On October 8, Columbus Day, the Huffington Post provided its readers with an article written by Marc Lamont Hill, a professor from Columbia University and HuffPost Live moderator. That article, The 15 Most Overrated White People, attacks the cultural ritual of the celebration of Columbus Day. However, as the title of the article alludes, Professor Hill has taken issue with much more than the celebration of Columbus Day. Columbus Day was simply a reason that Hill used to promote racial division.
The list, as the title notes, only includes what he believes to be overrated whites. But he takes it a step further by adding along with his criticism of each Caucasian, comments on Blacks in the same field that he believes are or were better than those he classifies as being overrated. The problem with Professor Hill’s beliefs is that he makes strong, and to many offensive, statements without any facts. As a professor, he should know better.
For example, he compares Elvis Presley to Little Richard. Both were, and in Little Richard's case still are, great artists. However, simply looking at their track records: Little Richard had 3 #1 hits on the U.S. R&B charts while Elvis had 22 #1 hits on U.S. Pop and Country charts. Hill’s argument is based on the fact that Little Richard wrote his songs. I agree that to write as well as sing a #1 hit is impressive. However, the writing aspect is only one part of an artist. The singer brings the words to life and Elvis had a remarkable way of doing that. I agree his acting left something to be desired. However, it is hard to truly berate it as we can look at that era and say that much of it was quite cheesy compared to today’s standards. Professor Hill has criticized Elvis in the past when trying to make larger points on race and politics, as seen towards the end of this clip from the O’Reilly Factor back on December 7, 2011.
I also did not find it shocking to find that the politically liberal Hill would include Republicans and people of faith on his overrated list. Ronald Reagan followed Elvis on this list, and rather than commending the 40th president's tenure making government smaller at home while fighting against communism abroad, Reagan was labeled as overrated for "declaring ketchup a vegetable for our children's school lunches" among other criticisms.
President Reagan was able to do something that the current president is unable to do: bring about national confidence. President Reagan believed in “peace through strength.” This is quite contrary to President Obama’s belief that we should scale back our military and security in foreign countries. We just recently witnessed in Benghazi, Libya what weakness leads to, the death of our Ambassador and three other Americans.
Professor Hill also added William Shakespeare and Babe Ruth to his list. He attributes the fact that there is “generally [a] narrow range of female roles” in William Shakespeare’s plays as reasoning for his position. Once again, Professor Hill fails to recognize the time that the plays were written, and the unfortunate but socially accepted roles of men and women in society. In respect to Babe Ruth, he was a huge figure in baseball due to his colorful personality on and off the field. Were Willie Mays and Hank Aaron great baseball players and of the same caliber of player as Babe Ruth? Most certainly I would say that they were. However, both men were “quiet heroes.” Both men for the most part shunned the spotlight. When you stay away from the spotlight you negate the impact that the press can have both good and bad. They played baseball because they “loved” the game. They did not play it for the press. Babe Ruth was a great baseball player. He was also ahead of his time in marketing himself and building himself a legendary public image.
To attack the entire NHL due to their contract talks is just dumb and he alludes to racism when he notes an exception, Wayne Simmonds. While hockey is traditionally a sport that is dominated by white players there have been a number of black stand out players. Donald Brashear, Anson Carter, Joel Ward, Ray Emery, Chris Stewart, Theo Peckham, Anthony Stewart, and one of the greatest Jarome Iginla to name but a few. The fact that the NHL may cancel their season has an impact on more than just the players. What about the people that work at the arenas? When those games aren’t played they do not work, therefore, they do not earn a paycheck. Joke all you want but it will have more of an impact on more than just the “white” players. What about some of the up and coming players, such as Simmonds? He will be without work. There is an up and coming player by the name of Emerson Etem who scored 61 goals and 46 assists in the WHL last year. He is black and hails from Long Beach, California. If you are going to insult a sport have an educated reason why and not just because the players are predominantly white.
Looking at the rest of his list, his arguments are at best weak and certainly not supported by any specific facts. However, there are some that I don’t necessarily disagree with. He is, in my opinion, spot on when it comes to Joel Olsteen, Huff Posts coverage of Kate Middleton and Prince Harry, and maybe even Justin Beiber.
The premise of Hill's article though begs the reader to look at race as the common factor for those on his overrated list. What makes the shade of someone’s melanoma more susceptible to be on Professor Hill’s list of most overrated? Are whites the only people susceptible to being overrated? Instead of basing the list on race, why not base it on the 15 most overrated Americans. Then the article would be more inclusive and you could add people such as Al Sharpton, Tyler Perry, Jeremy Lin, Jesse Jackson, Toure Neblett, Jennifer Lopez, and yes; Barack Obama. Once again, I was not surprised to see that Professor Hill listed Obama’s economic team but not Obama. When will people wake up and hold President Obama accountable for HIS failures. Stop blaming former President George W. Bush, stop referring to former President Clinton and focus on the fact that President Obama has been an outright failure. Is that racist to say that the president is a failure? No, it is a statement of fact. The result of the first Presidential Debate exposed that truth.
I believe that Professor Hill is a well-educated and smart man. However, education blinded by liberal partisanship can be a barrier to common sense. If Professor Hill is seriously concerned about the issue of race, he should start a real dialogue about the issues we ALL face. The way to start a true dialogue is not by attacking and denigrating people based on race. The demographics of this country have changed and will continue to change. The U.S. is a true “melting pot.” We need to move forward with true bipartisan dialogue that includes everyone and stops the race baiting.
No executive order by the President or law made by Congress can truly change how we feel inside or how we treat one another. Those things can only change how society addresses a perceived discriminatory act. It takes change by all of us in how we address and respect one another as human beings and fellow Americans. We have to see past our differences to reach out and hold on to our commonalities. Therefore, I would challenge Professor Hill to stop the divisive racial rhetoric that can be so detrimental to our society--especially coming from someone that holds such a great power, the shaping of our future teachers.