In all of my years of social media posting, liking, retweeting and sharing, I have never experienced a resulting debate like the one spurred by my sharing of and expressed admiration for Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Bill Shea’s Opinion piece, “Kid Rock’s continued embrace of Confederate flag is offensive — and a stupid business decision.” It is an article that makes a strong and well-argued case for why the local music star’s refusal to eschew the Confederate flag is perhaps not well thought out; especially considering the inhuman condition the colors ultimately stood for and represented.
One individual, a news reporter, took me to task for calling Shea’s work “reporting.” Before public relations, I worked in both print and broadcast journalism, including as a reporter. In both mediums, I often reported and opined in my on-air and written work, although my radio news reporting was at music stations and I wrote for a radio industry trade magazine (rather than hard news outlets). And while Shea’s article was clearly marked “Opinion,” he is a reporter; and in my view, a reporter reports. To me it is semantics. If you disagree, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. Instead, what is more important, and what we should all be focusing on, is what Kid Rock is doing, or not doing, surrounding this controversy.
Depending on what you read or whom you talk to, Kid Rock either did or did not make an official statement regarding the flag. According to the Detroit Free Press, Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly told her audience that Rock’s message to detractors was as follows: “Please tell the people protesting that they can kiss my ass.” The paper reports further that, according to Rock’s publicist Rick Stern, the remark came from a conversation between Rock and Kelly. Perhaps her sharing a conversation on the air was wrong (“bad reporting”). Perhaps Rock should have known better.
Ultimately, Kid Rock is not racist. As Shea notes, his son is biracial and he has been awarded in the past by the NAACP. What Bob Richie is being is incredibly insensitive on an issue that is as sensitive as they come. With racism and racial inequality front and center today in the nation’s consciousness, dismissing what the Confederate flag ultimately represented cannot be dismissed. I have heard and read the arguments saying it stood for brave soldiers in the South fighting for their families, homes, liberty and freedom. What was ultimately at stake, as we know, was a way of life and an economy predicated on the terrible, back-breaking toil of those who had no freedom, no lives of their own through slavery.
Richie shouldn’t – can’t – ignore history. He should at least be open to meaningful conversation. To acknowledge both sides of the debate. To give the topic more than a cursory wave of his hand and turn of his back. And though Richie views the Confederate flag as a ‘rebel’ symbol and a nod to southern rock, he needs to take off the blinders. In this instance, on this topic and at this time, his opting to be an “American Badass” simply throws up too many red flags.