My Meek Mill views haven't changed (sorry, Malcolm Jenkins); but I'm glad I listened to the other side | Christine Flowers

Christine Flowers (center), chatted with Quincy Harris (right) and K. Foxx (left) about her recent column on Meek Mill, who was released from prison last month. -03052018-0001
Christine Flowers (center), chatted with Quincy Harris (right) and K. Foxx (left) about her recent column on Meek Mill, who was released from prison last month.

When Malcolm Jenkins calls out something you’ve written and then tweets that out to his thousands upon thousands of followers, you know it’s going to be a memorable week. And it was.

My column on Meek Mill and how angry I was that the 76ers honored him during their final game of the first round of the NBA Playoffs had already started to garner a little bit of attention before the Eagles great decided to provide his own critique on social media. But it was that tweet that got the ball rolling, and I started getting notifications that I was being mentioned … and mentioned … and mentioned in the Twitterverse.

And then it got Twitter-worse.

My inbox filled up with emails from people who called me a racist white chick who didn’t understand a (word that ends in “ing”) thing about the crisis facing young black men in America. One fellow told me to just get a cup and a white-tipped cane because I was congenitally blinded by white privilege. I appreciated the clever turn of a phrase, if not the sentiment.

>> READ MORE: Glorifying Meek Mill is not a good look for the Sixers

There were, of course, a lot of people who agreed with me that a convicted felon like Mill who had been thumbing his nose at the criminal justice system for almost a decade shouldn’t have been trotted out and glorified by the Sixers. Many wondered why they couldn’t have honored a police officer, a veteran, or a paramedic. Others told me they’d watched their last basketball game.

Clearly, I’d hit a nerve.

Just as clearly, there was no common ground between those who were appalled at what the Sixers did and those who were appalled that I’m allowed to write a column in Philadelphia.

Except I learned that perhaps there is some shared terrain. It’s about as steady as the land above the San Andreas Fault, and there are pockets of quicksand that can’t be seen until you are almost drowning in them, and it’s definitely not strong enough to support a house. But it’s there, and it’s worth visiting, on tiptoes.

On Monday morning, I was a guest on the Quincy Harris Morning Show on WRNB Radio (100.3 FM). Quincy’s producer reached out to me after reading my column and asked me to discuss it with Quincy and his co-host, K Foxx. I immediately said yes. It didn’t even occur to me to say anything else.

So, I was surprised when the hosts greeted me warmly and said I was courageous to come on-air. There should be nothing courageous in sitting down with civility and an open mind and try to understand how a person could hold beliefs that are diametrically opposed to yours. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s become toxic to express a viewpoint that differs even infinitesimally from your own. Gone are the days of great debate antagonists like Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr., David Frost and Richard Nixon, Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy.

But I was happy to see that in a small radio studio in Old City, some of the spirit of those invigorating verbal jousts was alive and well. Quincy and K did not agree with my suggestion that Meek Mill should never have been released from jail, and that he should be watching the playoffs in an orange jumpsuit.  Quincy gave a delightfully dramatic reading of that sentence, which made me realize that perhaps I had channeled a bit too much Cruella de Flowers and not enough Oliver Wendell Flowers in my original piece.

We talked about the scourge of incarceration, and the role that race plays. They explained, from the perspective of people who see color refracted through a prism that is foreign to me, why the plight of Meek Mill might resonate with someone who doesn’t have the resources to have his story told on a grand scale. They told me personal stories.

I explained to them why my anger at praise for a law-breaking rapper is less about white privilege and more the frustration of a woman who works with victims of crime and persecution every day, the kind who don’t have billionaires rooting for them or sending them helicopters and free tickets.

I also told them that an African American female judge who can’t defend herself in public shouldn’t be the whipping child of a vengeful mob that only knows part of the story.

We spent almost an hour on that volatile terrain, trying to avoid the cracks in the earth and the steam rising up from the crevices.

There were no epiphanies, but I’m grateful to Quincy and K Foxx, who lent their ears, their viewpoints, and their time.

That takes more courage than lobbing insults from the safe seats.