Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Don Imus Story

Until now, I have made no mention of the Don Imus brouhaha because I could not find the words to satisfactorily express my opinion on the matter. I have now found them, but they do not originate with me. I found them in this column by Mark Steyn. Here is the essence of his opinion, and mine:

So I don't know whether calling the Rutgers basketball ladies "nappy-headed hos" is a mean old white guy's racist slur or an artful parodic jest on the way black women are talked about by black men -- or at least by the ones on the record charts. After all, the only way mean old white folks know the expressions "nappy" or "ho" is because they heard 'em from hip young black folks. Indeed, one could argue it's a tribute to how non-racist America is that an elderly Caucasian would wish to talk like a gangsta rapper. What was it Martin Luther King dreamed of? A nation where men would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characterizations?

Alas, it's not that simple. Apparently, when two hip-hoppers are up on stage doing their "Who was that ho I saw you with last night?"/"That was no ho, that was my bitch" shtick, they're just keepin' it real. When a white guy does it, he's just keepin' it real unlikely he'll find gainful employment again. Unless, of course, the networks are now proposing to apply the Imus standard to all performers, in which case the Grammy Awards will last 10 minutes (Best Liner Notes on a Polka Album and Best Tony Bennett Celebrity Duets CD of the Last Two Months)...

And saddest of all were the Rutgers basketball gals themselves. Almost a century and a half after the abolition of slavery, 40 years after the civil rights era, a group of young black women who've achieved great success went on TV and teared up because of a cheap crack by an over-the-hill shock jock. As a female correspondent to the Powerline Web site commented:

"Here are these tough women on top of the world and they are so fragile that a remark knocks them down. Hey, why wouldn't they have said 'F--- you? Who the heck is this fool Imus? We are queens of national basketball and there is no stopping us now. We can be and do anything we choose to be or do. . . . We don't need Al Sharpton to protect us. . . . ' But no, they look devastated and say they are damaged irreparably.''

Only in America: a team of champions who think they're victims, an old white fool who talks like a gangsta rapper and multi-millionaires grown rich on race-baiting who promote themselves as guardians of civility. Good thing there are no real problems to worry about.


Tom said...

You and Steyn make good points.

But the issue, too, is emblematic of a world of things and bubbling issues.

Possibly, too, the Rutgers women's response was the closest thing to what they collectively thought they felt. The Powerline idea may have been a strategic option, but I doubt, from what I saw, that it approximated anything they considered doing.

It is one of the problems and things of great interest in the Imus story. All the principals have narratives that are likely to be disengenuous. And when we write about it, we have to check ourself out for what we inject into it.

Mary Lois said...

Thanks for this post, Steve. I hadn't read Steyn, but researched a lot of other opinions online while voicing my own on my blog. This was a tumultuous couple of weeks for the news media, and as a commenter noted on one of my posts, if events of the following week had happened concurrently with the Imus flap, it would have gone practically unnoticed and he would still have a job.