What kind of role model is Marc Lamont Hill? A Local look at leading by example.
Preface from the editor: I’ve been thinking about a certain Temple college prof (and owner of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books) who made headlines last November when he was fired from his CNN side gig for a speech he made about Palestine.
It’s been great to see so much support for him in the national media and here in Philly where Temple students have organized to let him know they’ve got his back. A reader from Germantown, however, wasn’t having it.
Sure, he told us, Marc has every right to his own opinion. But he’s one of the few guys from the neighborhood with the eyes of the world on him. His specialty, though, is Urban Education and Modern Media/Journalism, not Middle Eastern relations – which we all know is a ridiculously inflammatory discussion topic, full of potential landmines (such as “from the river to the sea,” ahem). To this reader, Marc knew what he was saying and recklessly risked his platform.
As a black man, our reader respects Marc as a role model for Philadelphia’s African American community, and feels Marc should make the best use of his prominence that he can towards uplifting the people he’s leading. Why speak on Israel and Palestine when there’s so much going on here at home that could use his platform? To this reader, Marc threw away a really good thing at CNN — with great potential to do a lot of good locally – to basically indulge his ego.
Now, our reader is clearly a very thoughtful dude who’s community-oriented and highly engaged in the neighborhood – his points are valid, and we’re very grateful he chose to express himself. And it’s worth pointing out that we’ve heard similar echoes from other sources as well. Still. Seems like an unfair amount of pressure on Marc to stay in his lane and don’t rock the boat. Is it possible to reconcile these two viewpoints?
Dr. Lorenzo’s column this month looks at role models – what they mean to us and how they can provide support and guidance throughout our lives. And what, if anything, they owe us. — C. Fillmore
What’s your take on Marc Lamont Hill?
I agree with Marc and think that he chose the right fight. Some whites with wealth and influence tend to think they have power over people’s lives and careers and can dictate boundaries. Well none of the power can destroy truth. CNN took a loss, as far as I see it.
Is there room for mixed feelings here?
Is there a case for going along to get along? Not while people are being killed and oppressed.
There should not be mixed feelings about telling truth as Marc did. We all see what is going on with our country’s “see no evil hear no evil” administration. African Americans and Latino and other folk from the global majority are being shot down in the market place by this criminal “un-justice” system, which validates other Human Rights abominations like the Palestine situation. No, I see no reason to have mixed feelings.
How important are role models today?
Role models can help change the way an individual sees themselves, and the possibilities ahead of them. A good role model can also provide a path to follow through adversary and uncertainty.
What kind of role models do we need in today’s world?
Celebrities are not role models! Focusing on status and material wealth only feeds the corrupt machine that’s destroying our communities, our environment, our educational systems and our liberties. This society needs people who can address big problems, provide tactical solutions, and rally others for change. Charismatic leaders who are not afraid to take heat for their convictions.
What kind of role models do we need locally?
Locally, the best role models I think should be right there “in the trenches” with the disenfranchised. They need to be patient, strong, humble, perceptive, resourceful, emotionally intelligent and instructive. An effective local role model leads the way by providing an example others can look to. Proof that someone just like them can open a business, write that book, challenge authorities, shoot for the moon.
When Marc calls out world leaders on the global stage, he’s modeling for all of us how to stand for truth with bravery and defiance — damn the possible fallout. Personally, I think this situation reveals Marc to be more of a role model for our community than ever.
Does everyone need a role model?
Humans learn by watching other humans, it’s only natural.
Growing up, two role models stand out from my own childhood in foster care. The first is Ms. Woodford, one of my foster mothers, who taught elementary-school reading and instilled in me the value of learning and using it to fight against a system that was sometimes cruel and confusing. The other was priest I met in a boys home whose encouragement and belief in me was so strong, he became a reason I chose to pursue a Ph.D.
Reflecting on your reader’s reaction to Marc Lamont Hill’s dust-up with CNN, I’m struck by his reflexive conditioning to maintain a bullshit power structure. If Marc were white, no one would question his right to express his opinions. His community wouldn’t blame him for throwing away opportunities they were counting on. These double standards are messed up! And they continue to exist because society does everything it can to train us to comply.
People tend to find the role models they need. I’m hoping this reader will re-discover the life and works of Frederick Douglass, who was asked at the end of his life what advice he would give to a young black American. He said, “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”
Douglass also likened people who wanted equality without animosity to farmers who wanted crops without turning the soil. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” goes the famous quote that might inspire your reader to rethink his position. Ideally he’d learn to embrace the fight for equality that’s happening right now, in every street in Germantown, in Philadelphia, in the country, in the world.
Read Dr. Woodson’s last column here.