Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On why Don Imus is not good or decent or even okay

Okay, so a lot has been said lately about Don Imus's racist and sexist slurs against the Rutgers women's basketball team. And yeah, his comments were racist, and yeah, they were sexist, too, whether or not you want it to be. And yeah, he deserves to face consequences for it, because what he did was wrong. Why? I'll tell you why.

1. Because yeah, it was racist. "Blah, blah, blah, rappers say that stuff all the time," says Michelle Malkin (and is that someone you really want to be associated with, Josh?). Yes, rappers do say racist, misogynistic things all the time. And people complain about the racism and misogyny in rap music all the time. As a matter of fact, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have both spoken out against the racism and misogyny in rap music.
Sharpton expressed special concern about white perceptions of African Americans. Rappers and their corporate supporters "make it easy for b culture to be dismissed by the majority," he said, and the large white fan base "has learned through rap images to identify black male culture with a culture of violence."

But even if everyone really was giving R. Kelly a pass and piling on Don Imus just a-'cause he's white, one important lesson I learned 'round about the second grade was that just because I wasn't the only doing something wrong, that didn't mean I was any less culpable. "But Casey and Karlie did it too!" didn't reduce my own guilt a bit, and simply making that argument was usually enough to make my own punishment all the worse.

2. Because yeah, it was sexist. Not that a racist slur alone would have been that much better, but Imus was criticizing them in a way he'd never criticize the men's team. The Rutgers women were "nappy-headed hos," while "the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute." Because that's the most important thing when you're engaged in an athletic event at the championship level - looking cute. Would the Tennessee men's team have been identified as "looking sharp"? Would they have been a "handsome bunch of fellas," with some corresponding criticism of their Rutgers opponents? No, because Imus wouldn't expect a men's team to meet some arbitrary physical standard for his viewing pleasure. But the women, beyond being outstanding athletes in superb physical shape, also have to be feminine and girly and "cute" enough to satisfy some old white guy on the radio.

3. Because this wasn't the first time. Imus has, in fact, quite the history of racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks. He's the one who said, in reference to Gwen Ifill, then of the New York Times, “Isn’t The Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House,” and who referred to sports columnist Bill Rhoden as a "New York Times quota hire." He's the one who referred to the "Jewish management" of CBS radio as "money-grubbing bastards." His producer is the one who referred to Barack Obama as a"young colored fella" (and to Hillary Clinton as an "old bag from New York," noting later that "bitch is gonna be wearing cornrows"). That pretty much does it for any arguments that such comments are completely unlike him and unlikely to ever happen again.

4. Because he's a bully. This is who he insulted:

They're not politicians. They're not celebrities. They're not public figures. They didn't come to him asking for approval or recognition or publicity or commentary on their appearance. They didn't come to him at all. He's a rich white guy with a radio show; they're a bunch of college students. They weren't a threat to him. He didn't even know them. So why the cheap shot? To get a laugh at someone else's expense. They worked and practiced and fought to accomplish something significant, something I'm sure he himself would be hard-pressed to do, and he had no problem soiling that by calling them ugly whores from the safety of his soundproof booth. For a laugh.

Imus has since apologized several times, acknowledging that the young women he insulted probably feel worse than he does but still arguing that it was just "comedy." "I am a good and decent person," Imus said.

No, Don, you're not.

No comments: