Thursday, April 12, 2007


This week I gave the entry over to my colleague GC. Her sentiments on this issue coincide with mine, and her prose is more articulate.

Don Imus made a mistake, or so we all agree. But why is he being crucified for it? What will his (likely) dismissal from the airwaves teach us? How will it serve us? What will it really accomplish? The questions this recent fury has unleashed are thought-provoking, to say the least, but they are also critical as we attempt to make clear sense of what is happening and why.

Here we have a public figure who exists in two worlds: the comedic shock jock and the political pundit. As a shock jock, Don Imus has been saying inappropriate and offensive remarks about almost every ethnic and racial group imaginable for 35 years. As a pundit, he has had political heavyweights such as Bill Clinton, John McCain, and John Kerry come in to discuss current issues. Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the presidency on Imus’s show. It’s when these two worlds crash together, as they did when he spoke a racist and sexist slur against the Rutgers Girls Basketball Team, that everything exploded.

So the fact seems to be that Chris Rock, a comedian, can make references and use language that is similar if not identical to Mr. Imus, but he will not be impugned. If we are to censor Mr. Imus, then we are saying that the use of certain words, which are becoming increasingly mainstreamed as a result of the entertainment industry, will remain the domain of those entertainers who stay within their respective boundaries and are therefore not challenged. Why not? For years the rap industry has been pumping out songs and videos that disparage women, especially black women, and where is the outcry? I am not saying what Mr. Imus said is acceptable. I am only asking why is he being held so accountable while others are not? Is it because he is a respected social critic who has influence over millions of listeners? Most of Imus’s fans are well over 30. How many fans does Ludicris have? Does the fact that his audience is 12 and 13 lessen the significance of the impact his words have in our society? We excuse him because he is a “rap artist,” but who is doing more damage to the values of this nation? Imus’s blunder is indicative of how ghetto language has become increasingly mainstreamed. It isn’t good, but it is a symptom of a much larger problem. Ghetto culture has glamorized a reductionist view of women, and it is high time we revolt against this sexism. However, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that silencing Don Imus will solve our problem. It will just reinforce the notion that while some artists have the right to use whatever terms or language they want to in the name of corporate profits, other individuals who cross that line will be publicly vilified.


IC said...

I hear that, GC! I wrote about the same issue over at my sports blog.

Nice to hear from you.

sptmck said...

The Imus "incident" raises important questions and considerations. I thank you for your post.

Hopefully, the greater good that will come from this experience will be an on-going, healthy dialogue about race in this country. There are two important things to consider here, though: context and ownership. As many have pointed out: It's one thing when an individual of a particular group utters an offensive word about his/her group (of which the person is a part) in the CONTEXT of a rap song, a dialogue, and/or, as you point out, a comedic routine. However, it's quite ANOTHER thing for a person OUTSIDE of the group in question to DIRECT offensive remarks AT the group (of which this person is NOT a part), in this case African-Americans and women. In short, what exchanges happen in one CONTEXT--regardless of whether or not words or actions are "offensive"--does not GREENLIGHT exchanges that happen in another context. Also, I've either witnessed or directly experienced predominantly male--attended events at stags, sporting events, golf courses, gyms and bars over the years where over-the-top, despicable things have been either said about, done to, or recounted about women--and I'm not talking about common, love-is-a-battlefield (couldn't resist the allusion) stories. News flash: in most cases, these were all-white, male crowds. And I'm not so sure they were influenced by rap music or...ghetto culture.

What interests me--and as talk show host Randi Rhodes pointed out--why Imus? Not that what he did was right; it wasn't and we all know he's been doing this for years. Why now? And why not some of the other hate mongers on the airwaves who--believe it or not--are far worse than Don Imus?

Anonymous said...

The Huffingtonpost has listed the "offensive" actions of others; it's worth checking out.

Connecticut Man 1 said...

If you are going to ask where the outcry is for the use of those terms by rappers, etc., I suggest you look no further than a good part of the Blogospheres' Black community that has been talking about this issue long before it came up in the rest of the Blogosphere.

And this is a dialogue they would love, for those of you that are just noticing the issue, to join in on.

Unfortunately, according to them, too many marginalize and ignore it.