Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Unfair to Don Imus

It's really hard to say anything anymore. Don Imus has been suspended for two weeks by CBS and MSNBC for referring to the black women who play on the Rutgers basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." Isn't this is terribly unfair? How was Imus to know that referring to black women as "nappy-headed hos" is now considered offensive? What other demeaning racist and misogynist stereotypes are now off limits and how do you find out what they are?

According to respected Newsweek journalist Howard Fineman, calling black women "nappy-headed hos" was perfectly acceptable until sometime last week. "You know, it's a different time," Fineman told Imus on his radio show. "And some of the stuff that you used to do, you probably can't do anymore. I mean, just looking specifically at the African-American situation. I mean, hello, Barack Obama's got twice the number of contributors as anybody else in the race." Apparently, because of Obama's recent fundraising success it is no longer acceptable to make certain racist jokes. I'm not sure how Fineman knows this. It's possible that there is an email list that alerts subscribers to what epithets are no longer acceptable in polite society and Imus is either not on the list or hasn't checked his email.

Imus probably thought that there was no problem with devaluing the accomplishments of black women with cute epithets. When he referred to New York Times journalist Gwen Ifill, who is an African-American woman, as "the cleaning lady," none of his friends in the media objected, so it must have been OK at the time. Tim Russert, who has had Ifill on Meet the Press and Ifill's fellow Times journalist Maureen Dowd have both appeared on Imus' show many times since he said that and as far as we know never mentioned to him that this was offensive, never thought they needed to defend their colleague. I'm sure if Dowd and Russert had thought there was something wrong with the remark, they would have refused to appear on Imus until he apologized. If it has only become offensive recently, at least since Barack Obama's fundraising numbers were released, then it's a little unfair to attack Imus for saying that now and not see his remarks in their historical context.

Although many are now attacking Imus, some of his friends are remaining loyal and sticking up for him. Imus' friend Boston Globe journalist Tom Oliphant appeared on Imus after he made these remarks to express "solidarity" with the shock jock. He pointed out how easy it is for someone to be talking about black people and slip into racial stereotypes. "Now, believe me, as you well know, I don't know beans about hip-hop culture or trash-talking, or what do you call those things where you run on forever? Riffs, or whatever," said Oliphant. "But even I could see the beginning of what appeared to me to be a riff. And the train went off the tracks, which, you know, can happen to anybody." I'm sure this kind of thing happens to Oliphant all the time. He'll be talking about black people, "riffing," and suddenly he'll go just a little too far and say something too racist. Luckily for Oliphant, when his train goes off the track and he accidentally makes racist remarks, he's not on the radio so it's not such a big deal.

What is happening to Imus is a little like what happened to Ann Coulter a few weeks ago. How could she possibly have know that it was now wrong to call someone a "faggot"? When did this word become an "f-word"? Is it tied somehow to the ratings for Will & Grace or the Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain, which Imus and his good friend Chris Matthews made fun of last year, referring to it as Fudgepack Mountain? Although I believe that making fun of gay people for being gay is still no problem in general, apparently Coulter, Isaiah Washington and Tim Hardaway didn't get the memo and had no idea that the word "faggot" had suddenly become unacceptable. Someone should have told them about this so that they would have been more careful.

I know what Imus and Coulter and their friends in the media must be feeling. If you can't refer to black people as "nappy-headed," to women as "hos" and "bitches" or homosexuals as "faggots" anymore, how do you refer to them? Could someone please let us know?

I think in order to avoid mistakes like this in the future, it might be helpful if blacks, women, gays (whoops! I almost wrote "faggots" by mistake!) and other oppressed groups compiled a list of offensive terms that are no longer funny. They might also want to set up a website that could be updated with new terms as they are added to the list, which pundits, comedians and shock jocks could check to make sure they aren't saying anything that will get them fired or cause them to lose lucrative commercial endorsements. I know I would be able to breathe a lot easier if I knew what demeaning stereotypes and insults I could and could not use.

I hope that Don Imus gets his job back after his two-week vacation. I know it will be difficult for him to talk about blacks, women and gays without making fun of the fact that they are black, female or gay so I hope people will cut him a little slack for the time being until he gets used to it. In the future when he talks about a women's basketball team whose players are predominantly black, he'll have to think of other things to talk about besides the fact that they are black women, but I'm sure he'll think of something. Perhaps he could also learn to limit his use of offensive stereotypes to white heterosexual men. Is there a list somewhere of terms that make fun of somebody just because they are white, heterosexual or male that he can use? Off the top of my head, I can't think of any but I'm sure there must be some.

