Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Say what?!

Before Wednesday, I really never paid attention to who Don Imus was. I’d seen him a few times on MSNBC, while channel surfing, but that’s about it.
Heck, I didn’t even realize that was his name until last week.

But, just like many folks, I was outraged to hear his remarks concerning the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Let me make this clear: I was outraged, not surprised.

I mean, come on, I’m not foolish enough to believe that the strides and accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement wiped away prejudice and racism like a magic wand.

And I’m certainly not naïve enough to believe that America is just one big happy family.

I also understand everyone has a right to their opinion, and even their own brand of humor.

Whatever goes on behind closed doors - whether I agree with it or not - as long as it’s legal it’s not really my business.

BUT, when you’re so callous, so brazen, so bold to utter ignorant comments like Imus did in a public setting, when you choose to put your ignorance on display for the world to see, THAT’S when I have a problem. That’s when I get concerned.

Nappy-headed hos? Really?

I’m not sure which words enrage me the most – the nappy-headed part or the hos part. Both words have long carried such negative connotations.

And used together they denigrated an already-downtrodden group. No, I'm not referring to simply the Rutgers women's basketball team, but black women as a whole.

Hearing him say those words made my skin flush with anger as if he were talking about my momma … my sister … me.

And when did these words become acceptable language for public fodder or consumption?
The sad truth is that maybe they always were, and Imus, just like Michael Richards, just happen to let it slip out.

I just heard snippets from Imus' interview yesterday with Al Sharpton and of course, Imus played that role of the innocent-yet-defensive-one, claiming he doesn’t believe what he said made him a racist.

He wasn’t intending to be racist, he said. He was just telling a joke that went wrong. Blah, blah, blah…

I’m so sick of folks hiding behind everything but the truth. You can’t ever make me believe that Imus, a man who's old enough to have lived through segregation, the civil rights movement, the second wave women's liberation movement and a host of other milestones in human history, wasn’t fully aware of what he said or the ramifications of what he said when he said it.

Words rarely roll of the tongue without some thought behind them. Whether intentional or not, words reflect conscious thoughts held in your mind based on your own belief system and perception. They're ingrained somewhere in your psyche, waiting to be used.

And Imus' words were racist, pure and simple.

I believe it is the responsibility of MSNBC, as a nationally broadcast media company, to make a bold statement against this kind of attitude and behavior. Lines have to be drawn somewhere to say that this kind careless language is unacceptable in mainstream media, period. A mere suspension is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.


If you’re still not convinced, let’s play dumb for a minute and ask this question: Would Imus have ever referred to a basketball team full of mostly white females as nappy-headed hos?

I doubt it, but I’ll let you be the judge.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ms. Pea,
You are absolutely correct in every part of this article.

I enjoy your articles/writings keep up the good work.

LeMar E. Flukers

Anonymous said...

He has a right to free speech. Uh, this is America. The question is: are his sponsors willing to support his views?

Anonymous said...

He would have called a white women's team a "bunch of blonde empty-headed bimbos". He's dumb, no doubt, but he'll apply what he considers the right words to the subject he's talking about.

Of course, there are two white girls on the Rutgers team...should they have been offended, or offended for their teammates?

Also...everyone does have a right to free speech but they have to take responsibility for what they say. The right to free speech doesn't force anyone to listen to it. We have the right to ignore it.

(In fact, originally the free speech clause in the Constitution only applied to political speech, but, obviously, it's been expanded since then.)

Donecia Pea said...

-Wow, thanks LeMar Flukers for stopping by to share such kind words! And you keep up the good work as well.

-Anonymous #2, I don't think I've disputed the fact that Imus has the right free speech. I state that point clearly.
However, I believe that certain standards/guidelines must be set as it pertains to language used in mainstream, FCC-regulated media and Imus must be held accountable for his actions.
I don't believe that's been handled properly thus far.

As to whether or not his sponsors will pull out? That's a good question that remains to be seen.

Donecia Pea said...

Anonymous #3, I think we somewhat agree. Whether he's a racist or not, I believe his comments definitely were and as you said, people have to take responsiblity for what they say. That's all I'm ultimately trying to say - he has to be held accountable and, in my opinion, a mere suspension does nothing to enforce that accountability.

Kevan Smith said...

Micahel Savage says worse every night right here in our little town on the rabidly racist KEEL.

