“My family is unapologetically black and supportive of our community, but also unapologetically American and supportive of this country and what we represent.”
The right-out-the-gate authenticity of that comment is pure Tamron Hall. It is why the former MSNBC and “Today” anchor was able to connect with so many people. And it is one of the reasons why, in full disclosure, she is one of my closest friends. “I had and have a very inclusive family,” Hall said on the latest episode of “Cape Up,” recorded at the WNYC public radio studios last week. She credits her mother, grandfathers and great aunts with giving her the “ability to be unapologetic about your community, about your roots, but always embrace others and their journey, and finding this commonality.”
Hall’s “unapologetic” comments came in response to my very first question about why she was able to connect with a cross section of the American viewing public. So, of course, I asked her to elaborate, starting with what it means to be “unapologetically black.”
“Some believe, if you are too pro-your-community, you’re anti-someone else’s. And we will shrink away from those conversations,” Hall explained. “We want to be at the table because of our talent, because of our hard work. We never want to be at the table because we are black. And so sometimes, we shrink away from those things that make us special because of who we are as black people.” She told me a comment from someone else crystallized her thinking on this. “I remember it was someone who one day told me,” Hall said, “‘Listen, Joseph Lieberman is unapologetically Jewish. You can be unapologetically black. That doesn’t mean you’re anti-anyone.’”
Hall acknowledges that being “unapologetically American” is a complicated endeavor, where race colors the understanding of all involved. “No party, no race owns our military. No party, no race owns patriotism. It means everything different, and everything similar to all of us,” said Hall. “When I say that I unapologetically love this country, you can love something or someone, and see all of their flaws, and see all of their beauty at the same time. That’s love. That’s the unconditional love of this country that my father fought for.”
“As black Americans, whether it’s through the Black Panther movement, whether it’s the civil rights movement, we’ve been painted as being un-American,” Hall noted. “The fact of it is, there are American laws that have been used to oppress us, but we still love this country.” Colin Kaepernick is a prime example. “When Colin Kaepernick takes a knee,” Hall asked, “why can’t we say that is not against America, and listen to what he has to say? You may not agree with it, but to drape yourself in the flag and say he’s a bad, evil guy, that’s just to me wrong.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Hall talk about how famed boxer Joe Frazier helped get her first television internship, what a Chicago taxi driver told her after she interviewed at a station there early in her career, what her mother told her when they visited 30 Rockefeller Plaza as tourists years back, what leaving “Today” has done for her and what’s next.
“We’re putting together something that I hope will reflect where I am right now, something that I hope will be appreciated by people,” Hall told me. “I’m not trying to be little Oprah, medium Oprah, side-eye Oprah. I’m not trying to be anything other than the complete total journalist that … I am.”