Over the last week or so, social media has been ablaze over Wendy Bell’s comments on Facebook. WTAE-TV fired Ms. Bell because the television station concluded she described African Americans in stereotypical ways on Facebook. Some deemed those comments racist. Others agreed with her description of African Americans.
Should WTAE have fired Wendy Bell? The answer is no and yes.
As the conversation continues to rage, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with a blog entitled “Firing Someone Doesn’t Change Much” by Rev. Erik Hoeke’s, pastor of Avery United Methodist Church in Washington, PA. He concluded that Ms. Bell should not have been fired because WTAE-TV’s actions eliminated an opportunity to educate Ms. Bell and others about racism. Again, I agree.
I also believe in grace, a doctrine of the United Methodist Church. Grace is love and forgiveness. Christ forgives us of our sins and in turn we are called to love and forgive those around us. Didn’t Ms. Bell deserve grace, an opportunity to learn from her mistake, having made racist comments some of which stereotyped African Americans as promiscuous?
Conversely, there may have been grounds for Wendy Bell to be fired. Matthew 18:15-19 tells us to confront a church member who has done wrong. When confronted many times and unwilling to change, scripture tells us that a person must leave for the greater good.
Let’s creatively and loosely apply the scripture, a biblical template, to Wendy Bell and WTAE-TV. I’m guessing the television station applied some fundamental human resources protocol in firing Ms. Bell. They may have asked: Was Ms. Bell in a sustained pattern of bias while employed by WTAE-TV? Did she refuse to change her behavior and words when confronted? Was Ms. Bell offered diversity training, which she rejected? We may never know the answers to these questions. Yet if she was fired based on due process typical of human resources protocol, and did not change then she deserved to be let go.
Rev. Hoeke tells us we must continue conversations through anti-racism, inclusion, and implicit bias education:
Wendy Bell, like me, benefits from white privilege. Wendy Bell, like me, isn’t always conscious of the implicit biases and racist attitudes she has. Wendy Bell, like me, continually needs anti-racism or sensitivity training. My hope is that Bell takes advantage of this situation to grow and mature as an individual. (http://erikhoeke.blogspot.com/2016/03/firing-someone-doesnt-change-much.html)
If there is a willingness to be transformed, there is hope. As part of our own transformation, consider attending meetings or workshops in your area focusing on anti-racism, implicit bias, and inclusion. Here in Western Pennsylvania the Anti-Racism Team of the United Methodist Church is offering an Implicit Bias Workshop on May, 11, 2016. Join us.