Bloggers' Roundtable: Jena & Jesse

This week's panel discusses how bloggers raised awareness about the Jena 6 case and Jesse Jackson's criticism of Sen. Barack Obama for "acting like he's white."

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

We continue our Bloggers' Roundtable. My guests are political commentator Jasmyne Cannick of jasmynecannick.com, pop culture critic Desmond Burton of the blog Afronerd, and L.N. Rock - otherwise known as the African-American political pundit. Welcome everybody.

And, Jasmyne, I have just got to get you back in on this one. So New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas is being sued by a former team executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, for sexual harassment. Now, the trial is underway in New York, expected to last several weeks.

Thomas is alleged to have made sexual advances and demeaning statements to Sanders, who was once one of the NBA's highest-ranking female executives. She also claims that the B-word was used to describe her, and Thomas has denied the accusations.

Here's part of his videotaped deposition that was played in the courtroom.

(Soundbite of recorded deposition)

Mr. ISIAH THOMAS (Head Coach, President, New York Knicks): A white male calling a black female a (bleep) is highly offensive.

Unidentified Man: Would you find it also offensive for a black male to call a black woman a (bleep)?

Mr. THOMAS: Not as much.

CHIDEYA: In response to the video, Isiah Thomas had this to say outside the courtroom.

Mr. THOMAS: Please don't mischaracterize the video that was shown in court today. I don't think it's right for any man to ever call a woman a (bleep). I didn't do it, and I wouldn't do it.

CHIDEYA: And yet, why are we discussing this? What's the whole scenario here then of discussing when it's okay?

Ms. JASMYNE CANNICK (Political Commentator, jasmynecannick.com): Well, I would start off by saying that that video didn't do anything to help his case. And that - if that's the way he felt, then that's what he should have said on the deposition instead of what he did say.

But I suspect that what he did say is probably how he feels, and that also probably mirrors how a lot of black men feel - that it's okay for them to do it and not okay for other people to do it. I mean, Snoop illustrated that earlier this year with the Don Imus controversy. So I'm not surprised. I mean, we hear it every day in our hip-hop music and so it just, you know, it just goes to show you that's not just in hip-hop. It's also in the professional world. It's also in sports, you know?

And what I have to say as a black woman is, it's not okay for anyone to call me that - not a black man, a black woman, a white man or a white woman.

And until we, as black women, stand up for ourselves and stop allowing people to degrade us and call us those names, people like him will feel that it's okay to do it. And it's even more sadder and hurts more when it comes from a black man who came from a black woman, who understands what we had to go through as black people and black women. For him to even make a statement like that, it hurts a lot more than someone like Don Imus calling me the same name.

CHIDEYA: Desmond, what do you think?

Mr. DESMOND BURTON (Pop Culture Critic, Afronerd): Well, ultimately, the case is going to be about a he-said, she-said situation. Obviously, I'm not for language of that sort. I feel it's embarrassing to a certain degree for someone of his status to make these kind of - this kind of balancing act that just doesn't really play well. I don't - I think it's really shameful.

CHIDEYA: Well, L.N., is this the kind of thing where we should be, at this point, not surprised by all these different ways that language is parsed out across race and gender lines? Is it still worth having these conversations or should we be talking on a different level - more about behavior than words? Or are words behavior?

Mr. L.N. ROCK (African-American Political Pundit): Yeah, words are behavior. I think Jasmyne is right in many ways, even though I think, generically, stating that a lot of black men or most black men feel that way, I think, is too general. I don't feel that way.

Mr. BURTON: And inaccurate.

Mr. ROCK: You got that. And I think it's very inaccurate. There's a lot of black men - there's some proud black men that don't feel that way about black women. They were raised by their mothers, raised by their grandmothers, and they're proud of who they are. And - but it is a conversation that has to be had in the African-American community as well as the community at large in respect for women.

CHIDEYA: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. We've been talking to Jasmyne Cannick of jasmynecannick.com, pop culture critic Desmond Burton of Afronerd, and at our Washington, D.C. headquarters, L.N. Rock - otherwise known as the African-American political Pundit.

You can find links to their blogs and ours at nprnewsandnotes.org. Our online series, Speak Your Mind, gives you a chance to sound off on the issues.

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