Don Imus

17 Apr 2007

There Must Still Be Something Out of Kilter

“That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that now, man [laughing], that's some... woo!”
- Don Imus describing the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team, 2007

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ''twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.”
-- Sojourner Truth at a Women's Rights Convention, 1851

Make no mistake, Don Imus knew exactly what he was doing and to whom when he and his creepy cohorts chose to belittle the achievements, to question the femininity, and to smear the reputations of the members of Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team. He picked on them because he figured he could get away with it, as usual, because they were black, because they were female, because they were powerless, and because they were defenseless and ostensibly without the political clout to hold him accountable for the venomous, vituperative attack, no matter how baseless or profane.

Had Imus disparaged females from, say, a predominantly Jewish basketball team as “hooked-nosed Hebe hos” before going on and on about how masculine and unattractive they were and comparing them to dinosaurs and grizzly bears, there would be no need for me to write this article, and no ongoing debate about whether or not he should be fired, because network execs would have yanked him out of the studio and handed him his walking papers on the spot. Despite Imus’ claim that he’s an “equal opportunity offender,” both he and his on-air sidekicks are well aware of the unwritten rules as to which gender and ethnic groups it’s acceptable for them to ridicule.

The Imus Show already had a disgraceful history of demonstrating insensitivity specifically towards black women prior to this incident, such as the occasion on which the host referred to PBS-TV nightly news anchor Gwen Ifill as a “cleaning lady.” Then there was the time that his sports reporter, Sid Rosenberg, suggested that tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams were better suited to appear on the cover of National Geographic than Playboy.

So, it’s no surprise that Rosenberg, an admitted crackhead, was again one of the willing participants in Imus’ latest lame, white male-bonding opportunity at the expense of the dignity of these innocent, highly-accomplished African-American females. Also chiming in with approval was executive producer James McGuirk who called them “jigaboos.” The only more insulting slur I can think of is the N-word. The message this inveterate racist Imus is so fond of delivering is that no matter what odds black women manage to overcome in a society which undervalues them by design, he is always ready to remind them of this country’s color-coded caste system by resorting to inflammatory, offensive stereotypes.

Curiously, he showed surprisingly-little remorse while defending himself in a transparently-phony non-apology during which he instead went on the offensive. "I may be a white man, but I know that ... young black women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected ... by their own black men and that they are called that name," he arrogantly asserted.

I don’t know what bizarro world Imus is talking about, because I have never referred to any black woman as a “ho,” and I have never witnessed any other black man doing so, except in movies and music videos. Thus, it is very telling that Imus is apparently citing as the source of the inspiration for his callous remarks gangsta rap and blaxpoitation flicks which most African-American males routinely complain about but have no control over their mass marketing.

By contrast, consider the fact that Michael Jackson was successfully pressured to recall a CD containing the anti-Semitic invectives “Jew me, sue me” and “Kick me, kike me,” and to re-shoot its video and to re-release the song with different lyrics. Just because blacks do not enjoy the same sort of leverage as entertainment executives, does not mean that African-Americans endorse the misogyny running rampant in rap and the rest of the entertainment media.

Rather, the mercenary aspect of crapitalism is at fault, as it allows the almighty dollar to set the programming agenda. Never forget, this is a culture which exploits the human condition for profit.

The Rutgers women shouldn’t expect much to come from their meeting with Imus, except for maybe more salt in their fresh wounds. Unfortunately, productive communication can’t occur until both parties to the conversation respect and understand each other. Impatient to get his job back, Imus is likely to approach them in a results-oriented fashion. They, on the other hand, as soulful spiritual folk, will undoubtedly be process-oriented and content only if they can somehow connect heart-to-heart.

Despite his millions of listeners, Imus has already proven himself to be woefully out of touch with the pulse of the country, isolated and hopelessly adrift on an anti-intellectual ice floe without a moral compass. Isn’t it obvious that at the dawn of a historic era when the nation sits poised perhaps to elect either its first black or first woman president, there is absolutely no reason why this bigoted, over-opinionated Neanderthal should ever be behind a coast-to-coast microphone again, let alone consulted to participate in the discussion of the indefensible words which ought to bring down the curtain on his career?

Either it’s ovah for Imus, or, as sister Sojourner Truth said so many years ago, there must still be something out of kilter.