Lord! I thought this would be over by now but "like a snowball rolling down a hill, it keeps growing." When I first started putting clips together for this post, I hadn't gotten home yet to see some of the things Imus was saying during his "apology" rounds. He's not sorry. He's defending himself. I just saw a clip of him on CNN where he was claiming that they
call their women that all the time. Well, who is they
? Harold Ford - one of his favorite black people? How many of these they
people does he know personally and why does he feel the need to emulate those he calls they
As vilified as black men and rappers are by conservatives or anyone who has an issue with blacks, why on earth would you reduce yourself to imitating them? When did 50 Cents become so powerful that his lyrics have become the standard by which an old white man conducts his behavior? To Imus, and all of the defenders who use the same logic, if that is how you really feel, call Harold Ford's mother a ho the next time you invite him on your show. Call Bill Cosby's or one of the other "favored" black people's daughters that.
I was willing to just exercise my right not to watch his show. I will still do that. I even said, a couple days ago, that he shouldn't be fired. Now I don't care what happens to him.
PBS's Gwen Ifill was once a target of Imus' racial venom. Calling an educated black woman a cleaning woman is not funny. It is the direct linking of a black woman to an old stereotype and to a time when being a "cleaning lady" was almost all most black women could aspire too. He may as well have called her a "nigger bitch" because that is what you mean when you say that about a woman who has worked hard to advance in her career and make a role model of herself. Here is some of what she had to say about it.
The serial apologies of Mr. Imus, who was suspended yesterday by both NBC News and CBS Radio for his remarks, have failed another test. The sincerity seems forced and suspect because he’s done some version of this several times before.
I know, because he apparently did it to me.
I was covering the White House for this newspaper in 1993, when Mr. Imus’s producer began calling to invite me on his radio program. I didn’t return his calls. I had my hands plenty full covering Bill Clinton.
Soon enough, the phone calls stopped. Then quizzical colleagues began asking me why Don Imus seemed to have a problem with me. I had no idea what they were talking about because I never listened to the program.
It was not until five years later, when Mr. Imus and I were both working under the NBC News umbrella — his show was being simulcast on MSNBC; I was a Capitol Hill correspondent for the network — that I discovered why people were asking those questions. It took Lars-Erik Nelson, a columnist for The New York Daily News, to finally explain what no one else had wanted to repeat.
“Isn’t The Times wonderful,” Mr. Nelson quoted Mr. Imus as saying on the radio. “It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”
I was taken aback but not outraged. I’d certainly been called worse and indeed jumped at the chance to use the old insult to explain to my NBC bosses why I did not want to appear on the Imus show.
I haven’t talked about this much. I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.
It is about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game had to be the biggest moment of their lives, and the outcome the biggest disappointment. They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult.
Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus’s program? That’s for them to defend, and others to argue about. I certainly don’t know any black journalists who will. To his credit, Mr. Imus told the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday he realizes that, this time, he went way too far.
Yes, he did. Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It’s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.
So here’s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.
Let’s see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest, most despicable shots.
This article by ESPN writer, Jemele Hill, summarized what many black women are feeling:
Imus' comments were harmful to all women -- especially for female athletes who still struggle to gain acceptance in our society -- but they really cut black women deep.
Our looks have been the subject of ridicule for decades. While history has kindly portrayed white women as bastions of purity and decency, black women have been characterized as hypersexed and indecent since the 17th century. So the phrase "nappy-headed" didn't bother me nearly as much as the "ho" part.
In case you're wondering, I would have been equally outraged if Imus were black, Asian, Latino, Portuguese or Italian. The ethnicity or skin color of the perpetrator matters none.
And since some of you -- actually, a lot of you -- have done the predictable thing and used Imus' predicament as a platform to hold African-Americans responsible for hip-hop, I'll briefly address that. Although I hope you know hip-hop didn't become the No. 1 music genre in the world because only black folks support the music.
