By Khalid Salaam
A lot of people seem to think this is about two things, context and freedom of speech. The consensus is that yes radio personality Don Imus and his show producer were both incredibly wrong for making such offensive statements and that offering a heartfelt apology suffices as a decent punishment. Especially when you consider all the great philanthropic deeds he’s done. He was only joking and in the context of being a shock jock he has offended everyone, so why is it that only certain segments of the society get so upset. Just laugh it off and keep on moving with your everyday life. People also want to remind us that this is America and that while you may disagree with someone’s assessment or opinion about something they have the right to say it. The constitution has their back damn it so stop complaining!
But it’s not complaining when the empirical evidence supports your anger and frustration. When in the year 2007 the same situations occur as if it was still the 1970’s. When people express such a level of ignorance and prejudice that to let it just slide would be an injustice to yourself and your loved ones, not to mention to all decent people. Maybe had Imus just said, “ho’s” then he could have tried to sell us on the joke premise. I certainly have used the word ho before, both in jest and not in jest. I don’t say it much but I get the context thing. I however never use it against people I don’t know (if use a derogatory term towards someone there is a reason…) nor would I ever use it at he office or in my writing. Because I know full well that it near impossible for people who don’t me intimately to understand what parameter I use to contextualize something. So for him to call the players from the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “ho’s” and then say it was a joke means nothing to me. But he made it worse by inserting the term “nappy-headed” into the equation. How can he think that’s an okay thing to say? He then went on to say that when Rutgers played the University of Tennessee last week for the championship it was comparable to a fight between the jigaboos and the wannabee’s. A reference to Spike Lee’s classic movie “School Daze” in which Lee explains the upward mobility politics that exist between Black people from different socioeconomic classes. Look I won’t lie, I don’t know much about Don Imus. I know he has a radio show and is an old white man. Other than that I won’t proclaim to be an expert on who he is. But I doubt that he has the knowledge to really know what he’s talking about and I know he doesn’t have the authority to make such a callous assessment. He’s making a statement regarding a dynamic he couldn’t possibly have the faculties to comprehend. Namely, the beauty dynamic that has existed for centuries in which black women and their natural beauty have had to take a backseat to the self-anointed eurocentric standard of physical acceptance. Not to mention it’s an examination of the color caste system that took root in this country because of white men’s guilt in seeing their progeny living harshly. It was easier for these light complexioned (but still black people under law) to gain access to a better way of life. This goes to the very heart of racism in this country and Imus chooses to make light of it by demeaning a team full of scholar-athletes who just competed for the national championship? Wow.
I watched the Today Show this morning and Matt Lauer got at him pretty harshly. Imus responded by saying it was stupid and it was a mistake and that he feels that his 2-week suspension is justified. He then played himself by saying yeah he called these women ho’s but that they shouldn’t be shocked because they’ve been called worse and demeaned by black men. Damn.
Because now he’s somehow justifying it by again making an assessment on something he knows nothing about. All of a sudden you’re some kind of expert of black male/female relationships? The worst part about this situation is that how he feels is how much of America feels. Not about the Rutgers team but about assessing things about Black culture and then pontificating about it like you are an expert. Acting like you’re John Hope Franklin is incredibly arrogant and offensive and that’s why people are pissed and calling for his job. Something that I agree with and hopefully this won’t happen again. But it probably will.