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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The most recent development in the story is that MSNBC, which televises Imus' morning show live weekday mornings, has gone beyond its initial two-week suspension, and has decided to dump the show from its lineup.

All of this is due to the reaction after Imus' comments last week about the Rutgers women's basketball team. By now, we've all been blasted again and again with someone or other recounting the phrase "nappy-headed hos." I think that this phrase is going to become a cultural touchstone for years to come, sort of like "You are the weakest link," "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" and "You forgot Poland."

When I first heard the clip, my reaction was that Imus had said something stupid and offensive, and it came off as a lame attempt at humor. Imus has certainly been in these waters before, although in his career, he has a had a lot more good moments than bad, and I don't say this as a fan of the show. I like some of his interviews with politicians and others, but by and large, I find it a bit dry. Imus is very good at what he does, it's just not for everybody.

I wasn't really offended by what he said, although I'll admit I was actually shocked to hear his producer, Bernard McGuirk, use the word "jigaboos." That's some old-school racist verbiage, there. Interestingly, in the non-stop feeding frenzy since then, I've heard no one on television repeat this part of the conversation. Now, they may be sparing our delicate sensibilities, but if "nappy-headed hos" is so awful, then I suppose it shouldn't be repeated ad nauseum, either.

Jigaboos. Christ.

I thought about that word, and was fairly sure I hadn't heard it since college, and that was in a history class.

African-American studies, if you must know.

Again, I was surprised when I heard it last week, and it started me thinking about the word. I suppose the be-all end-all of racist slurs is "nigger." That is just one of those things you say when you're pretty sure that you're ready to be punched in the face. It's not a word that I use, or even think of to use, to be honest. I understand the weight of it, and the baggage it carries. It's a shocking thing, and it ought to be. Unfortunately, it isn't anymore. I know I can turn on the radio in any city in America, and maybe anywhere in the world, and if I have the right station on, I will hear that word and many others like it in no time at all. And to be honest, it doesn't shock me in the least when I hear it.

Have I become desensitized to it? Has it lost its power through the constant use in certain musical circles? And is that a good thing somehow?

That's a separate topic, and besides, Imus didn't say "nigger." He didn't say "jigaboo" either. He called the women "nappy-headed hos."

And in a medium where Rush Limbaugh can refer to Barack Obama as a "Halfrican-American" and Neal Boortz can opine that a black US Congresswoman from Georgia looks like a "ghetto slut," it's hard to understand why Imus is in so much hot water.

It was a stupid attempt to make fun at their expense. Did they deserve it? No. Do most people who get skewered by deejays, pundits, talk show hosts and late-night comedians deserve it? All of them? Probably not.

But like the Bat signal from the Batman TV show (I suppose it could have been any brown mammal, in retrospect), the usual suspects have raced to the front of the fray, and they have been there often enough to remember to bring their own microphones.

The Revs, Jesse and Al.

I have spoken about Jesse Jackson before. This man was in the shit during the civil rights movement in the US in the 60s. This guy marched, protested, and put his life at risk time and time again to further the cause. He was standing with MLK on that damned balcony in Memphis when the doctor was assassinated. He was a legitimate candidate for president in 1988, and has a lot of good to his credit, more than me, and more than most.

Since '88? Not a hell of a lot. He tends to show up at places where racism or the old-boy network may be impacting maybe eight people. Wasting time protesting Major League Baseball for not having enough black employees in the front offices is a misuse of effort. Defending Michael Jackson as he faces child molestation charges destroys your credibility. You may have noticed that black males are dying at one another's hands in obscene numbers, and too many of the ones that live end up in prison.

And frankly, after you refer to New York City as "Hymie Town," you don't get to call anyone a bigot anymore. Sorry, that's just how it goes.

Sharpton, on the other hand, started badly, coming on the national scene as the point man in the Tawana Brawley fraud, but since then has gotten his hair together, dumped the velvet warm-up suits and gold medallions, become respectable, and a man of consequence in political circles by speaking the truth. In the 2004 campaign, he was the only candidate who seemed to be speaking English at the debates. I like Al.

But he cannot resist the lure of the big takedown, be it Michael Richards, or Don Imus. I don't recall seeing him or Jesse hovering around the Mel Gibson circus, but I suppose they may have been busy that week.

This gets into what Bill Maher has aptly referred to as "fake outrage." I couldn't possibly put it any better than that.

You know who doesn't get to be outraged by what Imus said? Anyone who owns a 2Pac or 50 Cent CD. You've heard black women degraded, and danced along to it. You need to shut the fuck up.

It's not absolutely relevant to the issue, but I would like to know if any of the women on the Rutgers team had even heard of Don Imus before last week. I would also like to know if any of them had anything on their individual iPods that could be considered offensive in the same way as Imus' remarks.

And if so, do you hear it differently now? I hope so, I really do.

I feel bad for these women. They didn't deserve this. They play a game at a world-class level, they are students at a good school, and not one of them probably ever dreamed she'd be famous for something like this. If they have injured feelings, I am sorry for that.

But hurting your feelings is not a criminal offense.

This is nothing less than a free speech issue. Don Imus can say anything he wants, this is America. If the Klan gets permits to have a rally in the park because they meet all the conditions in order to obtain them, then the Klan gets to march. I can choose to not listen to Imus, or not attend the rally if I desire. I can call the President of the United States a sonofabitch, and there's not one thing anyone can do about it. My friends might shun me, and I may get kicked out of the NRA, but that's part of the equation. Free speech has consequences.

Imus may lose his audience, his sponsors may pull their ad budgets, and CBS Radio may decide after those things happen that he's no longer a commodity worth keeping. If they can him then, it's a business decision, and that's how it ought to be.

Firing Imus because he went over the line and hurt someone's feelings is cowardice.

If I was a betting man, I'd wager that CBS will cave, just as NBC did, and send Donny off to his ranch. No one has any balls anymore, and it's better to put out a mediocre product than to occasionally stir up controversy. They fired Dan Rather over those memos about Bush's AWOL time during Vietnam, even though everything that was in these faked memos was 100% true.

CBS. The Tiffany Network. What a joke.

Tiffany. That sounds like a nappy-headed ho's name, but that's just my opinion.

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posted at 11:42 PM

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