Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/16/21 Brett Siddell is wrestling with the pros and cons of fatherhood. The 30-plus stand-up comic, who has been part of the on-air team of Busted Halo for over decade on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel/129, has decided to finally get serious about one of life’s […]
Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith and media:
Fox News Channel will broadcast a one-hour special entitled One Nation hosted by Lawrence Jones this Sunday night (7/26) at 10:00 PM ET. The program will examine the state of race relations in the United States from the perspectives of civil rights activists, legislators, law enforcement officials and others. Jones will also offer his own personal insights as a young African-American man.
While traditional conservatives and liberals like to talk about innovation (defined as building upon something that works but has flaws and improving it), negative energy would-be totalitarians have stealthily managed to replace it with the word disruption (defined as working against what is).
Disruption is, of course, good if what you’re disrupting is a bad thing (i.e. COVID-19 or racism). But it’s not so good – in fact, it’s bad – if you’re talking about business models that actually serve the public, including the poor. It would be nice, for example, to disrupt slave labor in China (which barely seems to be on the media’s radar) but it’s problematic to seriously disrupt free-market capitalism, free speech or the most fruitful democratic republic in the history of the world. Disrupting poverty is good, disrupting ways out of poverty isn’t. Again, innovation (which implies improving upon something that already has value) is fine and desirable. Disruption implies an attack on its target – often aimed at its ultimate eradication.
Lawrence Jones is an innovator because he’s found a way to use his free speech to tackle issues that divide us in a straightforward and respectful way that can unite us. He also a disruptor in the best sense of the word because he’s disrupting a destructive media and seemingly intentionally-divisive media that seems incapable of dealing with nuance, proudly rebukes the very notion of alternative facts (aka alternative perspectives) or young black men and women coming to conclusions that fall outside the lines of the political coloring book handed to them. He’s by no stretch of the imagination an apologist for racism but he can also recognize racial scams when he sees them.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with him. Our conversation has been edited lightly for readability.
JWK: So, tell me about your special.
LAWRENCE JONES: We’ll be dealing with race relations in this country from all different angles – whether it’s police brutality, racial profiling (or) violence that’s happening within the community – and how we navigate those waters. So, the special is going to be a combination of my on-the-ground reporting and bringing in different players to the table to have some difficult conversations. I think part of the problem that we’re having right now in the country is that we’re not doing enough talking. I’m hoping this show can be a model for bringing people together to talk about our differences.
JWK: What particular perspective do you bring to the issue as a young black conservative that you believe is valuable?
LJ: I’m the son of a preacher. I am also someone that grew up wanting to be a cop as well – but I also understand and have experienced profiling and police brutality. (At the same time) I’ve had positive experiences with cops and, as I said, wanted to be a cop growing up. I’m hoping to blend all that into this conversation.
JWK: Who are some of the people you’ll be talking with on the program?
LJ: Dr. Tony Evans (Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas) is going to be part of this special. He is someone that I look up to and has been great at advocating from a biblical world view. He is a notable figure (who) gives us a spiritual perspective. I think we cover everything. We get the community perspective. We get the faith perspective. We do the law enforcement angle and we’re accessing inner-city neighbors who have their issues and are giving them a voice on this special. Again, I keep saying this, but I’m hoping that this is a model. I’m not saying the conversation’s going to be perfect but what it is going to be is real and I’m excited about it.
JWK: It seems me that, following the brutal killing of George Floyd, we had a level of agreement on the issue that you actually rarely see in America. Every sane person knew it was horribly wrong and, I think, almost everyone agreed that it was time to deal with the issue of police brutality and black/blue relations. It appeared there was an opportunity for bipartisan action.
Instead, some politicians and some in the media seemed to encourage protests that could have been very effectively conducted online – protests that may have spread unnecessarily spread COVID-19 in already disproportionately-impacted communities. At the same time, they allowed their positive message to be blurred by looters, rioters and organized anarchists (a bit of an oxymoron) who ransacked neighborhoods, caused tragic deaths and burned down black-owned businesses and places of employment. CNN’s Chris Cuomo even took issue with the idea that keeping the protests peaceful is even desirable.
I guess my question is, with supposed friends like that do black people need enemies?
LJ: During this pandemic we (have seen) abuses from the state. There was a mother in a playground who just trying to play with her kid who was arrested. We saw beauty shops shutdown, gyms shutdown and the consequences from all that. So, I think when the Floyd case appeared, the way people viewed the state was different because, again, in communities of color and black communities we’ve been having the conversation about police brutality for a long time. The country was in a different place and the way they were looking at the state and the government was much different.
So, the Floyd case happens and the country kind of unifies around it because everyone that has eyes saw what took place and thought that it was wrong. We were really in a period of time where we were having this passionate conversation and…it kind of morphed into the looting that took place by people that were not a part of the initial protesters but had their own agenda – the anarchists.
You know, I’ve been covering these protests since Trayvon Martin. I’ve seen the same groups for years…There’s always been these groups that have their own agenda. The Antifa groups take advantage of (the controversies)…And then there was the Defund the Police movement…That is problematic for the country as well and now we’re having the conversation about the violence in the community. So, it’s a mixed bag.
