On Imus

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Don Imus has established himself as an idiot for quite some time now. It has been long-reported that as a shock jock, he has gone above and beyond to assail every faction of society that’s not made up of white heterosexual males – including women, gays, Jews, and as you now know, blacks. Slate offers a great recap of Imusisms.

The obvious: Although as a whole, we’ve all been conditioned to falsely believe that race relations in this country are in a much better state than reality reflects, the latest scandal over Don Imus only serves as a reminder of how poor they truly are and how bigotry and ignorance continue to hover over America’s psyche. This is evident in Imus’ legions of listeners who have continued to support him despite the many instances in which his loose tongue exposed an absent (of tolerance) mind. The same applies to his advertisers, some of whom are only now pulling their dollars away as the national media continues to spotlight what has seemingly become Don Imus’ own personal nadir.

Hello, Proctor & Gamble, Sprint, and GM.

But, what’s not being said – or at least not by many who look like me – is our contribution to Don Imus’ latest and greatest snafu. For readers who share in my experience, let’s be honest with ourselves: Where do you think Don Imus learned the term “nappy headed hoes?”

It’s not a trick question. It’s certainly not a head scratcher. We know, don’t we?

I cannot stand Lou Dobbs. In a perfect world, people like Lou Dobbs would live in America without a green card working construction and/or announcing himself in my hotel room with a heavy foreign accent as housekeeping while gaining the great gift that is empathy.

However, on his show yesterday, I had to embark on the sheer horror that is agreeing with him when he posed the question of where is the outrage towards members of the hip hop community who regularly disparage black women to Michael Eric Dyson.

DOBBS: I couldn’t agree with you more on that, in America. And I’d like for you all to get to this issue.

The idea — and Imus himself raised it during his discussions with Reverend Al Sharpton today. The idea that we are watching this gangster rap, hip-hop in this country, the language that is being used, offensive to women, offensive, I think, to darn near everybody that I can imagine.

Why would we not as a country come together over this? We’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior.

DYSON: I think that the reality, Reverend Jesse Jackson has led a campaign for a long time against the kind of vicious misogyny that’s being expressed in hip-hop music along with Reverend Al Sharpton.

But I’m saying I think it’s also important to say. But it’s not just hip-hop culture. Hip-hop culture is only 30 years old.

So we have to go after civil rights circles. We have to go through black and white circles. We have to go after American churches and synagogues and temples where women are subjected to second class status and citizenship and are subordinated to men and patriarchy.

We have to go after the news industry. We have to go after the university. America feeds off of the second class citizenship of women across the board. The specific instance of this virulent, pathological expression of negativity toward black women has to be isolated.

And yes, we have to go after hip-hop, as well. But more broadly, this has been sustained in an American culture every day of our lives.

Blah, blah, blah. Yes, we indeed live in a patriarchal society that also continues to be permeated by racism. Anyone with a clue can acknowledge this. However, in the context of Dobbs’ question, it would behoove us to not allow mainstream hip hop culture to go without harsh criticism it so justly deserves.

DOBBS: It’s also, is it not, tied to the celebration of the lowest common denominator in this country. Is it not also glamorizing in our media, whether it be movies, whether it be television, whether it be music, some of the basest actions and words that our society produces?

DYSON: That’s only the sharp edge of it, Lou. The reality is behind the scenes, sexism, misogyny and patriarchy are sustained, most especially and most helpfully, in subtle fashion. It’s not the calling of the “H” word. At least you know where they’re coming from. It’s not in hip-hop, where you know I’m calling you a “B” or an “H” because that’s explicit. It’s the more subtle subordination of women to men’s lives that has to be dealt with.

DOBBS: I appreciate the nuance, Michael. But I don’t know about you, partner, but I’d sure as heck like to get rid of the blunt instruments.

DYSON: No doubt about it.

“No doubt about it?” Doesn’t seem that way, Mike. This all reads as nothing more than hypocritical bullshit from a noted hip hop fan and 2 Pac enthusiast (read: dick rider) who’s too far biased to acknowledge the truth: mainstream hip hop culture gives unnecessary ammunition to close-minded bigots like Don Imus and should be protested right along with him.

I agree with Dyson on how hip hop is not all to blame, but I wouldn’t appear on CNN and say “well hip hop is only 30 years old” as if that’s some credible justification of how fingers ought to be pointed elsewhere. It’s dominated pop culture for more than a decade. It doesnt’ require that great a leap to imply it’s been influential to many.

I’m not excusing Don Imus at all. As an adult and as someone who’s been in broadcasting for a number of years, he’s very well aware of what to say and what not to say. He’s old. He knows better. The end.

But, it really annoys me to see people like Michael Eric Dyson regularly defend hip hop and bypass the fact that it perpetuates the very ignorance previous generations sought to end.

It only dilutes the severity of the situation, and makes him and other people of color look hypocritical to say Imus shouldn’t describe someone as “nappy headed hoes” when you support a culture (and companies that serve as a promotional vehicle for the culture) that routinely utters the words bitch, hoe, faggot, nigga, cracker, among other epithets.

Don Imus has already been suspended for two weeks. He might even be fired given that Bruce Gordon, former head of the NAACP and a director of CBS Corp. wants him dismissed.

However, the problem itself won’t go away, especially if you’re failing to make the effort to call out the latest contributor to the problem: ourselves.

The end of “Imus In The Morning” would only serve as a cheap win for a war that people like me have long been losing.

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