It’s been a rough couple of weeks for former WLEX on-air personality, Lee Cruse. Social media has blown up with protests from angry viewers about his termination. I was astounded at the number of my friends who supported and forgave Cruse for what he said and his apology for saying it. Thinking maybe I missed something, I went back and watched the initial story as well as the apologies Cruse gave plus the interview with NAACP Vice President Adrian Wallace. After doing all of that, I had two takeaways. First, Cruse’s termination was justified and, last, there is a huge disconnect between white Americans and racist acts.
Cruse admitted to viewers he had a bad habit of not reading the scripts before going on air. For anyone that is familiar with radio/TV broadcasting, one of the basic rules of reading stories is to study the script as much as possible before “going live.” By not doing his homework, Cruse took the risk of getting himself into trouble every time he went on the air. That lack of effort was cocky and arrogant on his part. Under normal circumstances, Cruse might stumble over the script or say something that wasn’t all that funny. This time, he gave his support to a British broadcaster that got fired over making a racist joke that referred to the newest royal baby as a monkey. This might have just been inappropriate under normal circumstances, but given the fact this baby was biracial, the joke becomes racist in nature and the broadcaster loses his job.
To the Lee Cruse fans (and there are a lot of them), this was simply a mistake that was cured by making a sincere apology. In the eyes of WLEX management, this was a costly mistake that turned into a no-win situation. If they just slapped Cruse on the hand and suspended him for a definite period of time, minority groups would have protested and the story could have gone on the national news. The second option wasn’t much better, but firing him would have told the public that they didn’t support or encourage racism, even if it was a mistake. Cruse showed arrogance by not listening to Hayley when she told him to back down on the air. He rolled the dice every single day and he finally rolled snake eyes. As the saying goes, “pride cometh before the fall.”
I have friends that I would consider to be socially liberal and they are supporting Cruse. Maybe they don’t know the significance of what the British broadcaster did. Maybe they don’t know that Meghan Markle is biracial and referring to the royal baby as a monkey is one of the most vile things a human being can do. The scary part of this is some of my white “friends” are posting comments on social media that are insensitive at best. Things like:
- “Some people need to get a sense of humor.”
- “He apologized. You all just need to get over it.”
- “I don’t even like the British so why should I care what was said.”
During Cruse’s apology, he understood the significance of how his mistake made black people feel. In fact, he went on to say that he deserved the criticism and anger displayed by the public. If he understood how wrong he was, why doesn’t his fans? Truth be told, I think they do, but we are living in an age where a lot of white folks think the sin of racism shouldn’t come with a lot of discussion. Instead, they want to believe racist acts only occur in a vacuum and we make it worse when we discuss it. In other words, racism will cure itself if we leave it alone and don’t acknowledge it. That couldn’t be further from the truth and this incident proves that.
I imagine many of those who supported Cruse during this controversy, didn’t fully understand the depth of what he was “defending and supporting.” All some of you saw was your favorite newscaster losing his job over putting his foot in his mouth. Defending a racist act is never okay, under any circumstances. What many of Cruse’s fans don’t realize is many of the African-American community see your support of Lee Cruse as support for condoning racist attitudes and behaviors. Would you all have been so supportive if Cruse showed support (albeit accidentally) for someone who called a biracial child a half-breed? Even if you did forgive him, would you want him to be the face of a local news organization? Regardless, we don’t have the right to decide when the offended is no longer offended. Just as we don’t get to tell Jewish people when to “let go” of the Holocaust, we don’t get to tell African-Americans when to “get over” being called “monkeys.” I sincerely hope Cruse recovers from this and uses his mistake as a way to educate his angry followers about the sin of pride and arrogance. Above the racial lessons, that is the greater lesson along with learning there are consequences to all of our actions.