There are times when I expect to hear, how do I say this, less than politically correct, perhaps even mildly racist, comments, though that would not even enter into the mind of the speaker. I mean, there’s a Christian radio station here in Chicago, quite popular, plays mostly crap music, and sometimes I find myself listening to it. I used to listen to it all the time but stopped because I couldn’t handle all the underlying racism and sexism that seemed to run through the program that I listened to, specifically their morning show.
But Sunday morning I was listening to the local NPR station. Oh NPR how I love you. The programs and witty conversation. The unabashed criticism of this presidential administration. Fabulous world programming or economic news on my drive home. And This American Life. Don’t even get me started. Really the most fabulous radio program I could ever imagine. All the stories are available online and you can buy them for a road trip or something. Might I suggest the 1/11/02 show, particularly Act IV. So yes, I Love them. And should probably join because I love them so much.
But. BUT. People, NPR has grown feet of clay. I was listening Sunday morning as I got ready for the day and heard the beginning of Hello Beautiful!, a quality program that looks at art. And I was enjoying the gallery review but was suddenly blindsided by this blatantly racist comment by the person providing commentary.
See, there’s this artist. His name is Kehinde Wiley and he has a show up in the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago. I’ve actually seen some of his work and it’s quite well done. I’ll wait while you go take a look and read more about the idea of the show. Which is fantastic. I love the idea. I love challenging the ideals of people. And then...
Then Margaret Hawkins, as she was commenting on gallery shows, said this
“There’s a painting of St. Peter where he’s holding the keys to the kingdom. But instead of the elegant gesture with the little key he’s holding this enormous key. It’s like a big piece of bling. You know, it’s a real interesting juxtaposition. It suggests that you know, what are the keys to the kingdom? What is heaven? Maybe it’s a big casino somewhere.”
MAYBE IT’S A BIG CASINO SOMEWHERE?!?
And I don’t think I heard much else after that. Because really people, what is this woman saying? Men dressed in traditional hip-hop clothing would not, in fact, have access to the keys of the kingdom? Or maybe that black men would clearly rather go to the casino than participate in a more traditional spiritual endeavor?
What would a modern translation of St Peter look like to this woman? The reality is probably a lot less like what she thinks and a lot more like Kehinde Wiley’s work. Needless to say, I'm a little dismayed. And here's the worst part, she probably doesn't even think there's anything wrong with what she said.
Kelly recently shared about a conversation that she had with some other teachers at her school and their assumption about her as a Black woman and her choice of music. She felt it was her responsibility to note their racist intonations and started a bit of a firestorm. And I had to agree with her. But lots of other folks out there, they questioned her interpretation of the comments and the underlying racism that may or may not have given birth to said remarks. So, maybe you might question my interpretation of Ms. Hawkins comment. Or maybe you might agree with it.
But I think I have a letter that I need to write.