Don’t Be Afraid to Step in It, but Step Up When You Do


Photo by DeShaun Craddock

Today I read about ?uestlove’s offensive remarks he made while touring Japan. Then I read his statement he posted to his Facebook page addressing it. Maybe I’m biased because I’ve been a fan of The Roots and ?uestlove since I was in high school, but his response was honest and heartfelt, and not some ass-covering, canned PR auto-reply. Here’s an excerpt:

—look. i’m a human being and dumber yet, i’m a public figure. if you’re lucky enough to be either of the aforementioned, then not only should one stay clear of saying or writing hurtful things, one should actively work against feeling comfortable, thinking hurtful thoughts. given that black culture consistently finds itself at the butt end of so many offensive “outsider” jokes, I should be way, way more sensitive (after all, who’s zooming who). I for one, should never allow my cultural bias to take precedence over my “examined life” (clunkers be damned). i know the whole kinder and gentler thing reeks of a self serving political correctness, but eff it, it’s “all me”.
Ahmir Thompson / “Questlove”

Here’s my take:

  1. We’re all public figures, especially those of us who put our thoughts online, and I think it’s important for all public figures to step up, admit their mistakes, and take responsibility. When celebrities do this, I think it can be a powerful, positive example.
  2. It’s important to have an open exchange of thoughts online. I know I’ve been timid in the past about sharing online—worrying about saying something stupid or offensive that will come back to bite me in the ass. I’ve pretty much let that go because I also believe in having an authentic online experience where I put who I really am out there. If I let my fear of making mistakes inhibit what I share, I’m not being honest and I’m not really engaging, which isn’t as meaningful to me. Doing something that’s not meaningful isn’t worth my time.
  3. Step up when you’re wrong. I’m sure I’ve said stuff online that may have rubbed someone the wrong way. If I notice it myself, I take responsibility for it and move towards correction. I also expect people to call me on it. After all, this is a conversation (or at least I hope it is).

I don’t think our online selves should be super-polished or one dimensional. We don’t always say the perfect things or even say things perfectly in person, so why should we expect what we say online to be different? I don’t believe we should be spewing hate and ignorance, but I also think we’re all human and may have ways of seeing and saying things that could be corrected. How else can we evolve and improve if we don’t share ourselves and stay open to what others share?