Blacks Are Not a Monolith, But I'll Bet Al Sharpton Misspelling 'Respect' on Live Television Made Every Last One of Us Cringe

Illustration for article titled Blacks Are Not a Monolith, But Ill Bet Al Sharpton Misspelling Respect on Live Television Made Every Last One of Us Cringe
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images for Essence)

On the list of unsolved mysteries I have stored in my brain, one near the top is why Warren G didn’t go back and punch in a bar with the correct spelling of the word “next” in his song “What’s Next.” For whatever reason, the version that went to mastering and to the three million people who purchased it includes Warren G rapping the line: “What’s next? What’s next? What’s N-X-E-T? It’s me Warren to the motherfuckin’ G!”

There is no excuse for this unless he recorded that line on the way to turn in the project and the label threatened to pull the album unless he handed in whatever he had. As annoying as that line is some 24 years later, the point here is that misspellings happen on many seemingly simple words. Early stage spelling bees are centered on this very premise. Hell, in third grade, I lost in the second round by misspelling “carrot.” I have not misspelled that motherfucker since.


The good thing for most of us is that we don’t get the opportunity to show our spelling missteps publicly. That is not, however, the case for Rev. Al Sharpton who misspelled the ONE word that I’d bet the vast majority of us can spell. Peep game:

If you watch football, you always hear commentators talk about a pass the quarterback wishes he could have back. This? This is the one Al HAS to wish he had back.


I can’t lie, I cringed a little bit. OK, I cringed a lot a bit. For the culture. We may not be a monolith but your black ass better not be out here misspelling “respect.” Even Tyrese wouldn’t do that.

In case the video isn’t working for you, Al Sharpton misspelled the word “respect” live on his MSNBC show, Politics Nation, spelling it R-E-S-P-I-C-T.

There are a few important points of note here.

1. He misspelled it right after talking about his friend, Aretha Franklin, whose most famous song is her version of “Respect,” where the word is spelled out. Accurately. Misspelling the word while referencing the singer who sang the song that spells it out is delicious irony.


2. Like I said, I’ve been hearing the spelling of “respect” for probably about 37 years now. We’ve all heard this song. It’s in commercials. You can get with this or you can get with that, but you better fucking spell “respect” right in the name of your blackness. Aretha and Al were friends. They probably got their hair done together. There is no excuse here.

3. HE HAD ONE JOB. You know and I know that he was WAITING to land that punchline in the name of Aretha. Shit, the whole segment probably started with him trying to think of a way to use that shit. Again, HE HAD ONE JOB. And he muffed it.


4. I don’t care if all black folks don’t move to the beat of the same drum, even black Trump supporters are black and grew up with that song. Ben Carson can probably spell “respect” because of Aretha. The song is omnipresent. And there’s something extra cringe-worthy about public displays of wrongness, no matter your black station in life, but especially when you clearly know better. You either get to be loud or wrong, but you can’t be both.

5. Had he misspelled it as “R-E-S-P-E-K,” I’d find absolutely nothing wrong with this because that would be intentional and a nod to hip-hop, which would make me tip my hat to the good reverend.


Long story short though, Al is gonna get a pass on this because I’m sure he’s beating himself up enough trying to talk himself and anybody around him that what sounded like a blatant “I” was really “E” with an accent. Plus you KNOW he’s catching all types of hell in his texts and DMs from anybody and everybody with access to him. I’m sure his phone is full of “bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh” right about now. He’ll have to laugh this one off though because we got the tape, Al.

You had one job.

But still, respect.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

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Hell, in third grade, I lost in the second round by misspelling “carrot.” I have not misspelled that motherfucker since.

It was squirrel for me.