For the record, I am equally offended by the rappers who make music videos and songs that demean women -- although hip-hop artists didn't invent the concept of objectifying women.
Many African-Americans have been outspoken about those destructive elements of hip-hop. Instead of just taking his lumps, Imus tried to challenge Al Sharpton on his stance on hip-hop when Imus appeared on Sharpton's radio show Monday. I don't stick up for Al Sharpton often because I consider him an agitator, but Sharpton's views on "gangsta" rap have been consistent and clear.
Last week, Sharpton and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons held a public protest against rapper Tony Yayo -- who is associated with 50 Cent -- for his alleged assault of the 14-year-old son of a rival record company executive. Sharpton even called for a 90-day, FCC-mandated ban on all gangsta music.
But that doesn't air on CNN and Essence magazine's Take Back the Music crusade -- a nationwide campaign that promotes up-and-coming hip-hop artists with positive values -- and it doesn't make the front pages of newspapers.
But none of this has anything to do with Imus, whose apology I can't accept or take seriously. Imus has become a Hall of Fame broadcaster using race-baiting, offensive tactics. He is routinely offensive to people of color and women, and if he needs to lose his job to understand that there is no place for that, so be it.
As a society, there are times when we need to stand together against indecency and cruelty.
Perhaps the coach of the Rutgers team spoke best about her players.
Coach C. Vivian Stringer praised the accomplishments and character of the team members, five of whom are freshmen.
"Before you are valedictorians of their class, future doctors, musical prodigies, and yes, even Girl Scouts," she said. "They are young ladies of class, distinction, they are articulate, they are brilliant, they are gifted. They are God's representatives in every sense of the word."
In winding this up, I am going back to the "blame the rappers" excuse:
I'm not defending the use of the word ho by men who seek to degrade women and I cannot say I am a fan of 50 Cent but that man has never called me a ho. I'm not sure I've ever been called a ho. I don't know who he's talking about in those songs/videos and I don't take it as a personal affront because he is talking about nameless/faceless women.
Don Imus has called real, live, breathing individuals these names. He called Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady" because she wouldn't come on his show. He called the beautiful journalist Janet Langhart Cohen a "big haired ho" and her white husband - a former Secretary of Defense - Mandingo (imagine where any other host would be if they called Donald Rumsfeld's wife any
kind of ho). His show played Jungle Fever when reporting that the couple got married.
He was personal and specifically insulting real live black women he's never met as was the case with these girls on the basketball team. 50 Cent and most rappers are talking out of their behinds to make a buck. Most of them are young and haven't quite grasped the magnitude of their celebrity or their words.
I find it laughable that these ignorant, white mouthpieces for bigotry are so quick to bash rap, claim they cannot understand a word the rappers say yet seem to be quite aware of the content when they want to borrow some of it to insult educated, successful black women. As much as 50 and Ice Cube have plucked my last nerve whining about Oprah not letting them on her show (or not sticking to his acting career when Ludacris went on), I don't recall them calling her a ho nor any other prominent black woman a ho. Equally as telling, name one time when one of these rappers has won an award without getting to the podium and thanking God ... and "my mama?"
I had ethnic, white friends/roommates in college. They
used the term "pollack" all of the time amongst each other. The only other place I'd heard that was on All In The Family and I knew it was bad
. Even though some of my so-called dorm friends, most of whom had never even seen a black person in real life before me, in the beginning, were quick to use the word nigger if another black person in the dorm did something they didn't like, I never, ever - even in ANGER behind some of their ignorance - called them white, trashy, dumb ass pollacks. If Imus doesn't think he is a bigot, he doesn't know what one is.
P.S. The women of the Rutgers women's basketball team have spoken for themselves - quite eloquently I might add. From what I can see, like many, many black women, they've straightened their hair. So, it's not nappy
at all! If you are going to be a bigot, open your eyes and know what you are talking about! (This from a woman who proudly sports dreadlocks). I am nappy. I am happy and I ain't NEVAH been no HO!
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