Let Yourself Be Heard
August 27, 2009
There are some of us who remember when life in America was not defined or inspired by what was on television.
We are constantly held hostage by events which the television news directors deem of such overwhelming importance that we must hear 24 hours of the strange death of Michael Jackson or Anna Nicole Smith. Now we are held hostage by the lachrymose reportage of the long overdue death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
I say long overdue because he should have not been able to escape the submerged automobile he drove off the bridge into the water of Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, he cheated death leaving his date, Mary Jo Kopechne, to die of drowning in the car that he had driven.
I know some Americans may not want to hear this story again for various reasons. But at this time, while everyone is eulogizing this wayward, hard-drinking recipient of the Kennedy name, wealth and political clout, I choose to focus on the true story of Teddy Kennedy.
Here was a man who, after getting away with the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and surviving a private plane crash which broke his back, went on to a life of lascivious, alcoholic indulgence, while being responsible for what may very well be the worst legislation ever passed by the United States Congress. I refer to the immigration reform act (Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965) which essentially mandated that over time America will be less European and more African, Asian and above all “Latino,” or in the case of Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, “Latina” as in “wise Latina woman verses old white men.”
So the die has been cast and there is no turning back. Those of us who are of European descent and therefore, please forgive me, white, can’t even say we do not like the change. Let me illustrate why I say that. I will take you back to the early l990s when I was the number one talk show host in the nation.
The New York newspapers had front page stories telling of the recent demographic change of the New York City population. The New York Post had a headline saying, “City population puts whites in minority for first time!” That was the headline.
I made no reference to that story as I was editorializing about something else in the news. A short while later, I took my first phone call of the day. It was a caller from Queens who made reference to the population story on the front page of his newspaper.
He said, “Bob, I see whites are now in the minority in the city. How do you feel about that?” I thought for a moment and then said honestly, “Well sir, being a white person myself, I am not happy about it.”
Then I continued with the rest of my four-hour program. The next day I was summoned to a meeting in Program Director, John Mainelli’s office. Also attending the hastily called meeting was Fred Winehouse, the General Manager of the WABC radio, and two top executives from corporate headquarters on 66th street. The meeting was not called by John Mainelli; it was called by the network big shots who were concerned because of the almost hysterical reaction to my honest, innocuous response to the question from my first caller on the program.
Mr. Winehouse opened the meeting by recounting what he had been told concerning my statement. The big shots from corporate were grim-faced and did not say much. Mr. Mainelli was annoyed that this meeting was even taking place. He was in my corner all along. Then, after some perfunctory comments by the big wigs from 66th Street, Mr.Winehouse said, “Well, Bob, what do you think we ought to do about this?”
I looked around the room at the four other men seated in the program director’s office and said, “Gentleman, I see we are all white European individuals and I have to believe not one of us was thrilled and overjoyed about the fact that we are now in the minority, so I don’t know what there is for me to say . . . Do I say we should . . . ”
At that point, Fred Winehouse said, “Gentlemen, Mr. Grant is absolutely right. There is no need to continue this meeting. Thank you, Bob, for coming in.” As I left the room the gentlemen, including Mike Milardi, who had been an executive when I was at WMCA, shook my hand warmly and said, “You’re doing a great job for us, Bob. Keep it up.”
And the other man there from corporate headquarters said, “Thanks, Bob. I know you have been carrying this station for a couple of years.”
So, there you have it. For the first time I am revealing how truly frightened white America is of being called racist, or bigoted or anything!
Whose fault is it? I don’t blame people of color. They are proud of what they are. God bless them!
I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s greatest statement. He said, “It is not the actions of our enemies that should disturb us, but the silence of our friends.”
How about you? Are you silent when you should be heard?