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When liberal Air America Radio Network yanked hip-hop legend Chuck D, a member of Public Enemy, off the air on April Fool’s Day and replaced him with Jerry Springer, they made fools out of Black Democrats, especially those in the hip-hop community who believed Air America would serve as a shining example of the Democratic Party’s purported commitment to tolerance, diversity, and partnership.
When the Coalition For A Just Cincinnati — the group leading the economic boycott of Cincinnati — decided to protest ethnic cleansing at Air America by picketing a live Springer broadcast, Jerry showed us just how intolerant he was. Like a scab, he crossed the picket line. Then he ordered a member of his all-white “Team Springer” clan to call the cops on us. In contrast, conservative Republican Sean Hannity welcomed protesting of his appearance in Cincinnati last summer. Who’s intolerant?
After being on the air for a year, Air America finds itself struggling to attract and keep listeners, just as the Democratic Party struggles to gain and keep voters. The removal of Chuck D — one of only two daily African American talk show hosts — represents much more than just the “whitening” of Air America, it symbolizes just how far the Party has drifted away from the Black community, it’s most loyal support base.
White liberals’ support for racial, ethnic, and viewpoint diversity appears nonexistent when it’s them, and not the government, being challenged to diversify. Air America passed over hundreds of qualified and experienced African American talk radio hosts i.e., Tavis Smiley, Bev Smith, Ed Gordon, Raqiyah Mays, and Joe Madison, for such no names as Ed Schultz, Mark Maron, and Sam Seder. But it’s not like we weren’t warned.
In announcing his debut on Air America, Springer said the radio network had cornered the “wine and cheese” crowd but needed to reach out to the “beer and pretzel” market. If you think these sentiments mirror Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean’s belief that Democrats should quit placating African Americans and start recruiting “white guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” into the Party, you aren’t alone.
Even beyond racial diversity, Air America’s white overseers have done little to foster an ideologically diverse listener base or allow all voices within the Democratic Party to be heard. Air America has turned into an endless stream of boring bellyaching, where so much time is spent responding to conservative talking points that we can’t push an alternative agenda. This isn’t the best our Party has to offer, it is the worst. The notion that a few elitist reactionaries represent the Party of Roosevelt and Kennedy is preposterous. Springer and the rest of the second-tiered talk show hosts don’t speak for me, and I don’t think they speak for Latinos, Women, hard-working union members, or other African Americans either. Air America represents the hijacking of the Democratic Party, silencing of minority voices, and destruction of a common sense agenda.
Every election cycle, Democrats run through Black neighborhoods preaching partnership, but the alliance between Blacks and Democrats resembles less a partnership, and more a master-slave relationship where African Americans work like slaves to increase voter participation while whites reap all the benefits. Remember last year’s “voter empowerment” effort where Russell Simmons and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs were dispatched around the country and assigned to lure young African Americans into the election process? At the same time Combs was preaching “Vote or Die”, former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun and Rev. Al Sharpton were being killed off in the Democratic primaries. And right after the election Ron Kirk and Wellington Webb were looked over for the position of DNC Chair in favor of Dean. What does it take for Blacks to get the message that once Democrats have no further use for Blacks, they dispose of them. They did it to Combs, Simmons, Moseley-Braun, Sharpton, K! irk, and Webb. And that’s exactly what Air America did to Chuck D.
“Fight the power” is my favorite Public Enemy song and the movie it appeared in “Do The Right Thing” is my favorite Spike Lee movie. One of the movie’s main characters, Buggin’ Out, wants the pizza owner, Sal, to put some pictures of African Americans on the wall. Lee’s movie and Chuck D’s lyrics inspired a generation to stand up to those in power and declare “ya got to give us what we want; gotta give us what we need. Our freedom of speech is freedom or death; we got to fight the powers that be.” I know I’m not alone when I say white liberal Democrats need to live up to their promises on tolerance, diversity, and partnership. And Air America needs to put some African Americans on the air.