I was sitting at my computer reading a black celebrity gossip blog when I came across the story about Don Imus. Not knowing who the man was, I decided to read the blog entry. Apparently, Don Imus is a well-known radio shock jock who has been around since the ’70s.
On April 3, Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team – of which eight of the 10 members are black – as “nappy-headed hos.” He later apologized for his actions but tried to explain that he said it for comedic purposes.
There’s nothing funny about calling women who are doing something productive with their lives derogatory names. The reason to be upset is not because the women are black, however: No matter what ethnicity the girls are, calling a woman a “ho” is unacceptable, period. There’s also the fact that this man makes abhorrent, highly offensive comments all the time, and yet he continues to work because he brings in big bucks.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, MSNBC issued an apology in 2004 after an Imus comedy bit in which a fake military adviser called a dead Iraqi insurgent a “booby-trapped, rag-head cadaver.” In the same show, Imus’ sidekick Sid Rosenberg called Palestinians “stinking animals.” This angered the Council on American-Islamic Relations, unsurprisingly.
In January 2006, Imus and an on-air guest made homophobic jokes inspired by the movie Brokeback Mountain, which prompted the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to demand an apology. The Associated Press reported that Imus once referred to black sports columnist Bill Rhoden as a “New York Times quota hire” and even referred to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado – an American Indian – as “the guy from F Troop.”
After years of spewing racist, homophobic and sexist rhetoric on the air, it’s surprising it took this incident to make people aware of just how horrible Imus really is. However, for his actions, Imus received a pathetic two-week suspension. He promised he would clean up his show, but who knows for how long. After roughly 30 years of crudeness, it will be hard for Imus to change his tune.
Defenders of Imus’ racist comment say that he’s an “equal-opportunity offender,” but in no way does that make what he did right. Attacking a woman he does not know, who performs well on and off the basketball court, is unexcusable.
Instead of the Rutgers women’s basketball team feeling good about finishing second in last week’s NCAA championship – despite suffering through some early season losses – their accomplishments have been overshadowed by the disrespectful commentary of an insensitive, mean-spirited radio host.
According to the Associated Press, Imus tried to use the black community as a scapegoat by saying “that phrase originated in the black community … I may be a white man, but I know that these young women and young black women all through that society are demeaned and degraded by their own black men and that they are called that name.”
Indeed, black women are degraded and demeaned in black culture, but two wrongs do not make a right. Certainly there are changes that need to take place in the black community. Some of these changes can happen if the black community tries to embrace new representatives. For instance, Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton should not handle every racial issue that arises.
Fresh, young voices need to be heard because, unfortunately, Jackson and Sharpton still have a civil-rights mindset and times have changed. A new direction needs to be taken.Frankly, Imus should be fired – and not because of his recent remark. Over the years, Imus has routinely crossed the line between comedy and vulgarity. Race, religion, homosexuality, politics and gender are staples of most comedians’ acts, so it’s not Imus’ discussion of the topics themselves. They are hot button topics, and it’s common that people – especially entertainers – will push those buttons.
But a college basketball team is not a politician or a public figure. What Imus did is out-of-bounds. The women on the Rutgers team did nothing to deserve the kind of comment Imus made. During his two-week suspension, it is to be hoped that Imus realizes how wrong he really was and sticks to his word by cleaning up his act.
Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in Mass Communications.