Journalist Jemele Hill owns the mantel of being a rebel and a rulebreaker. That descriptor, however, does not mean she’s impulsive.
Or so she explained to journalist Tamron Hall during the “Aftermath of Activism” talk on the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival.
“People tend to think that people who are rebellious are impulsive and I always think things through,” Hill told Hall during their chat. “I know that people see me as somebody who goes off the cuff… and I do that to some degree but I’m measured, I’m balanced and it’s important for me to be thoughtful as well. So I try to say what I mean and mean what I say, as they say.”
That, includes, of course, a series of tweets she wrote in Sept. 2017, calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist.
Those tweets led to a whirlwind of controversy where ESPN, Hill’s former employer, condemned her statements, saying that they “do not represent” the company.
Although ESPN did not publicly discipline Hill at the time, weeks after the Trump tweets she was suspended for a “second violation” of social media guidelines after suggesting that NFL fans should boycott some of the NFL’s advertisers.
A year later, in Sept. 2018, she would leave ESPN.
It was not a part of her plan, or something that she believed would play out the way it would, Hill told Hall. But as the situation began to snowball from her tweets she recognized, “It just made me more aware of the fact that there were much different and bigger ways that I could be using my abilities and my voice.”
Hill is currently a writer at The Atlantic, where she covers sports, race, politics and culture, a place where she believes her perspective is “matched” with the platform she is on, something that defines her beyond the Donald Trump tweet incident.
“Everything that I’m doing is because I’m passionate about it, I believe in it and it’s something that I feel like represents who I really am,” she explained to Hall. “And so to me that’s the way I can define myself and make sure that I’m defined much larger and in a different way than just a couple of tweets a couple of years ago. “