Anonymous said...

You're right, kevan. Good call.

Donecia Pea said...

Hey Kevan, I've never listened to the Michael Savage show,so I can't really comment on it.

But I've long heard many opinions similar to yours about his show as well, not in comparison Don Imus, just in general.

I just think there's a danger in allowing certain things to go out on the open airwaves or broadcast freely on cable television unchecked or without some kind of accountability in place.

Diane Haag said...

In some ways, could it be a good thing that Don Imus said what he did?

I certainly don't advocate racism or racist speech in any form, but without controversies like this we (particularly in the white community and even more so in places less diverse than NW Louisiana)tend to get complacent about the reality of racism. Issues like this are kind of a slap in the face to say progress may have been made in the legal realm, but there's still a long way to go in converting people's hearts and minds. Let's talk about it.

Donecia Pea said...

Very good point Diane and actually I was thinking along the same lines not just with white people but with all people, INCLUDING black people.

It's really a wake-up call about where we are as a country when it comes to race matters and how we deal with it, as well as the role all people play in creating an environment that OKs such an attitude or behavior.

I'm most concerned with what's going to come of this because, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm predicting everything will be business as usual in about a week or two, until the next time.

Janelle Rucker said...

I think that's a very good point Diane. It's just sad that "the white community" needs an incident like this to make them realize that racism is still alive and well. For every Michael Richards or Don Imus incident, there are hundreds more that happen on a smaller scale daily.
But personally, I have more of a problem with Imus calling them hos than nappy headed. I'm SURE he doesn't know any of those girls personally to be qualified enough to make such an attack on their character.
I don't know if I'm the only black person to think this, but I don't really feel his comment is as much racist as it is ignorant.
Nappy-headed just doesn't hold as much weight with me as that other N word.

The Sarcasticynic said...

Maybe he said "Happy Wedded Vogues." Those who believe that the solution to the "Imus" problem is to simply turn him off are not considering one key point. Please visit "If you don't like it, turn it off" at sarcasticynic.blogspot.com if interested.

http://sarcasticynic.blogspot.com/2006/01/if-you-dont-like-it-turn-it-off.html

Donecia Pea said...

-Well, to me, Janelle, 'nappy-headed' automatically registers as racist primarily because of who said it and how he said it.

I mean when have you ever heard that word used when it was NOT in reference to a black person or person of color?

So when a non-person of color, or member of the ruling majority group, uses that word like that in reference to a person of color or minority group (especially in a public setting) to poke fun or criticize that minority person or group, I just automatically perceived it as racist.

However, I also totally agree with you on your stance about the 'ho' reference.

But to make a long story short, what Imus, said is just plain ugly.

No, Imus is not the first to use offensive language like this, nor will he be the last, but since this is the issue that is currently at hand, what will be done to resolve the situation at hand and truly evoke social change?

-Great point the sarcasticynic! I think that post is a perfect example of why we can't sweep issues like this under the rug. Thanks for sharing.

Marshall said...

Do a Google search for song lyrics using the word "hos" -- Ludacris, Snoop, Mystikal, Eamon....the list goes on and on.

Is Imus racist? Is Ludacris?

The issue is not racism. It's about vulgarity and impropriety. If you buy the music, watch the videos, and wallow in today's media mire -- you're as much a part of the problem as those that produce it.

-- Marshall Fannin

Donecia Pea said...

Wow, THE mysterious Marshall Fannin has actually decided to join in on Link222 conversation instead of ragging on us on his Web site?? The world must be coming to an end, lol. Thanks for stopping by.

And actually I agree with you Marshall. It’s part of the reason I’ve never purchased CD’s by the artists you mentioned. BUT, I also know as someone who watches music videos and listens to the radio that you’ll never hear ‘ho’ on MTV or BET or on the radio.

You’ll hear a nice covered-up “bleep” instead.
That’s my whole point. Accountability. Rules and regulations. And I’m not just speaking of Imus. I've expressed MY opinion on what he said, but I believe the action must be taken by us as consumers and the media company, in this case MSNBC and CBS radio. And I don’t feel that appropriate action has been taken yet.

