Dis­ap­pointed over di­vi­sive com­ments

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

In early Septem­ber, Nike un­veiled the new “Just Do It” cam­paign with Colin Kaeper­nick as the fea­tured ath­lete. The cam­paign im­me­di­ately drew both staunch sup­port and crit­i­cism through­out the coun­try. Charles County was not ex­empt in cit­i­zens voic­ing their opin­ions on so­cial me­dia. While the Charles County NAACP sup­ports the rights for cit­i­zens to ex­press them­selves, we were dis­ap­pointed over re­cent com­ments made by com­mu­nity lead­ers re­gard­ing Nike’s en­dorse­ment of foot­ball no­table, Colin Kaeper­nick.

The mayor of La Plata and pro­fes­sor at Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land, Jean­nine Beau­doin James, posted from her per­sonal Face­book ac­count; “Nike selected Colin Kaeper­nick as the new face of the com­pany’s “Just Do It” cam­paign. How dis­ap­point­ing. #Boy­cottNike.” Al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously, lo­cal real­tor and owner/oper­a­tor of Mar­tini’s in White Plains, Pete Hamel­man posted an ex­ple­tive rid­den rant that voiced his dis­plea­sure with Nike and their choice to fea­ture Mr. Kaeper­nick on his per­sonal Face­book page. Both state­ments, caused sev­eral peo­ple across the county to re­sort to neg­a­tive com­men­tary, un­war­ranted com­ments with racial un­der­tones.

Mayor James ini­tially re­sponded to the back­lash by stat­ing that the post was a class project, but later is­sued what she be­lieved to be an apol­ogy. Mr. Hamel­man chose not to is­sue an apol­ogy, but to of­fer an “ex­pla­na­tion only for my friends, fam­ily mem­bers, col­leagues, and oth­ers that know me per­son­ally or thru my var­i­ous busi­ness ven­tures…”

Within a few days of her post, Mayor James and the Charles County NAACP lead­er­ship met to dis­cuss the post and how it im­pacted the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion we ex­pressed to Mayor James that she has a duty to all of her con­stituents to re­frain from di­vi­sive rhetoric and fur­ther adding fuel to a hot topic. The Charles County NAACP lead­er­ship also had a con­ver­sa­tion with Mr. Hamel­man, in which they ex­pressed how his com­ments as an owner of a busi­ness that is pa­tron­ized con­sis­tently by African Amer­i­cans in the county has been in­ter­preted by them.

The Charles County NAACP be­lieves that ev­ery­one has a con­sti­tu­tional right to free­dom of speech. We also be­lieve that right is ac­com­pa­nied with a height­ened level of re­spon­si­bil­ity for com­mu­nity lead­ers. Our goal is to hold com­mu­nity lead­ers ac­count­able when their words or ac­tions in­vite di­vi­sive com­ments. We are most con­cerned with neg­a­tive com­ments made on So­cial Me­dia that only serve to di­vide us fur­ther and cre­ate fear among us.

In an ef­fort to fos­ter a safe space for th­ese con­ver­sa­tions, we will host our fourth and fi­nal “Com­mu­nity Con­ver­sa­tion: We are One” on from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1 at the La Plata Bap­tist Church lo­cated at 9400 Old Stage­coach Road, La Plata. The topic of our fi­nal con­ver­sa­tion is en­ti­tled “Equal Treat­ment.” Mayor James, and Mr. Hamel­man have agreed to sit on the panel with lo­cal com­mu­nity lead­ers to dis­cuss this topic and hear di­rectly from the com­mu­nity. We in­vite all mem­bers in the com­mu­nity to join us in this con­ver­sa­tion.

Jan­ice Wil­son and Joe Samp­son Jr., Wal­dorf The writ­ers are the pres­i­dent and 3rd vice pres­i­dent of the Charles County chap­ter of the NAACP.

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