You Have to Stand for Something, or You'll Fall for Anythingby Star Jones, Daniel Paisner (With), Daniel Paisner
Strongly held beliefs, a wicked sense of humor, and take-no-prisoners opinions -- as a co-host of ABC-TV's hit show The View, her many fans have come to expect all this and more from Star Jones. In this remarkable book, the former New York City prosecutor shows why she has become one of the most quoted and respected media personalities of our time. Here she touches fearlessly on subjects both conventional and controversial, such as the importance of family and friendship, the law, racism, abortion, television, politics, and her relationship with God. And she does it all with a unique and refreshing viewpoint that will make you think twice about everything you thought you knew. Here, too, is her powerful and intensely personal story, told with warmth, humor, and sometimes painful candor. This is an empowering memoir by a remarkable woman who not only walks the walk and talks the talk but challenges you to do the same.
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 6.29(w) x 9.31(h) x 0.92(d)
Read an Excerpt
The status quo sits on society like fat on cold chicken soup, and it's quite content to be what it is. Unless someone comes along to stir things up there just won't be change.
Sometimes it takes a story about death to teach you about life. . . .
Back when I was working as a legal correspondent for NBC News, I discovered what appeared to be an appalling injustice in Esto, Florida, so I went down with a production crew to check it out.
Esto is a sleepy little town on the panhandle, just south of Dothan, Alabama, another small town. I remember thinking how cool it was to stand with one foot in Florida and another in Alabama at this one place in town, and that, in more ways than one, the region really was a kind of crossroads. I was there to look into the events surrounding the death of a local centenarian named Ada Dupree, whose passing split the town along racial lines in a way that seemed to beg for a spotlight.
Miss Ada--you'll forgive me, but I'm from the South, so every adult southern woman gets a "Miss" in front of her name--was one hundred and four years old at the time of her death, and one of the most beloved people in Esto. Along with her husband, she was one of the founders of the town, and over the years her good deeds and indomitable spirit came to characterize the community. People came from all over to visit with Miss Ada. She was even mentioned on The Today Show by Willard Scott, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, and she had a collection of good friends that would have filled the spaces between Esto and Dothan.
One of those good friends was Sybil Williams, the wifeof the former local mayor. When Miss Sybil was a child, Miss Ada helped raise her, and in adulthood the two women were like sisters. Miss Sybil was in her late seventies at the time I went to meet her, which made her about twenty-five years younger than Miss Ada at the time of her passing, but I suppose at that age the difference in years didn't much matter. What did matter to these women was the bond of love and respect they'd built together, and the shared history of more than half a century.
Well, Miss Sybil was so touched by Miss Ada's passing that she made plans to have her buried in the Williams family plot at the Williams's church. It was where Miss Ada wanted to be buried--with the people she loved, for eternity--and it was where Miss Ada's own family wanted her to be, as well. They knew the special connection Miss Ada felt for Miss Sybil and her family. The problem with this plan, it turned out, was that Miss Sybil was white, and Miss Ada was black. Some of the white folks in the church--the same white folks who loved Miss Ada when she was alive, who turned out to celebrate her 100th birthday, who counted themselves among her closest friends--did not want a black woman buried in their cemetery. Not even Miss Ada. It just wasn't the way things were done in Esto. The message, if you were black, was that it was okay to be the most loved person in the town; it was okay to be a doctor or a lawyer or even the mayor; but it wasn't okay to trespass on the final resting places of your white friends and neighbors. In the final analysis, you weren't worthy of the same treatment, the same respect. Well, when I got wind of what was happening I just had to go down and take the pulse of this community for myself. I mean, these were the 1990s. We stood at the gates to a new century. The reports we were hearing in New York were deeply upsetting in the way they suggested a dangerous kind of racism, more troubling than the racism born of ignorance or disassociation. Here you had a black woman who was not only accepted by her neighbors but embraced, and yet even these people couldn't get past the color of her skin.