And let me say this while we’re at it, it’s funny to me how mainstream America is JUST now choosing this Imus moment as an opportunity to point the blame at the black community for not taking a similar stance against rap artists like Ludacris, Snoop, etc. and say “Why didn’t y’all say anything then?”
Wake up y’all, we’ve BEEN complaining about this! I don’t know where in the WORLD some of y’all have been, but there have been MANY protests, rants, discussions, etc. PARTICULARLY from the black community, concerning the issues of misogyny and degrading language against women, particularly black women in some rap lyrics.
Essence magazine, one of, if not THE most popular African American magazine in the country did an entire series on this issue basically holding not only rappers, but the label executives and other music industry leaders under the fire for irresponsibly putting out music and music videos that promote the degradation of women. VIBE, another hugely popular hip hop magazine has done similar stories throughout its existence attacking the same thing.
In 2004, Spelman College, the most famous black women’s college in the country, students implemented a successful petition drive and phone campaign to protest the scheduled appearance of rapper Nelly for the misogyny against women particularly displayed in his “Tip Drill” video.
But for some reason, now that this same black community is taking aim at Don Imus, so many people, especially non-people of color, have come out of the woodworks quoting rap lyrics in Imus’ defense.
It’s especially funny to me when you consider that many studies and reports have shown time and time again that the majority of hip hop consumers are white, (Some even say as many as 70 percent of hip hop consumers are white) and the music industry that signs and distributes this music is largely run and controlled by white people.

So I have a question: Why does white America continue to financially support the music of rap artists that promote negative images of women in their music?

Fannin said...

Wow, Donecia. When you're right, you're right. Good response. You told me a lot I didn't know and brought up some good points. And weren't even rude about it!

Think your bosses would allow you to post your response to my blog, where I raised the same question?

-- Marshall Fannin

Da Arsonist said...

The issues here are about both SEX AND RACE.
Had he just said the Rutgers basketball team were a bunch of rough looking ho's then it wouldn't be a race issue. But because he said nappy headed ho's that makes it a race issue as well.
Further more, you can't blame hip hop for any of this nonsense. What Imus did was point out a particular group of young ladies and refer to them specifically. That is different than a rapper saying something about ho's in the club. I'm not saying that its cool for rappers to use the term, but this is not the same thing.
Also, the term ho is not a term only used in rap songs. I hear plenty of other medium's that use ho, whore, and bitch. So why single out rap music?

-- Jonathan Long

Donecia Pea said...

-Sure, no problem, Marshall Fannin. I’ll post it. (Lol, at the part about me not being rude about it.)

Seriously though, for me, it's not as much about being right or wrong as much as it is about keeping it all the way real. Those examples I mentioned are just the few examples I could think of off the top of my head, but there are so many more. What’s more shocking to me are the folks that didn’t even know about those incidents I mentioned … Incidents that were reported in the news. I’m almost willing to bet you can ask any black person in my age group and they knew of at least one of those incidents or more. So why is it that so many other folks didn’t know about it? What does that say about the divide in this country and how we individually decide what’s important and what’s not important?

-Hey Jonathan, thanks for stopping by! It’s great to see you in the blogosphere again. And actually you touched on the very point I wanted to make next. I think you put it best, so I’m not going to be redundant, I’ll just say AMEN! It’s apples and oranges y’all. For real.

But I want to make something else clear, since hip hop has become a part of this conversation: All rap/hip hop is not bad, negative or degrading toward women.

Just like all of the musical genres out there (country, rock, death metal, jazz, etc.) it’s not meant for everybody, that’s why you have different genres of music in the first place. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s all bad. That’s as silly as saying all black people are bad or all white people are bad.

BUT I encourage folks to know more about the history of the music you attack before you so self-righteously attack it. I’m against negative, degrading rap lyrics, but I’m certainly not against all rap music, period. Many folks tend to blame hip hop collectively, but hip hop comes in as many styles as Baskin Robbins has in ice cream flavors.

dontfixitifitaintbroke said...

Three thoughts:

1. What Imus said was wrong, period.
2. I don't believe he should lose his career over this comment. Lose pay? Yes. In my line of work we have something call "progressive discipline".
3. Where does forgiveness fit into all of this?

Kevan Smith said...

KSCL 91.3 FM plays some fresh hip hop that's inspiring and topical. They lay off the degrading stuff. You're right, Donecia, there's lots positive in the hip hop culture, but everyone focuses on the negative.

Anonymous said...

91.3 has the BEST lineup. Politcal hip hop, I love it.

Anonymous said...

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