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OPINION

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Ex-weatherman slips the tongue
Cherre Stoneham
Opinion Columnist
January 26, 2005

I have a dream that one day people of all colors will be able to pronounce Martin Luther King Jr.'s name correctly.

Can't we all say it with some respect, integrity and a sense of pride; can't we fulfill at least a piece of his dream? He deserves at least that much acknowledgment, because he was one of the most moving and captivating civil rights activists America has ever had. It's sad to say that there hasn't been another person like him to take charge for racial equality since his death in 1968.

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day isn't just a black thing. It isn't just about having a day off from work or school. It's about taking a step back and recognizing how far this country has come and how much more it needs to overcome.

King said if you don't have something nice to say about somebody, then don't say anything at all.

Unfortunately, KTNV-TV Las Vegas weatherman Rob Blair forgot the meaning of those words. On Jan. 15, he had what he claimed an "accidental slip of the tongue" when he inserted the racial slur "coon" into the civil rights leader's name while giving his forecast for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Just last year, Blair worked as a weatherman and morning news anchor for Chico's Northern California News.

Blair's fumble caused quite a stir among viewers: "For tomorrow, 60 degrees, Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Day, gonna see some temperatures in the mid-60s."

It turns out that the broadcast was pre-taped and the editing crew had ignored the error. Was anyone paying attention to the words that were coming out of Blair's mouth?

Who knows? Maybe the crew was too busy enjoying breakfast or eating lunch to care about correcting the pronunciation of such an honorable name.

And if Blair took the time to notice that he stuttered over King's name, maybe he would have asked to do it over.

This incident speaks to a greater issue of the lack of diversity and racial sensitivity in Chico, Las Vegas and newsrooms across the country.

Walking around Chico, how many black people will one come across on any given day? Don't worry about having to use all of your fingers to count, because the percentage is very low.

Blair claimed he thought he said Kong, not coon, and apologized several times. But he was fired after countless furious viewers called in to complain. I wonder: if people had never called in, would Blair still have a job right now? I bet he didn't see that storm coming, but it definitely blew away his career.

I agree with the viewers who called in; the word "coon" sounds nothing like Kong or King, and therefore how could one make such a careless and insensitive mistake? Even if you take off the "g" in the word Kong, it still doesn't sound like coon. It sounds like someone needs to have his hearing checked.

This incident disgusted me, made my body cringe and my stomach do somersaults -- just as it did last Halloween night when I saw a couple of white people with their faces painted black, walking through campus as if to say, "black people are scary, so let's dress up like them on Halloween."

Excuse me, but if that's not one of the biggest insults to black people, then I don't know what is.

"Coon" has been around as long as the "n-word." Slave owners began calling black people coons after using hunting dogs trained to hunt down raccoons to capture runaway slaves, according to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

These are the words that King recited in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech:

"No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

He was right. People of color will never be satisfied until the shackles of all forms of racism are broken.

Cherre Stoneham can be reached at

cstoneham@orion-online.net

Ex-weatherman slips the tongue
Post your feedback on this topic here
01/26/2005 I have to agree, that if there were... Justin Gonder
01/27/2005 Stop the witch hunt. This has nothing... Kristen
01/28/2005 I feel sorry for Rob Blair. It is a... Tomas Salgado
01/28/2005 This is ridiculous!....This is total... Aaron Miller
02/03/2005 It's hard to respect opinions that... William Scott Lincoln
02/03/2005 I had some of the same feelings as... Justin Gehrts
02/09/2005 I just found clip of the audio of... Steven Johnson
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