Some Assistance For Howard Stern

Some Assistance For Howard Stern

Howard Stern

Director Spike Lee and Denzel Washington attend an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, March 12, 2023, in LA. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

I want to help Howard Stern.

On his radio show, Stern lamented the lack of attention he received from NBA players at New York Knicks games. He shared:

When I, you know, I have courtside, they put me courtside and the Black players won’t come over and say hello to me, but they go over to Spike Lee… a lot of times when I’m there, I’m next to Tracy Morgan… And he’s sitting there and like, couple of the players will come over. They like give him that bro shake and stuff. And I’m like — these guys should hug me too. I mean, what am I? I grew up in a Black neighborhood, you know what I mean? I mean they should know that. But I get ignored.”

Stern is vain and concerned with being noticed. He said so himself later in his diatribe. But what Stern has to understand is this … Black people aren’t required to know who every “important” white man is.

Part of the experience of being Black in the United States is the expectation of both being aware of and esteeming figures of mainstream (white) culture.

I can recall moments where it was expected that I was aware of white entertainers, be comfortable with music from primarily white artists at school dances and be fluent in white cultural references. However, I was raised in Black spaces, with Black music, Black entertainment, and Black cultural references.

As a teenager, I knew who Howard Stern was. It was understood that I would because in the United States, white people are positioned as the mainstream of all things pop culture, among other things… and he was positioned as a mainstream figure because he interviewed porn stars and asked to see their private parts, as he sometimes exposed his own.

In the spaces I came up in, Howard Stern wasn’t the nationally syndicated radio show of choice; the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” was.

There’s a simple reason why Black players don’t engage with Howard Stern and do engage with Spike Lee and Tracy Morgan… It’s not simply because they’re Black and Stern is white. It’s because of cultural significance and who folks cater their art for. Stern’s co-host, Robin Quivers, is Black, but make no mistake, Stern doesn’t cater his content to Black audiences and that’s fine. However, simply knowing Black people or coming from a Black neighborhood (as he says) doesn’t mean Black people should know who you are.

Black people know who Spike Lee is because Black people play Spike Lee’s movies, movies made for Black people, in our households. I know this because my children know who Spike Lee is… because we watch “Crooklyn” all the time. Black people know who Tracy Morgan is because Black people play “Martin” in our households—a show for us—and recognize Morgan as Hustle Man.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Black kids even snuck a peak at a Morgan comedy special or two.

Howard Stern and others like him should be aware that in Black governance spaces, we have our heroes and heroines that we honor, and we do so because they don’t receive mainstream attention, let alone honor from mainstream spaces… that is, until white folks discover them.

An example is white folks discovering actor Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard in “Abbott Elementary,” when Black folk already knew her as Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls,” Florence Watson in “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” and Dee Mitchell in “Moesha.”

Howard Stern should be happy that he’s famous enough to get courtside seats at the Knicks game. He hasn’t needed any reverence from Black people to get where he is today. Being a white man has worked for him.

No need to worry about our affection now.


Rann Miller is an educator and freelance writer based in New Jersey. His Urban Education Mixtape blog supports urban educators and parents of children attending urban schools. He is the author of “Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids” (Bloom Books for Young Readers) released on March 7: AmazonBarnes and NobleTarget. Follow him on Twitter @RealRannMiller.