Kid Rock and that NAACP Award

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Yesterday evening as planned, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) presented Metro Detroit music star Kid Rock with their "Great Expectations Award." According to the NAACP, they chose Kid Rock (real name Robert Ritchie) for the exemplary work he's done promoting Metro Detroit and bringing dollars to the city. When the NAACP announced that they planned to honor Kid Rock a couple of months ago, it quickly turned into a national story among news outlets as blacks across the country were outraged that a musician like Kid Rock, who openly performs with and celebrates the Confederate flag, would be honored by the NAACP of all organizations. The irony around the situation is unmistakable as the NAACP spent decades fighting the racism often associated with the Confederate flag and the old South.

From the surface, it's easy to assume that the NAACP was merely looking for a sense of cheap publicity. The NAACP doesn't enjoy nearly the same amount of notoriety that it once did nationwide, or even in the city of Detroit. And it's also easy to assume that the head of Detroit's NAACP chapter, Rev. Wendell Anthony, has either gone soft or lost sight of all the bigotry and racism the Confederacy once publicly stood for and the way his organization diligently fought against it. Both could be true, but neither get at the real point here.

If the nation continuously struggles to make any real progress in terms of race relations, actions like what happened yesterday inside Cobo Hall are vital. It's already made the news that Adolph Mongo, an attention hungry Detroit political advocate, was photographed outside of Cobo burning the Confederate flag. That's his business.

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The irony of having a man named Adolph trying to protest wide spread hatred isn't lost on the moment either. But what's really missing from the conversation is the important notion of forgiveness. It's an easy word to say but a challenging act to practice. While the NAACP was likely aiming for increased publicity and the organization has lost much of it's once fierce edge, Rev. Anthony took a bold step in letting the old grudges fall aside and honoring a local resident for what he's currently doing to bring awareness to the city with his wallet, rather then getting caught up in appearances. Anthony was smart enough to make sure behind closed doors that Kid Rock would pledge roughly $50,000 in donations toward local charities. There's more that he and other Metro Detroit mega stars can do in the future and and that’s another story.

But let's not lose track of forgiveness, the one thing that blacks and whites in Metro Detroit especially have a tough time addressing. Over the weekend, I watched a film called Kinyarwanda that dealt directly with the efforts of Tutsi's and Hutu's to forgive one another for the massive genocide in Rwanda that claimed over a million lives in 1994. That nation is diligently working toward forgiveness as a national strategy and achieving success. 150 years after slavery in the U.S. and we still haven't gotten that far. It's beyond time to let the hatred on both sides go.

For the record, Kid Rock is a punk when he waves a Confederate flag at some of his concerts if he thinks that's the only way he can show his love for Southern rock. That doesn't make him a racist. That makes him an occasional idiot. He’s got a long history of working with black musicians in Detroit and nationwide and it’s hard to believe that he’s a bigot. Frankly, I don’t believe it. But he is an opportunist – Just ask Detroit emcee Champtown – and he’s cashing in on Southern pride (which is sometimes tinged with racist pride). Considering how hurtful that flag is to people, his quotes that “it simply looks cool” don’t cut it. He’s got to wise up, drop the  ego, and stop waving a Southern flag as a man born and raised in Romeo, MI. It’s silly.

If Kid wants to be taken serious as a 40-year-old who is trying to do good for a city and this region, he’s gotta stay aware. Does he live in a vacuum? He’s a capable dude. And it’s the real great expectation that Michiganders have of him. He could be a local politician 10 years from now. Who knows? But as long as he’s waving that flag, he’ll be a kid. And the title doesn’t fit anymore.

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