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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: When private whispers go public

Antoinette Connell

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: When private whispers go public

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One time I made a telephone call to a friend and got her answering machine. I was about to leave a message when a call came in on my other line so I answered that instead.
I spent the next 30 minutes or so chatting away with a friend from one thing to the next, some positive, some not. As the conversation progressed, there were intimate feelings I revealed about situations and people.
Imagine my horror when later that day the person I was initially dialling telephoned to say that my entire conversation had been recorded on his answering machine. My heart pounded and I got that instant sickening knot in my stomach as my mind went blank. I could not immediately remember all the conversation and wondered whether I had said something bad about him or anyone that he knew. I was mortified.
Another friend told me how she had reluctantly returned a call from a pesky woman who had gotten herself into some sort of trouble of the dishonest kind.
It seems that no one could muster enough sympathy for the woman who was calling around trying to solicit support from those she regarded as her friends.
My friend returned the call and got the answering machine. Relieved, she thought she hung up.
She hadn’t quite placed the handset on the receiver and with the woman’s machine running my friend muttered, or more like ranted out loud, about not knowing why the said woman was calling her. She continued on about how unpleasant the woman was; that she knew she was guilty and that she should be honest and fess up.
My friend got a similar call to mine; however, she more than earned that sinking feeling in her stomach. The woman informed her that she had heard her forbidden thoughts and repeated them. No other sounds passed between the two except the click of the phone hanging up.
Some of our most delicious conversations will start with “don’t repeat this but . . .” That phrase is not reserved for those we trust implicitly – that goes without saying.
We all have a couple of friends with whom we can feel free to talk about anything, our deepest prejudices or our most embarrassing moments.
That brings me to the Donald Sterling racism furore. He has been branded racist and the calls for his head have been steadily flowing in.
We want to crucify the white man for holding thoughts that other Whites have though they have not given voice to them.
Is Sterling any more racist than you or I who, when we believe no other ears were about, have spoken ill of Whites, Indians, Guyanese and even those of our very own skin colour?
Race has always been a taboo subject but that does not stop us advancing our opinions to those closest to us. There may be a bit of racism in all of us but we do not want our private conversations taped and put out there for everyone to hear.
We Blacks believe we own the franchise on feeling offended if a non-Black so much as mentions the ‘N’ word. We believe that slavery gives us a pass to carry a prejudice and we play the race card when it suits us.
I hold no particular liking for Sterling but I find V. Stiviano’s behaviour disgusting.
Famed basketballer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in an op-ed piece for Time magazine, questioned the fairness of the reaction to Sterling’s comments. He was puzzled that comments rather than Sterling’s well documented history of racist acts were drawing more ire and demands for his resignation. I am too.
This is an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times: “He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing,” Abdul-Jabbar writes. “It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?”
Stop for a moment and imagine if your private thoughts were broadcast for all to hear. What opinion would people have of you? It matters not if you have power or position. As a simple average citizen, would you not feel violated?
There are some things that should be off-limits.
 Antoinette Connell is a News Editor at the NATION.