THE YELLOW CANARY
The Yellow Canary
According to the Smithsonian Magazine (Eschner), British Coal Miners began the use of Yellow Canaries as a warning measure for the presence of life-threatening conditions within the mines as early as 1911. This practice ended in 1986, when the canaries were replaced with technical measures. In that time many a canary undoubtedly served the miners well. Consider however, the sacrifice of those canaries would have been for naught if the miners had neglected to notice, or willfully ignored the canary’s demise.
This week a meteorologist, Jeremey Kappell of NBC’s WHEC-TV in Rochester, NY was fired for having been perceived by some to have uttered a racial slur in referencing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during a broadcast. His firing was immediately demanded by local politicians, most notably the Mayor of Rochester, Lovely A. Warren, and the City Council President, Loretta C. Scott. Less than three days later Mr. Kappell was terminated.
Upon reading about the incident and subsequently listening to the audio of the event, it is clear that there are two distinct possibilities; either Mr. Kappell intentionally referred to Dr. King as Dr. Martin Luther “Coon” King Jr, or he simply misspoke and quickly tried to correct himself. Supporting the former possibility one has the sound itself, the phonetic sound kun is clearly heard and is believed by some to in fact be the word “coon” an inarguably historic racial slur. As best as I can gather there is no other evidence of this man having a history of uttering such racial slurs, or of any other racist acts. Therefore, one must presume that an accomplished, career broadcaster decided on this occasion to begin such behavior, or that he has effectively concealed such behavior to this point. Concealment in today’s environment however, is rather unlikely. Supporting the latter possibility is again the sound itself, the phonetic kun is heard, but may have in fact been the merging of the words King and Junior in haste, at which point Mr. Kappell seems ever so briefly to pause catching his mistake. Further support is provided by the absence, thus far, of any evidence of previous racially charged language or behavior. Additionally, how many of us have ourselves misspoken in mechanically the same way, merging the beginning of the word you are speaking with the next word that you are about to say? I know I certainly have, though thankfully not in this context.
I highly recommend that everyone listen to the audio for themselves and draw their own conclusion (https://youtu.be/BSimVJ4vYDA). I have formed my own opinion on what most likely occurred, but it is in the scheme of things irrelevant. The simple fact is that under the circumstances as they are, Mr. Kappell should have received, and was entitled to, the benefit of the doubt.
Another yellow canary just dropped dead, the question is, did anyone even notice?
Step back from the brink America, lest the gentlest breeze tumble us all into the abyss!
Eschner, Kat. “The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 30 Dec. 2016, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/story-real-canary-coal-mine-180961570/.