expressing that the Oscars are (generally) "very white," so no harm no foul on you there.
But then, you attempt to dismantle Jesse William's speech by accusing him -- and BET -- of waging a "war on cops." That accusation is dangerous for a country reeling from proven racially biased policing while living under a racially biased criminal justice structure. To be clear, the vast majority of black people do not, and have never advocated for a war on police, and to imply that we do does not help us. It hurts us. What we would like -- and what we need -- is to weed out corrupt police officers that misuse their authority. To invalidate the plight made by black people for fair policing -- and then take it a step further and shrug off the extensive research done in Ferguson, Chicago, New York and in other American cities which validate these plights -- is not only doing your audience an injustice, it's doing the country a deep disservice. Black, white or otherwise, racially biased policing is of national concern.
You then take Williams to task for using the term "unarmed black men" and saying it "doesn't tell the whole story in most cases" because "in a number of cases, if the victim ended up being unarmed, it was certainly not for lack of trying. Grabbing an officer's gun or using other equipment to beat the police doesn't give you a free pass." Really, Tomi? Here's what the Washington Post reports about police killing men brandishing weapons and other less threatening individuals, who were also killed:
In the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. But a hugely disproportionate number -- 3 in 5 -- of those killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic."
You then say, "white people have a record of critique of your (black people's) oppression" based upon your ancestors fighting in the Civil War to "free" our ancestors. What does that even mean? Are you saying, then, that because your ancestors died fighting in the Civil War that all are enlightened enough to "critique" the state of black America -- in 2016? What about the Klan, and growing white supremacy groups across the country? What about racist police officers and individuals in the highest institutions of government who advocate to de-fund schools based upon race? These people have surely also had ancestors who fought and died in the Civil War. Where is their fair critique of black oppression? They don't seem to understand, do they?
The Civil War began in 1861 and ended in Spring, 1865. To your claim about there being "largely white people" fighting and dying on the battlefield, here's some info: because of racism, blacks weren't permitted to fight in the Civil War until 1863! Your statement was bewildering, and truth be told, I don't even believe I understood your point. Was there a point?
The people of this country aren't oblivious to the fact that many people from all over the world (one-third of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army were immigrants) were drafted to fight in a war to free blacks who were enslaved in the country of their birth. After Fort Wagner, it was black soldiers who played a key role in ending slavery. You should know that.
You conclude by criticizing Williams, a "high paid television actor" for telling us how "bad he has it." No, he was saying that black culture is routinely exploited for profit and the majority of black characterizations in mainstream media carry stereotypes. He was encouraging black people to focus on ownership of their stories, while reminding all that communities of color should reap the benefits of their positive contributions. Williams used his platform in the way we could only wish most high-paid television actors would. I found it strange that you would attempt to berate Williams for bringing attention to the fact that African Americans are often misrepresented in mass media and should to work harder to profit from their contributions.
You cap your tirade by posing the rhetorical question to Williams: "Do you see yourself as a victim (which he clearly does not)? If so, I feel sorry for you. For someone who wants equal rights," you say, "it sure sounds like you want special treatment... Get over yourself... You're not a humanitarian, you're not a unifier, you're not teaching black children to go forth and conquer, you're teaching them to feel sorry for themselves." You then have the audacity to sign off with, "God bless and take care."
Tomi, please consider the following: your tone displayed a total lack of compassion. Your words displayed a lack of understanding. Your arguments displayed a lack of research.
You were not speaking to the masses, rather, to a very specific audience. How do I know this? You presented your gripes with sweeping generalizations like you were scolding a child. Who did you think you were talking to? Black people, some of them "victims," you say, don't need a lecture from you. Then again, you work for Glenn Beck, so to that point, your ridiculousness rooted in non-fact was indeed spot on for your target audience.
It is because of the generous research supporting the well-documented claims of racial inequality and racially biased policing, it is because of those I've had the pleasure of serving through my work in community affairs who labor tirelessly to better their communities and peacefully push back against injustice, and it is because of the heated conviction behind your sentiments that I am just mortified for you.
Get over yourself, Tomi. You're no humanitarian, you're no unifier, and if you are delusional enough to think YOU are "the lightening rod that sparks some honesty" on race conversations in this country, please know, you are not the one. You have the right to express yourself under the First Amendment, but don't be surprised when black people / "black twitter" and so on exercise our First Amendment rights and call you out on your inaccuracies and chastising tone. Your truth doesn't "rattle our reality," because your truth, as I've shown here, is not the truth.
Power 105.1 FM, New York