ESPN host Sage Steele created a bit of a stir recently when she claimed the worst racism she has personally experienced has come from black folks.
Steele made the claim on Feb. 16 during a discussion on race for the “Under Our Skin” forum held in Tampa, Fla., at The Crossing Church. Here’s what she said.
“The worst racism that I have received, [as a biracial woman married to a white man] and I mean thousands and thousands over the years, is from Black people, who in my mind I thought would be the most accepting because there has been that experience,” she said at the Christianity-based event. “But, even as recent as the last couple of weeks, the words that I have had thrown at me I can’t repeat here and it’s 99 percent from people with my skin color. But if a white person said those words to me, what would happen?”
[Editor's Note: On April 4, ESPN announced that Steele had been replaced as host of NBA Countdown with Michelle Beadle.]
This is not your boilerplate rhetoric on race. Twitter users were quick to respond with what is customary on Twitter: vindictiveness.
A (slightly) more nuanced argument was made at The Root, which stated Steele is entitled to her opinion, but “it was just annoying to see a black woman take on the mantle for a white trope, and a tired white trope at that.”
Steele’s comments were made almost exactly eight years after then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder accused the U.S. of being “a nation of cowards” for its refusal to openly discuss the issue of race.
I remember nodding my head when Holder said this. But today I wonder precisely what Holder meant.
It seems to me that many people aren’t truly interested in having a conversation on race. The racially charged attacks to which Steele speaks seem to stem from her attempt to have an actual conversation on race.
A true conversation, bear in mind, involves more than speaking. A person, Hemingway reminded us, can learn a great deal by listening. The problem? “Most people never listen.”
Until people are ready to actually listen to one another, that conversation is unlikely to happen.
That’s a shame. But don’t blame Sage Steele. She’s trying to have a frank conversation on race—just not the one social justice advocates want to have.
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.