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28 comments:

DiscordianStooge said...

I've heard others say that minorities should make sure that everyone knows what is offensive or not. This isn't original at all.

Honkey cracker.

gcw said...

Be that as it may, Stooge, as a 57-year-old white heterosexual male, sometimes I think I'm offensive to everyone.

gcw said...

Heh. How 'bout if I say something rude about your cat? I mean, it is black...

Doodle Bean said...

...Nappy-headed feline, perhaps?

willis said...

So, if deparaging remarks about black people are off limits now due to Obama's fundraising success, who's raking in the money to make Coulter's remark a bad thing? Is Foley raising funds or maybe Gannon?

MistahCharley said...

Say it loud, I'm a straight white middle-aged man, and I'm proud.

DiscordianStooge said...

The cat Hillock's hair is quite straight, I assure you.

You can call him fat. It's rude, but it's also true.

Baldie McEagle said...

In fairness to Don, he was riffing on how tough, how "ghetto," essentially, the team members were. Apparently, many of them has tattoos, which everyone knows are usually acquired in prison, as part of gang rites, or both.

This is worth commenting on, because the team is after all a college basketball team. You don't expect to see felons on a college basketball team, do you? Of course not. And when you do, you have to wonder whether they are actual college students, or are there simply because they are tough, intimidating, and game-winning ex-cons who win scholarships (favoring, naturally, aggressive young black women) and thus get a free ride on someone's tax dollars. So this was in fact a keen observation by Imus.

Now you can say that tattoos, by themselves, don't prove that the wearer is a murderer, drug user, or prostitute, although you must admit that this is more likely if the tattoo-wearer is black and from the ghetto, where everyone has to be tough because they are lifelong criminals. As a result, ugly, tough-looking tattoos are worn in visible places like the arms and legs.

When white girls wear tattoos, they are more likely to appear as little eagle wings or roses delicately nestled between the cheeks of their asses, only shyly peeping out most of the time but emerging in all their glory when the wearer is, say, squatting in the A&P checking out the egg noodles on the shelf next to the floor. You can also view these delights in a university library with low shelves, or in the park, or at gas stations, or anywhere where young women might be glimpsed leaning over just a little bit.

Anyway, I hope my point is clear. We count on our colleges to provide us with smart, capable, strong, and educated women who will bear our children into the future. Colleges shouldn't be paying crackheads and prostitutes to play sports for them. It robs the real players of valuable experience. It robs us all. And I think Imus was really on to something when he correctly called those players young female African American habitual ghetto criminals. But America doesn't want to hear the truth.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog about a half hour ago, and it's quite awesome. Keep it up.

Hammer said...

Excellent read. Imus got a bum rap and I'm not sure who voted Al Sharpton in as spokesman for all blacks.

Anonymous said...

ROTFL at Hammer.

It's a parody, you fool.

Cody said...

May he rest in peace.

Daniel DiRito said...

Frankly, we are fast becoming the epitome of a Jerry Springer society. It seems to have become more important to have an audience and notoriety when confronting conflict than it is to attain resolve and mutual respect. That model seems to serve the needs of the exploited and those who seek to exploit; reinforcing all that relegates objectivity to the outhouse while making the frailty and imperfection of the human condition a spectacle that harkens back to the Coliseum.

This situation isn't and shouldn't be about whether liberals or conservatives, this race or that race, hip hop or honky-tonk, one group or another, are more offensive and therefore more responsible for all that is wrong with America. I am not capable of judging the whole of Don Imus nor am I capable of crafting a recipe to fix all of America...and neither are the countless pundits and partisans who have sought to frame it so.

I'm not a religious person...but I often find kinship with the imagery surrounding the portrayal of one called Jesus and his teachings of understanding and forgiveness. For all the banter I hear about the Bible and Christian values, it certainly seems to me that we are fast abandoning what many view as the sacred "tablets" in favor of the sacrosanct tabloids. If I'm right, all I can say is heaven help us.

Read more about the dynamics that lead a situation to become larger than the sum of its parts...here:

www.thoughttheater.com

Mr Besilly said...

