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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Tale of Two Communities

With much less fanfare than his brazen talk show often demonstrated, Don Imus returned to the airwaves at a radio station in New York on Monday where he is heard on 17 other stations around the country. His return completes eight months of penance for the controversy he stirred in April after referring to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as a bunch of “nappy headed hos.” In his return to the airwaves, Imus called his Rutgers comment “reprehensible” and vowed to never be that insensitive in racial matters while on the air again.

Thus ends the saga of one of the longest running apologies that I have ever seen a white man “endure” over a racially offensive comment to a group of black females. Wow! Famous, white male grovels over remarks concerning young, black females. If Imus had made similar remarks in 1970, it would not have made it past the editors in the first news cycle. However, more than 30 years later, a nationwide furor caused his former employers, CBS Radio and MSNBC to terminate his multi-million dollar contracts.

In case you missed the first one – Wow!

The “Imus Episode” revealed two things about our society that troubles me: No; not that Imus would use such language, because if Don Imus is a bigot, and he may be, then he is an equal opportunity bigot, because he has made a lucrative living skewering black-white and every shade in between for years. But I was more troubled by the response in the black community to the remarks than I was by Imus making the remarks. It prompted me to wonder out loud – “Has the black community become the dragon that it has attempted to slay?” We hypocritically teach our children to live in harmony with their neighbor, notwithstanding their faults; however, when our neighbors offend us, many of us are ready to lynch them.

I believe that those at the forefront crusading for Imus’ head on a silver charger lost a great opportunity to enlist him as an ally. They could have negotiated an agreement with him to, of course apologize, and then to align himself with worthy ethnic and feminist causes where he would use his star-power to raise tens of millions of dollars. The hypocrisy of the black community's response to Imus is that the same leaders have not launched an equally fervent crusade against the rappers who demean women, along with their song writers, producers, distributors, and the radio/TV stations that broadcast their CDs and videos for public consumption. For example, rap artist Soulja Boy has been getting much play with his “Crank Dat Soulja Boy (Superman)” Here are a few lines from the lyrics:

Soulja Boy off in this hoe

…Then super man dat hoe

…I got me some bathin apes

…Watch me super soak dat hoe

And the rest is too offensive to post on a family friendly site. I could have included lyrics from dozens of popular songs that denigrate women, but I selected Soulja Boy because of his notoriety amongst children, who are mindlessly parroting these words while doing the “Superman;” a dance that has been choreographed to the song. Where is the outrage in the black community over lyrics that denigrate black men, women, fatherhood, motherhood, a civil society, and distort the sacredness of sex? During the past 12 months we have witnessed something in public entertainment that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago - a parade of white, male celebrities who have been forced to beg the black community for forgiveness because of racially insensitive remarks: Imus, Michael Richards (Warning: for those who follow the link to Richards’s remarks, they are highly hateful, abusive and racially charged), and “Dog” the Bounty Hunter. This brings me to the second and more troubling aspect of Imus’ demise and subsequent resurrection: The white community is holding its celebrities to a higher moral standard than we are in the black community.

The black community, spearheaded by Jessie Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton, pushed for the removal of Imus, but has given the “Soulja Boys” of the entertainment world a free pass to continue to spew caustic vile into the airwaves. Is there any wonder why there is a general “dumbing down” in our community when we allow those artists to perform without accountability? Some are quick to defend Soulja Boy’s First Amendment right of free speech, but no serious public, corporate or religious leader in the white community has offered the same defense for Imus, Michael Richards or the Bounty Hunter.

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