Out Of the ‘Dog’ House
By ALICIA COLON
December 21, 2007
When the chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, Roy Innis, invited me to join him at a luncheon with Dog the Bounty Hunter, I was slightly puzzled. After all, Mr. Innis was one of the first to call for the TV network A&E to take Duane “Dog” Chapman’s show off the air after it was reported that he said the “n” word in a private call to his son. Had he changed his mind?
Since I had never watched the show, I knew Mr. Chapman only from the brouhaha that erupted after the National Enquirer disclosed in late October that his son Tucker had taped him calling Tucker’s girlfriend the “n” word several times. Mr. Chapman’s show was canceled, and he has since made several television appearances apologizing for his words and seeking to restore his relationship with the black community.
Because I have such great respect for Mr. Innis and CORE, I was more eager to hear his opinion on Dog’s fall from grace than I was to meet the man who once starred in A&E’s most popular show. When I arrived at CORE’s Broadway office, the entire staff was posing for photographs with Dog and his wife, Beth Chapman. None of the predominantly African-American staff members appeared reluctant to pose with the alleged racist, and that’s because Mr. Chapman isn’t one.
“Like many that heard the comments made by Duane ‘the Dog’ Chapman without the proper context, I was offended and outraged,” Mr. Innis said. “After meeting with him and his wife, Beth, and hearing his side of the story, we realized that the controversy had unjustly spiraled out of control without context.”
Later on at lunch in the Village, I heard the full details of that infamous call and asked Mr. Chapman why he didn’t say more about the extenuating circumstances when he was on the “Larry King Live” show. He explained that he wanted to take responsibility for uttering those hateful words and that he didn’t want to do anything that would hurt Tucker’s girlfriend.
Like Mr. Innis, I too realize that Mr. Chapman is not a racist. Racists do not belong to churches where the pastor is a black man, nor do they have them as friends. Getting offended by the “n” word actually depends on who is saying it. President Clinton’s brother Roger was caught on police video saying that word repeatedly, yet blacks consider Bill Clinton the first black president. It seems to me that instead of crying foul over the word, we should point out that the person using it is an idiot and leave it at that.
Unlike many so-called rights groups that create discord out of racial incidents, CORE remains an organization that seeks and creates harmony between the races. That’s also probably why CORE’s remarkable accomplishments receive little coverage from the mainstream press.
I asked Mr. Chapman if he had seen “Mississippi Burning,” and he nodded. Then I asked him if he knew that those murdered civil rights workers were from CORE. He was stunned. He had no idea about the history of this great civil rights organization.
I then told him about what CORE has done for the black community here in New York, holding health fairs and offering high-tech cardiac CT scans in conjunction with Cabrini Hospital, to name just two.
I’ve reported the strides CORE has made in helping African farmers use biotechnology to improve agriculture and to fight hunger on that continent, undoing the damage done to millions of Africans who are dying from malaria because of the ban on DDT. Mr. Chapman was fascinated by what he heard, and he seemed determined to share this information.
“Duane has taken ownership of the damage of his words and has taken on the responsibility of being a racial healer for our country,” Mr. Innis said. “I have been with this man several times and had extensive dialogues with him. Niger and I consider him and his wife good friends. Duane is a changed man and has a higher purpose. Popular television is a wasteland of meaningless titillation and degradation. The Dog’s potential to take his celebrity and turn it into something redeeming for our culture and society is immense. It is for these reasons that we want his television show back on the air.”
Incidentally, CORE (www.core-online.org.) will hold its Martin Luther King celebration on January 21 at the Sheraton Hotel. A guest of honor will be Senator McCain; Duane “Dog” Chapman will be another special guest. This one may be a sellout.