You can’t get away with referring to a respected Black male professional as “just a jive guy” without getting major blowback.
I mean, really.
I don’t know CBS3 news anchor Ukee Washington personally. But every time I meet him, it’s as if I’m talking to an old friend. Washington is warm and folksy in a down-home kind of way. He’s one of Philly’s hometown heroes. That’s what you want in a TV anchor.
The last time I saw Washington in person was about five years ago, when I was promoting a Daily News feature. Instead of feeling nervous about going live on the air, I was relaxed. Washington made me feel like I was sitting on a couch in his living room.
He’s a consummate professional.
So, when I read a Los Angeles Times report about the racist drama that Washington has had to endure over the years at CBS3, I was incensed.
Among the allegations is that Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations, had over the years referred to Washington as jive as in he’s “just a jive guy.” If you’re jive, it means you’re not sincere or trustworthy. Would Dunn have called Washington that if he’d been white? I don’t think so.
I learned about the insulting remarks on Sunday after someone texted me a link to the Times story. It was long but juicy.
Problems at the network apparently started in earnest after complaints by some former employees about an investigation that went nowhere. So, the Times conducted its own research, scouring court records and company emails and produced an article that made Dunn and his lieutenant, David Friend, the senior vice president for news, look pretty bad.
I’d always wondered why certain Black talent at the station didn’t stick around. But what made my jaw hang the most were the ugly things said about Washington. Dunn allegedly complained: “All he does is dance ….”
That snapped me into, I-know-you’re-not-talking-about-Ukee-Washington-mode. There’s nothing wrong with a little on-air bop. Viewers eat that up. It makes on-air talent relatable. If anything, that’s what Washington is.
CBS3 sportscaster Don Bell summed it up best earlier this week when he said, “Our Ukee Washington is the most hardworking, authentic, caring, and skilled journalist I’ve ever been around. Ukee is our quarterback. He’s a crown jewel of Philly. We support him 100%. And the good people who work at this station reject racism and misogyny in all its forms. No matter where or who it may come from.”
Dunn and Friend have been placed on leave pending the results of an investigation.
As for Washington, he took the unusual step of addressing the issue on air.
“I’m good. I’m keeping the faith. I’m staying strong and I want all of you to do the same. I feel your love and we all feel the pain of the subject matter clearly,” he said in his trademark fashion. “Clearly, these last few days have been difficult for everyone including my teammates …”
Washington, who became emotional, added, “You know, my mom told me as a kid that there’s strength in numbers. That’s still true. We all have the power to create change and we can do it together. You know how I like to use the word family, and that in my opinion is what we all are, children of God. So do me a favor if you have young children, give them a hug and tell them that it’s going to be all right. Because deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome.”
Anyone else would have sounded real corny bringing up the words of an old Negro spiritual like that, but not him. That’s just Ukee being Ukee. And you’d better not mess with him. He’s one of us and we stand with him.