For some perspective on the tragic death of George Floyd, and the protests that followed, we turned to several of Radio Ink’s 2020 Future African American Leaders in Radio. We also asked them what they believe radio’s role moving forward should be.
Kenneth Forte is President and General Manager of R&F Communications in Dickson, TN. “It is concerning but not surprising, to anyone paying attention we have become a very divided country in so many ways politically, socially and economically. The tragic death of George Floyd is sad, but if we are going to be honest it’s not something that is new in black America, the only difference is we have all watched it over and over again and we are starting to not make excuses for those we perpetuate such a senseless murders act. The reaction of the marching I support but the lootting I do not. But we must also pay attention as a society and realize that most of those who are looting have nothing to do with the actual protest and march, so we must be careful not to categorize them together.
The role of radio takes on even more importance as we report on the events, but we should also aid in the dialogue around race in America and how policing takes place in the black community versus the white community. We can’t be afraid of the conversation and having the people around the table who can help move the conversation forward, we didn’t get here overnight and it will not be solved overnight. But I encourage stations in large markets and small markets to use their bully pulpit to open the dialogue among all races.
Jay James is morning show host and Sports Director for Saga Charlottesville. “It’s very tragic to see injustices like the death of Mr. Floyd, especially when they could be and should be prevented. It is clear that we have a systematic issue of discrimination and disproportionate treatment of African Americans in our criminal justice system. The protests are understandable as we have to take a look at these broken systems and tragic situations that keep happening. Its understandable that African Americans and Americans of all ethnicities are experiencing a range of emotions from anger, to fear to sadness. Obviously violence will never be the answer, and I am grateful for the thousands of peaceful protesters who are expressing themselves the right way. Living in Charlottesville, VA we have experienced some difficult things in our community the last few years in terms of racism, inequity, and challenging conversations. In the substance abuse treatment program that I am a part of, ( The Bridge Ministry Program) (bridgeministry.info) we see inequality in the criminal justice system and the impact that mass incarceration and disproportionate minority contact is having on African American men, which is why we’re doing everything we can in our area to help them break the cycle of addiction and incarceration and achieve employment and return to their families as productive citizens and fathers. Breaking the cycle of poverty and the lack of education and skills can play a major role in helping African Americans avoid negative contacts with police officers. Obviously these bad actors don’t represent all police, and we need police in our society, but we have to provide more sensitivity training to stop the stereotypical view of black men as being dangerous or a threat. We are entitled to the same benefit of the doubt as our white counterparts in various situations. We need leaders who will step up and take action and not just give us rhetoric.
“Radio is the PERFECT genre for these times, it gives us a chance to have a community discussion responsibly and give listeners the chance to express themselves. We can present information impartially, and model the right way to engage in difficult conversations that hopefully our political leaders can emulate. If we do it right, we can help our country heal, but if we do it wrong by promoting divisive rhetoric and ideology without considering all sides of the discussion, we can do more harm to the situation. So in radio we have a great opportunity, and an even greater responsibility. I am grateful to work in this industry during these difficult times and to have colleagues of other races “who get it” and want to listen, learn and help promote awareness and ultimately change.”