June 21, 2015

Chuck Todd has penned a response to the critics of his terrible Meet the Press segment highlighting black murderers who regret picking up a gun.

We've gotten a lot of feedback about the gun video we showed on Meet the Press today. Some were upset it only featured African-American men talking about their regrets of pulling a trigger. All of the men in the piece volunteered to be a part of the video and the larger project it is a part of.

But the last thing we wanted was to cloud the discussion of the topic.

The original decision to air this segment was made before Wednesday's massacre. However, the staff and I had an internal debate about whether to show it at all this week. When we discussed putting it off, that conversation centered around race and perception - not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke.

We decided against delaying the segment because we wanted to show multiple sides of what gun violence does in this country. We thought the issue of gun violence in our culture and society was an important conversation to continue -- too important to put off for another week. The consequences of gun violence should not be hidden.

As I say to all audiences, Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job. I hope folks view the gun video as a part of the conversation we should all be having and not the totality of it.

I hardly know where to begin. Whether or not the Charleston massacre had happened, this segment would have been received exactly the way it was. Our Beltway journalists seem to be obsessed with "both sides" balance until the topic concerns something as sensitive as this. Then they choose to air a study featuring only African-American murderers?

While I agree that the issue of gun violence is one that must be raised and discussed in the context of Charleston, I cannot imagine a more tone-deaf choice than this vehicle to begin the discussion. Surely Chuck Todd must be aware of the perception this would have conveyed to viewers; namely, that gun violence is something perpetrated by African-Americans as opposed to it being perpetrated on them.

But Charleston did happen, and that alone should have prompted this segment to be axed in its entirety. It presumes and oozes white privilege, particularly in the claim that race and perception would somehow be overlooked because of the larger context of gun violence.

Memo to Chuck Todd and NBC News: You cannot separate the two. You cannot. When you choose to air a segment featuring black people in prison for murder -- whether or not they regret their act -- you ARE bringing race and perception to your viewers. From your perch, you think you can be lofty about that, but real people and real viewers will not and do not share that privilege.

Here's just one response from one of our commenters about their perception of this segment: "This was no mistake, it was pre-packaged corporate reinforcement of white supremacy."

I happen to think that comment is on the mark.

The Charleston massacre has raised many issues which are ripe for discussion and they all center on race, racism and white privilege. There's plenty there to "make viewers uncomfortable" without sending a message that murderers are black people. Yes, that's perception. But how else are viewers expected to perceive it when you're airing a segment with its sole focus on black men convicted of murder?

Chuck Todd, learn this if you learn nothing else. These times are not like any other. There is change underway, and you can either be part of that change or you can get out of the way.

Start listening to people instead of lecturing them about "being uncomfortable." Listen to people in your own universe. I'm pretty sure, for example, that Tamron Hall and Joy Ann Reid would have told you that under no circumstances would this be an appropriate launch for a discussion of gun violence not only on this week for sure, but on any week of any year.

Finally, lose this idea forever.

"And we simply ask you to look at this as a color-blind issue that's about just simply gun violence,"

There are no colorblind issues. Everyone sees things through the lens of their own experience. You can no more ask a black person to pretend they're not black than you can turn into a spotted leopard. This idea of "colorblindness" is really a suggestion that everyone should view issues like white folks do, because of course we don't perceive ourselves as "color."

I may be white, but I've got two ears and two eyes and a brain and a heart. That's all you need to acknowledge that colorblindness is not an option in a colorful society, and that every person brings their own experience, bias and racial experience into what they see. If you think they can look at a video of two men being presented as African-American murderers as a colorblind issue, I would urge you to put a pair of 3D glasses on and look again.

I do not, however, believe you will. That will be yours, and NBC's loss.


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