We can all glean a simple but invaluable truth from the Don Imus incident that took place on "Imus In The Morning" on April 5th.

"If you choose to use racial slurs in the workplace, expect to be fired." Ray Basile

Becky C. said...

I agree with your sentiments and have blogged way too much about this. What offends me is the lynch mob--the same group (with Jackson and Sharpton leading the way again) as caused so much misery in Durham.

Unlike you, I do not see either sexism or racism in the remarks (except in one aspect--which I have only seen a little recognition of in a column in the Huffington Post today).

Ann Coulter was out of line however, and that is because she meant it as the "playground taunt" that Edwards was a wimp--and by implication all gay men are wimps. I have suggested that rather than bad word rehab she have a sensitivity training session with some leather bound buffs.

~Becky

liquiddaddy said...

Mr. Swift,

Thank you for raising the issue of what is fair or off limits.

As a Warrior for Christ, like the great patriot, Cal Thomas, I am outraged that people feel licensed to constantly attack Our Lord and His followers. Epithets like, "Jesus Freak", "Jesus Zombie", "Christ Humper", "Bible Didler", "Holy crotch sniffer", "NecropheliaX", "Religio Crazy", really hurt. The attacks are relentless. The latest, a life-sized chocolate Jesus, equipped with a Massive Fundement was especially disturbing to me.

Personal attacks on me for my work to spead the Truth is part of the assualt. "Pasty", "Ofea", "Combover Cowboy", "Viagra Jockey", "Dough Boy", "Twinky", "Creepy Fingers" might as well be racial slurs because they focus on my color, my faith, and are just as hateful. All I want to do is to introduce boys to Christ Our Savior.

I know you understand.

LD

Anonymous said...

Commercial broadcast is of course just that: commercial.

It's done for money; and if Imus becomes a financial liability, then he becomes expendable.

Straightforward enough as either a proposition or a transaction one would think.

But there is an interesting and highly entertaining twist: the hilarious spectacle of watching the "revolution" eat its own.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-imuspol13apr13,0,2734444.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Who could fail to laugh at the irony? An aging leftist hipster finds out that the indulgences he thought he had purchased through his snarky services on behalf of the pontiffs of the jabbering class, weren't worth the paper they were never written on.

Apparently, if you want to rap like the hood, you had better look as though you are from there. If you want to keep your CBS sinecure and collar that is.

Watching Imus crawl through the mob to gallows of his own devising, apologizing, regretting, craving pardon ... all just before the trapdoor was sprung on him, was just glazing on the cake.

Wes said...

I just want to say that my name is Wes, I am a heterosexual male, and I do believe it will make a comeback. But if you refer to me as "straight", you and me are gonna rumble..

Jaesoreal said...

I want everyone to know that as the leader of the Coalition of Colorful Colored Comments, I am pulling this list together. Hammer, Sharpton was chosen as the black leader at the last secret roundtable of black leadership. Elections will be held again next year.

Anonymous said...

I am truly saddened by the amount of cultural and racial ignorance that continues to plague some White Americans.

First, calling African American women “nappy headed hos” has always been considered highly offensive in the African American Community. Second, it is never acceptable to call a homosexual male a “faggot.” Furthermore, can you recall the last time you were denied employment and/or hit a “glass-ceiling,” or physically assaulted because of your skin color or sexual orientation? Has any of you experienced this..? How about having white women clutch their purses tighter, or switch their purse to the opposite side you pass on. Although, not overtly considered a racist statement on the surface, this form of non-verbal communication conveys a message, and this message is insulting when you have brown skin.

White America is xenophobic. There are many examples in American history that would support my statement, such as the colonization of America back in the late 1700s, which proved to be the downfall of the Native American civilization. I digress, my point being-- instead of exploring cultural and racial differences many races rely upon stereotypes to solidify false images of other races in their mind. The essence of a stereotype is based on oversimplification of a general group, or uncritical judgment, and prejudice. Stereotypes are easily defined as “short cuts taken in the human thought process to alleviate the utilization of higher brain functions.”

A prime example is this comment:

Baldie McEagle
“Now you can say that tattoos, by themselves, don't prove that the wearer is a murderer, drug user, or prostitute, although you must admit that this is more likely if the tattoo-wearer is black and from the ghetto, where everyone has to be tough because they are lifelong criminals. As a result, ugly, tough-looking tattoos are worn in visible places like the arms and legs.”

