My invoking the argot of Black artists achieved a level of insensitive stupidity almost galactic in scale. Whatever discussion lingers about the use of the words “bitch” or “ho” in hip-hop, comedy, film or literature, there is no question about the N-bomb coming out of the mouth of a 59 year old white man.
I am not Marcellus Wallace.
I sent the following words of atonement to the Society of Professional Journalists as well as to the reporter from the East Valley Tribune who wrote about the incident following my crass off the cuff comments at the SPJ awards ceremony April 4th.
“It is understandable that my comments about a dead colleague rankled listeners. My words, meant to honor a friend, were inappropriate. All present have my sincere apology. It is regrettable that any phrase of mine offended those attending a First Amendment awards banquet. We accepted these honors on the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. It is a sorry affair indeed that I should detract from the on-going civil rights struggle that continues to unfold on streets Valleywide.”
Those of us who live in Phoenix understand that these are not idle regrets. One of our most heavily e-mailed articles this past year concerned a young Black driver railroaded by law enforcement. And almost every issue of the paper has another chapter in our Sheriff’s on-going jihad to round up, arrest and intimidate anyone with brown skin.
Recently County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who ran on a platform devoted to prosecuting Mexican immigrants, used my dumb-ass remarks to attack us. Our pending lawsuit against him, I’m sure, had little to do with his informative comments.
In fact, SPJ honored Jim Larkin and myself because of our resistance to grand jury subpoenas issued from County Attorney Thomas which culminated in our arrest and jailing by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
One week before the SPJ award, we were feted by the ACLU as civil libertarians of the year because of our coverage of Arpaio and Thomas. My remarks at that dinner about the current racial climate in Phoenix were entitled: It’s Selma Time.
It is stunning to realize that at my age it only took me a mere seven days to undercut the intent of ‘Selma Time’ by acting the fool.
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