ESPN talk show host Jemele Hill was right when she called President Donald Trump a white supremacist, Wake Forest pastor John Pavlovitz says, and the criticism that has rained down on her and her employer just prove the point.
Pavlovitz, a popular blogger who often addresses controversial topics, wrote Thursday that the controversy over Hill’s remarks is an opportunity for white Americans to have useful conversations — including through their churches — about racial divides in this country.
“Jemele Hill is right to speak, and she shouldn’t have to apologize for seeing what she sees,” Pavlovitz writes. “If you feel she unfairly lumped you into a lazy stereotype that doesn’t apply to you – maybe you’ll understand how frustrating that is, and you’ll try to be more willing to see people as individuals and not caricatures you can accessorize as you wish. Maybe as a black woman, Jemele knows what that feels like better than you and I.”
Hill, the ESPN SportsCenter anchor and a former sports reporter for The News & Observer, said in a series of tweets Sept. 11, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists.
“He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Hill’s remarks “a fireable offense,” and while supporters have used Twitter and other forums to defend Hill, ESPN tweeted that her comments don’t represent the company and said, “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
On Wednesday, Hill tweeted that her comments were her personal beliefs and said she regretted that they had “painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional.”
She did not retract the original remarks.
Pavlovitz said she shouldn’t have to, and that those who are trying to organize an effort to get ESPN to fire her are hypocrites.
“Nothing says ‘We’re not white supremacists,’ like a bunch of white people publicly bullying a woman of color for speaking out on white supremacy. That’s helpful and definitely not racist,” Pavlovitz writes.
He added, “Maybe it’s me, but if calling the President a white supremacist is a fireable offense – then him actually being one sure as heck should be.
“This is the heart of the hypocrisy on display here, and the reason Hill isn’t wrong, even if you disagree with her conclusions or her methods.”
Pavlovitz goes on to cite examples of behavior by Trump and his administration that Pavlovitz says support Hill’s assertion. He also takes some of Trump’s supporters to task, saying the fact that white people are more upset by Hill’s comments than by Trump’s behavior illustrates the issue that Hill is addressing.
“And if you’re supporting this man, you don’t suddenly get to tone police someone for their audacity or cry ‘hurtful language.’ ” Pavlovitz writes. “If you’ve continually defended the King of Crass who you’ve applauded for ‘speaking his mind’ and for ‘telling it like it is,’ that criticism of Hill doesn’t ring true.”
Pavlovitz also suggests that ESPN has mishandled the situation by saying it accepted her apology instead of using the moment to discuss the way blacks have been treated in American sports and politics.
“I guess they haven’t been paying attention to their own programming – or they’re going to wait 20 years and feature her in an episode where they laud her candor,” he says in the blog.
Instead of criticizing Hill’s remarks, Pavlovitz says, white America needs to be examining something bigger.
“Maybe we sense there’s a hard truth there that we’d rather not deal with,” he writes. “Not only that, but the white clergy of this country needs to condemn Donald Trump’s coddling of racists and supremacists instead of excusing it from the pulpit, instead of normalizing it and pretending Jesus is okay with it.”
The blog, titled, “Stuff That Needs To Be Said,” has more than 11,000 followers. His Twitter account @johnpavlovitz has more than 63,000 followers. He lives in Wake Forest and heads up the teen ministry for North Raleigh Community Church Downtown.
Pavlovitz has a book coming out in October called, “A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic and Hopeful Spiritual Community.”