Before I left for Esto, I called my grandma Pauline down in Badin, North Carolina, just to check on her and my granddaddy Clyde. I told Grandma about the story I was working on, and we talked about it. She was surprised at my surprise, because black folks and white folks weren't buried together in Badin either. I was shocked, and started to rant and rave about how we didn't have to take that kind of garbage anymore, but Grandma hushed me and told me to calm my little self down and think about it. Most people want to be buried with their "people," she explained. Not their particular race of people, but the people in their family. Now, that I could understand. But what about someone who wanted to be buried somewhere else? Surely we had come that far, but Grandma couldn't say because the subject had never come up in Badin, although if it did she guessed the folks there would react pretty much the way the folks down in Esto reacted to the news of Miss Ada.
Talk about your reality checks. Still, I needed some kind of rationale, so my first stop in Esto was a visit with Miss Sybil. She impressed me straight off as one phenomenal woman. She had me out in her yard, sipping lemonade, and I turned to her and asked, "Why are you taking this on?" Hers was not a popular position. The issue had had a real polarizing effect on the community. Some of the people had threatened Miss Sybil, as well as Miss Ada's family. "If you try to bring that nigger to our cemetery," they were told, "we're gonna have guns." Keep in mind, this was 1995, in the United States of America, and these good people with their hearts in the right places were being threatened by these others with their heads up their butts. It was enough to make you wonder who'd turned back the clocks.
By the time I'd breezed into town, the Dupree family had gone ahead and buried Miss Ada in the "colored" cemetery. This wasn't their fight, but it was Miss Sybil's, and she was holding on to her cause. She took a purposeful sip of lemonade and gave me the answer of a lifetime: "Baby girl," she said, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I would rather go to my grave knowing that I did what I was supposed to do, knowing I was on the side of right, knowing I stood up for a friend, than be complacent and simply go along with these people. If they don't like it, that's their problem."
I thought, Whoa! I don't think I had ever heard someone summarize exactly what I felt about life like this gracious woman did right then and there. Her answer shakes me up even now. I sat in awe, because in front of me I saw the woman I wanted to be. I wanted to be like Miss Sybil. I wanted to have the strength of character to stick to my principles, no matter what the argument was, no matter the stakes. It could be about race, religion, education, family, whatever. If you're on the side of right it doesn't matter who's coming at you. It doesn't matter if they're throwing stones. If you can go to sleep every night after having looked in the mirror--after having brushed your teeth and washed your face--and still find something to feel good about, to feel proud of, then you'll be fine when God finally asks the question, "Have you been My servant?" If you've been on the side of right, you've been His servant.
Miss Sybil had it exactly right. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. If you don't know what your own position is, if you don't know where you draw the line between right and wrong, you'll never see yourself as you truly are. You'll never see the world as it truly is. You'll never make a difference. You'll never have the confidence or the drive to do what you have to do, to do what you know is right. You'll never feel good about yourself and your place in the world. So that's become my credo. Stand for something. And do you know what? I don't fall for much. I know what I believe, and I know what I will do to support those beliefs, and everything else will just have to take care of itself. If it didn't matter to Miss Sybil what her friends and neighbors thought of her for taking such an unpopular position, then it doesn't matter to me what people think about some of the unpopular things that can't help but find their way out of my mouth. If I know it to be right and true, then that's all that matters.
In Esto, Miss Sybil's stand didn't amount to much beyond shining a light on the true nature of the folks who lived in that part of the panhandle. Miss Ada's body remained in the black cemetery, and Miss Sybil's fight couldn't change anything, but I realized it didn't matter. She didn't have to win the fight in order to be heard. She just had to stand.
Meet the Author
Star Jones rose to senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, where she was renowned for her successful prosecution of high-profile homicide trials and community-sensitive cases. She debuted on television in 1991 as a commentator for Court TV, and later became the legal correspondent for Today. In 1997, she was selected by Barbara Walters to be one of the daily co-hosts for the unique new Emmy Award-winning television show, The View, which has become a favorite of millions of women viewers.
Daniel Paisner has written bestselling books with Geraldo Rivera and Montel Williams.
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I really enjoyed hearing about the life and personal struggles of this, then, not-so-well-known 'star.' She has triumphed over a lot. I suggest this for anyone that wants to be inspired.
The book was awsome!! Star Jones is an inspiration to all women. It makes me feel even better because she's from Badin Lake, North Carolina. She to me, along with Montel Williams, are two people who have influenced my life greatly.