A comedian’s view

Sunday’s N&R Ideas section leads with an (unposted) interview with comedian-turned-author Nick Adams.  Editor Elma Sabo printed several for-whites-only, learn-while-you-laugh, excerpts from his new book entitled “Making Friends With Black People“.  She also interviewed the Eden, NC native via email.

I’ve heard of the ‘brick wall’ that hopefully exists between the paper’s editorial and news departments, but this editorial/story seems to have been pitched by head news editor John Robinson, caught by Ideas/Books editor Sabo, and OK’d by head opinion maker Allen Johnson.  All of this is a good thing because we need what Adams is peddling: understanding and laughter.  Or as the author puts it…

“Americans are a long way from taking part in an open, honest dialogue on race.  Maybe if we can laugh and joke about it – with no malice in our hearts – we’ll at least make some progress.”

So true… so true…

Among the questions Sabo posed to Adams was one eliciting his opinion on Guilford County black leadership’s recent Declaration Against Intolerable Racism.   The declaraion bemoans what they cite as a continued ”culture of racism” herabouts.  Sabo’s question ends with, “Many white people feel unjustly targeted by this declaration.  In short, none of this is improving race relations here.  Do you have any advice?”  He did.

“…It doesn’t seem like their points target any white people at all.  Their issues seem to be with the city and county governments as a whole.

Let’s take this Willie Best situation.  It seems to me that the only reasonable response to that allegation would be, ‘Hmmm.  Let’s investigate this and see if there is any merit to this claim.” (Ed note: the claim is that Best’s firing was due to institutional and individual racism)…

I think it’s amazing that white Americans still immediately get defensive whenever black people make allegations against… government.  As if there aren’t thousands of documented cases of the system doing much worse things to blacks than… firing a county manager. …Is it really that hard to believe that Willie Best might have been unjustly terminated?…”

Although Sabo’s “Declaration” question for Adams, who has resided in the western states for years, felt a bit contrived by this reader, I’m glad she asked it because his long-distance advice is sound:  Let’s investigate the incident.

Fully realizing that ‘institutional racism’ is a difficult thing to see – much less prove - we ought to at least try.  The case for Best’s firing on the grounds of racism hasn’t been made in my opinion - not by a long shot - but neither has the case been made for exactly why he was abrubtly, and roughly, terminated amid a firestorm of racial claims and counter-claims by our unruly County Commissioners.

It should be an easy enough task for those who voted to fire Best to document what they saw to be grounds for his dismissal …and they should do it.  Although several white Commissioners have refused to point out measurable, job-specific, transgressions out of “respect” for Best, those same commissioners should be equally concerned about the amount of respect they owe the citizens they were elected to serve.

Let’s take Adams’ advice to not only laugh our way to racial understanding, but also to fully investigate any perceived, or real, racist governmental actions and shine some light on that which continues to divide us.

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  1. Posted August 21, 2006 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Too bad the reviewer didn’t get the pitch. ;-)

    (Not that she’s not entitled to her opinion. But her opinion turned out to be a bit of a kink in the otherwise smooth delivery you posited over, under, around and through the “wall of separation” here.)

  2. Posted August 21, 2006 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Sorry, Dave, I wasn’t on the mound on this one.

  3. Brenda Bowers
    Posted August 21, 2006 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    David, I don’t think the commissioners should air the reasons for Mr. Best’s dismissal at all. This just isn’t done in the business world. I personally saw reasons for his dismissal just watching the meetings when he didn’t have information the commissioners asked for and his assistant did. Not the way to go at all if you are responsible. And neither did he bother to do the preliminary budgets with a 10% and a 15% across the board cuts that they ask him to do showing just what he felt could be cut as the least important, but necessary, budget items. Be that as it may, airing the person’s failings in public just isn’t the proper way to handle the situation. The Black commissioners and Mr. Best himself made a circus of this whole thing and very much dammaged hiss chances of getting another job. He was used as a soap box by Skip and Company and it was a sad day for the man.

    As for this book, I understand it really isn’t that funny, and this from my neighbor who just happens to be Black. she says I can read it when she is finished so I may someday give my opinion. I am after all probably the most vehemently opinionated person in the Greensboro blogosphere! Brenda

  4. Posted August 22, 2006 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    I would normally agree with you about such airing Brenda, but not in this case. The stakes are too high… the allegations too serious.

    As for your ‘happens to be Black’ neighbor… maybe her sense of racial humor is underdeveloped. I haven’t read the book either but my point is… laughter is a better antidote to our racial divide than sneering, denial and mistrust.

  5. Posted August 22, 2006 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    While I understand the need to keep personnel records confidential, there has to be a legitimate reason for Best’s firing. I understand that he got a positive review and raise a few months before the firing. If that is so, I would want to know what happened in the ensuing months to cause this action. If it were a private business, I wouldn’t have the right to know, but since I’m paying for this, as a taxpayer, I have the right and responsibility to know what went on.

    And while I agree laughter is the best medicine and can laugh at just about anything, there are some things that simply aren’t funny. For me, racism is one of them.