Our society needs to return to civil discourse

Photo courtesy of Sierra Lyons

Most of the nation is now aware of the exclusive interview that CBS Journalist, Gayle King, had with WBNA legend Lisa Leslie. In a now-viral clip, the two discuss the life and legacy of the late Kobe Bryant who was close friends with Leslie.

King asks Leslie about 2003 rape charges that Bryant was convicted and eventually acquitted of. Leslie shared her perspective on the charges and said she never once saw a side of him that would make her believe he would be capable of such evil.

CBS posted the clip of the interview to their social media and instantly viewers grew upset with King. Some viewers’ disapproval came from the fact that she asked the question in the first place.

Others believed that it was poor timing for King to bring up the allegations, due to his passing being only two weeks prior to the interview. There were others who found it hypocritical to bring up Bryant’s past, as King has been photographed and connected with alleged rapist Harvey Weinstein.

But public outrage and criticism soon turned into verbal assault and death threats from many angry fans of Bryant. Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, singer Ari Lennox, and Lebron James publicly chastised King for “putting Leslie on the spot” and asking such a disrespectful question.

The entire situation points to a larger issue that our society has, which is our inability to discourse civilly.

Whether you agreed with King’s questioning of Bryant’s past isn’t the problem. The problem is how comfortable our society is with using platforms, we are privileged to have, to spew hate and criticism toward someone we don’t agree with.

In a now-deleted Instagram post, Snoop Dogg uses vulgar language to call King out and ends the video with what many believe to be a threat to the journalist.

“Respect the family and back off, b****, before we come get you!”

Snoop Dogg’s posts are just one example of the thousands of social media posts that have been made to express the disapproval of the interview.

As someone who didn’t agree exactly with the way in which King went about conducting the interview, I can say that I don’t support the violence and hate that she has been receiving and we must do better.

Any legitimate argument against the interview lost all of its validity when people resorted to attacking King’s personal appearance, her value as a human being and specifically her identity as a Black woman.

When we respond out of harsh anger, it takes the focus off of the matter at hand and places it on our emotions. More so than proving that journalists don’t know what boundaries to not cross, the interview proved that society as a whole doesn’t know how to communicate effectively.

Many people thought by attacking King that they would be honoring Bryant’s life and legacy. But in what way did threatening and verbally assaulting King point back to the work and impact of Bryant? If anything this selfishly took the focus off of Bryant and placed it on themselves.

Wisdom and effective communication are strong enough on their own two legs. Wisdom doesn’t need to stand on animosity, and effective communication doesn’t need to stand on hostility to be impactful.

I could suppose that the hate directed toward King is due to her being a Black woman but that I don’t know for sure. What I do know, is that if this situation taught us nothing, we have a much longer way to go as a society than I thought.