I’m hoping that, in doing this special, I’m able to navigate those waters and provide perspective for righteous people but I’m also going to talk about the leaders and the people (who have) their own agenda – one that doesn’t necessarily reflect what the community is crying out for because crime is also an issue that is now (running rampant) in places like New York and Chicago as well.
JWK: Is part of the problem that our so-called conversation on race isn’t much of an honest conversation because people who don’t agree entirely with the corporate media narrative are shutdown and could even lose their careers if they say something that doesn’t fit the agenda?
LJ: That’s why I’m totally against Cancel Culture. People say a lot of things that are dumb. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be consequences for different actions that you do but I continue to say that we’re missing the educational and a historical component in the conversation.
Look, I’m not saying that this special is going to be the thing that gets America right on track but what I am saying is that this special is going to be a tool that people that are watching at home can use. It’s going to civil and it’s going to be productive and it’s going to be a model to start a conversation. It’s a basis.
We keep talking about this “national conversation.” Everybody in the country is not gonna sit down and have a “conversation.” I think we should be careful when we paint that picture because it almost seems unattainable. How about we brothers and sisters, churches, people at community centers and at restaurants just start talking? I think the country will follow.
JWK: Among today’s civil rights leaders, who do you turn toward for inspiration?
LJ: I don’t turn to anyone when it comes to civil rights. I (have my) faith to guide me. I’m often put in a position where I’m having to navigate these waters myself and going on TV to express myself and try to be that voice of reason. So, I don’t look to anyone to give me that voice but I do depend on my faith to sustain me and (provide my) foundation.
I do consider Dr. Evans as a mentor in that I’ve been reading his books and listening to him for years. And, so I guess you could point to Dr. Evans as being a spiritual leader for me.
JWK: What’s your take on how President Trump has been handling the issue of race relations?
LJ: The president’s the president…One thing I will say about the president is that (virtually) all groups have found something he’s said (to be) insensitive. You name a group of people and they will say he’s insensitive. I mean even in the Republican party he’s had his own grief with the party itself.
The president is one figure. They come and go. (But) I’ll offer my analysis on the president – on ways that he could do better. I recommended that he to go to a Juneteenth celebration and understand the history behind it. It’s not just the president. I think the country fails itself when it comes to history and understanding where people’s heartaches and pains come from. So, I’ve called for making sure our history books are right and making sure we understand our history. I hate to put all this on the president – even though he is the most powerful man in the free world. I think the people of the nation and the world need to do a hard look at history and talk about it with one another. I don’t think that exempts the president.
JWK: What are your thoughts on the current battles over statues and monuments?
LJ: I continue to say that communities who have ownership of them should vote and decide what statues they want up or taken down. But I will tell people is this. I think there has been a lot more debate on statues than there has about real change.
People in my community were having conversations about equal justice under the law and, for some reason, people heard “Show me your virtue.” You can tear down all the statues but how does that help solve the actual issues that we’re facing as a country and as a black community?
With respect to the issue of the Confederacy, I will note to people that we are a deeply patriotic country. There is a great debate about whether Kaepernick should take a knee or not take a knee – and you see people get very excited about people not reciting the the National Anthem. I don’t think there is anything that is more anti-American than the Confederacy. There are people who I meet who love me and who are supportive of me and they believe the Confederacy was about states’ rights. Well, someone’s failed them on history. Look at the Articles of Succession and I guaranty you’ll see where it talks about slavery. So, again, that’s a failure of history.
JWK: Have you ever thought of getting into politics? You may be a little young but New York City will be looking for a new mayor in about 18 months and, if I can read the crowd, I think a young conservative African-American would have a very good shot?
LJ: It’s funny because a lot of people ask me that question. One of our leaders at our company has asked me “Have you ever thought about running for office?” The answer is no because I just don’t have the stomach for it. I love holding those who are in power accountable but, as far as the negotiation and going back and forth with legislators about different issues of our time, I have no stomach for it. Honestly, I don’t think I would ever be elected because I’m not going to say the thing that is pleasing even though it may be politically expedient at the time. It’s just not for me.
It used to be goal of mine. When I was younger I thought that I could affect the world in that way but I like my job. I like telling people’s stories. I don’t like being the story.
JWK: What do you hope viewers will take away from this special?
LJ: One takeaway is that we can do this. I mean there is such despair in the country right now that people don’t feel like we can tackle this issue of race and inequality as well as (maintain) our values as Americans. The Constitution gives us the tools to navigate these waters. We gotta stop looking at each other as different groups and start looking at each other as family. That’s why (this special is) called One Nation. I’m gonna start the show by making it very clear. We’re one nation but we’re also one American family. When one of our brothers grieves, when one of our brothers is shot or killed by the state, we should grieve – along with our law enforcement officers. When one of our brothers or sisters is shot because of gun violence because a violent figure was allowed on the street, we should grieve. All of those issues are separate issues but equally important. We’re gonna tackle all of those.
Final Note: Thank you to those of you who liked my suggestion for an American Healing Flag. I appreciate it.