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1070 the Fan’s Big Joe Staysniak learned a few things yesterday, and that’s a good thing

1070 the Fan host Big Joe Staysniak learned some things yesterday, and that is a good thing.

A couple of days ago, I wrote that I would no longer allow friendship or familiarity keep me quiet about being honest, even if it means calling out friends’ racism or ignorance.  And it won’t.

On 1070 the Fan yesterday morning, Joe Staysniak made a series of statements that some might believe reflected racism.  Those comments have been clipped and posted on IndyStar.com, and they paint a picture of Joe that is less than flattering.

I’ve known Joe for 25 years.  I worked with him for 15 years, managed him, drank beer with him, laughed with him, and enjoyed his company.  He is a friend of mine.  His wife Pam is a wonderful person whom I also consider a friend.

I do not consider Joe to be a racist.

Joe is an extreme pragmatist who is not very empathetic toward others.  He believes we are the authors of our own problems, and solutions are available if we are willing to pay the price.  That goes for whites, blacks, latinos, muslims, taoists, men, women, children, Irish, Germans, Brazilians, Polish, and every other subset of humanity.

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That’s Joe’s ideology, not racism, and he is steadfast in his belief that answers to life’s problems are the responsibility of those who suffer because of them.  Yesterday, he called for blacks who are calling for change to “stop being a victim.”  He explained blacks being pulled over by police by saying, “…you have to look at why.  Is that racism or is that the time of day? Is that the car they’re driving? Are lights out? Are turn signals working?”

Reflexively, it’s easy to view those comments as racist, and if I didn’t know Joe well, I may believe that myself.  But because I know him, I ascribe it to his myopic viewpoint about self-determination and his ingrained trust for the police.

Joe’s father and brother were police officers, and he is stridently pro-police.  He believes the acts of a few police officers are damning the entire profession by association; that the vast majority of police officers are exercising no agenda other than to serve, protect, and return home to their families safe.

Today, Joe was mildly contrite in explaining his comments, “What I do here everyday comes from the heart. What I do here everyday is meant to help not hurt.  What I do here everyday is maybe bring you a little different perspective.

“And this is maybe the most important part. I don’t think of myself as being a divider or anything like that. I obviously don’t think of myself as ignorant although I throw the word around a lot. And some listeners yesterday threw it right back at me as far as how ignorant I am to certain things and that’s fair.”

I can say these things about Joe with total confidence: Joe speaks from the heart – always.  He is unfailingly honest in voicing his beliefs, as he was yesterday.  Joe is an affable guy who would rather laugh with people than argue with them.  It is also true that no one believes himself to be a divider.  Even the most malevolent of us don’t wake up thinking, “How can I cause more division in our society today?”  Joe is anything but malevolent, and I’m sure he believes listeners hearing a honest disagreement can help them understand.

One area where  Joe and many of us need to improve ourselves is in our ability to truly listen with an open heart – to look in the mirror and acknowledge that perhaps someone else is right too.

Sometimes, talk radio hosts inform and sometimes they entertain.  On rare occasions, they learn.  I’m hoping that yesterday Joe learned, and the end of his comment from today’s show gives reason to believe that is the case, “…listeners yesterday threw it right back at me as far as how ignorant I am to certain things and that’s fair.”

In order for people to grow, they need to be given a bit of a break when they make the mistakes that lead to acquiring wisdom.  Joe got wiser through yesterday’s show and its fallout.

That’s a good thing as our society struggles to adapt and empathize to what we hope becomes a post-racist America.

Don’t blame Joe for speaking his mind.  Credit him for growing because of it.

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