OUAB Presents: An Evening with Jemele Hill

OUAB Presents: An Evening with Jemele Hill

Hosted by Strategic Communications Professor Jasmine Roberts, this event was focused on sociopolitical issues like race and social activism through Jemele's point of view as both a Black woman and a journalist. Beginning the night, Jemele discussed the struggles of being a part of ESPN, a national source of news, and balancing having her own opinions and representing her company well. This then transitioned into race relations in our modern age.

Based upon her recent controversy, Hill was able to give a lot on insight on the struggles of voicing one's opinions while in the public eye. “The moment I leave the house, I become a representative of ESPN,” she explained, “I understood what position I put ESPN in, but they understood where I was also.” She then advised the audience to “follow the facts,” and to future journalists to “find a way to make journalism a way you use your voice,” since news and journalism need to be unbiased. Noting the First Amendment, Hill emphasized the importance of free speech but also its complications: while the bill protects citizens from government sanction, independent businesses have a strong say over the behavior of their employees. In situations like Hill's comments about the President or professional athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem (another highly referenced incident during the interview), these businesses can make decisions on whether to punish employees, though they may seem disagreeable in the public eye.

Following the controversy of politics within sports, Hill answered the question of the two topics mixing with a simple, sarcastic comment. “Last time I checked, athletes pay taxes, a lot more than the rest of us.” She found the concept of keeping athletes out of politics “intellectually lazy,” seeing how, in most occurrences, athletes are only hushed when topics like police brutality are brought into light. She mentioned LeBron James and his proactivity after the Trayvon Martin shooting, saying that part of the reason that he is so politically active is because he personally relates: having a Black family in an affluent neighborhood, LeBron has most likely had that sort of conversation with his sons. “What happens when one of them is walking through the neighborhood and someone doesn't know that's LeBron's son?” Hill questioned.

Digging a bit deeper into race relations with police, Hill gave her personal experiences, where police officers in her hometown, Detroit, MI, were actually from the city of Detroit and were a part of the community. Since that rule was annulled, she's noticed that tensions have risen significantly. “If the only time you see police is when something violent is happening, it builds a stigma in your mind of who they are and what they do,” Hill stated, making the point that police departments need to revert to supporting their cities, versus just patrolling them. With citizens, specifically those of color, having their eyes and phone cameras on police constantly, “police have to be more cognizant of what they represent in the community and historically,” Hill pointed out. While there are many good police officers, “there are some professions where you can't have bad apples.”

By the end of the interview, Hill had left students with many tidbits of advice, the first of which being to keep these sorts of conversations going and keep learning from each other. “If you no longer care why things are the way they are, you're allowing yourself to be willingly uninformed,” Hill claimed. Although issues like racism can be overwhelming and daunting, Hill challenged the audience with a proverb that affected her: “Instead of looking at the totality of the problem, just try to get ten perfect closer. We can do ten perfect, right?”