I would like to ask, does anyone on this blog have a gay friend and/or a friend who is African American? I would guess no, because if you did, you would not dare post any of these poorly constructed, dim-witted remarks. Baldie’s weak assertion about linking all tattooed, low-income African Americans to crime is absurd, which perfectly illustrates my point on stereotypes. Baldie where is the evidence to support your statement?

Ask yourself this question: How many friends do I have that are African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Gay?

As an African American man, I encourage those out there holding on to crude stereotypes to venture out and form a bond with some one who is not like you. Hopefully, you will experience enlightenment in the illumination of this fact that we are more alike, than we are different. We, as the human race share a common bond with each other and that our outward appearance only adds to the diversity of the beauty and splendor of the human race.

By using the firing of Don Imus as an example, I believe America is moving in a positive direction and that public open in regards to race relations is evolving.

In conclusion, relationships in general are what we make of it, therefore you are responsible for taking the extra steps to open up a dialogue to understand and exalt the positive aspects (cultures) of the human race as a whole. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself in the shoes of Mr. Imus.


Good night and good luck.

benmerc said...

If it's a drug addled "leftist hipster" you want, Dr. Thompson is your man...Imus is a pip-squeak in comparison. Besides, he and his crew carried so much water for the neo-cons (early on, when it was "in") you could float a boat, please lets stick to the facts here.

BTW, Jon, it is about time one of your commenters posted a pic worth looking at...now, please don't BAN my sexist ass.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is missing the point here...

I was listening to one of the shock jock programs because I was curious about their take on the whole Don Imus situation. A caller, in defense of Imus, said that when he was growing up, one of the first things he remembered learning during his childhood was "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." In other words, like many had said over the past few days in defense of Imus, they were just words; no old white man could really hurt those girls with his words, even if he wanted to, or as Eleanor Roosevelt put it, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Well, I remember somethings I learned during my childhood too, and one of them was "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say it all." In other words, "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards." -- PROVERBS 29:11

When it comes to the shock jocks, Howard Stern (whom we all know has no love for Imus, and is probably enjoying this) was the smartest one. He saw the handwriting on the wall, packed his bags, and went to Satellite, radio's answer to cable television. Now, no one can bitch and complain about him or his antics because the only reason you're even exposed to them is that you've exercised your God-given right to pay for whatever content you want, no matter how controversial or offensive it is.

Anonymous said...

Imus was shafted.

Everyone knows, if they were listening carefully enough, that Imus inserted audible quotation marks around his comments to indicate they were nothing more than a slightly sarcastic joke, and not serious. This is, after all, a universally understood use of quotation marks, which even some 60 year old "grade 4 educated" "boy from the hood" like "reverend" Al "Sharp"ton ought to know. Indeed, if you listen carefully enough, I am certain that you can hear the air rushing past his outstretched middle and index fingers while they were held next to the microphone making the universal "quotation" "marks" sign, for the benefit of his listeners. "nappy headed hos" doesn't equal nappy headed hos! Comprendez?

Maybe they did hear the quotation marks, but just didn't understand what they meant, because I know they only begin to teach sarcasm in grade 5. Why is it Imus's fault that radio isn't intelligently designed enough to more clearly show his crabby, hard-of-hearing ill-educated, pencil-necked liberal listeners when he's just being sarcastic?

Radio's clearly too subtle for certain listeners.

ShelbSpeaks said...

Don Imus is the most curmudgeonly of America’s major talk hosts. Although slightly liberal, his sharp tongue slashes Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Imus’ unvarnished candor attracts an upscale, urbane audience, which in turn makes big-name polls and savvy writers (or as he calls them, “lying, thieving politicians or liberal weenie pundits”) eager to face his fire as guests. His program is the must-listen-to morning show for movers and shakers. NewsMax Top 25 Radio Hosts rates Don Imus as America’s third most influential in America.

Project WANNABE said...

I'm a new reader & I'm sure you've heard this before, but fucking hilarious blog dude.

(I'm sort of assuming that you're playing this for laughs on purpose? Never a 100% safe assumption these days.)

Anonymous said...

WHy is it that Al Sharpton only shows up when it is about Defending african americans, but he never shows up when they have offended others and violated rights for the people and country?

He seriously needs to step down!

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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