Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why I Can't Let the Imus Thing Drop (Try as I Might)

Last night as Jess and I watched feature after television feature about Don Imus and his insanity, I reached a point where I absolutely hit the wall: I don't want to hear another THING about Don Imus, I said, and I meant it. I didn't want to hear the phrase "nappy headed hos" come flying out of his mouth one more time on constant repeat; I didn't want to hear Anderson Cooper's stats about how powerful Imus is relative to his radio peers (apparently he ranks at #14--Rush Limbaugh is #1); and I definitely didn't want to hear Joe Scarborough and Bill Maher talk about how "sad" it is to see a "mustang" like Imus cowed (are they kidding me???). I was done, done and done with this topic. So I went to bed.

And then I woke up this morning and there was Al Roker, interviewing Spike Lee and Whoopi Goldberg on the Today show. And that stopped me dead in my tracks--because when was the last time you turned on the biggest morning news show there is to see 3 black folks talking to each other and the rest of us about race in America? NEVER! And then I saw the front page of the print edition of the NY Times and there were the faces of the Rutgers women's basketball team--and the same thing on the cover of USA Today. Again, I ask you: when was the last time the major papers put a group of black faces on their cover that didn't have to do with a drug bust or a violent crime? Seriously--when? I bet you can't think of an example and I can tell you why: because it doesn't happen. Because though you may not have noticed it, black people don't get much play in the media unless they have done something wrong.

And that is why today, I am over being over Imus. I am now totally, 100% in the camp of let's keep talking about this; let's keep pushing for his dismissal. Because the longer we talk about it, the more space gets created for those of us who usually get pushed aside in the media discourse to speak up and be heard. One of the defenses that I've found the oddest in this whole debacle, which has been offered both by Imus and his defenders, is that rappers and other blacks have been calling black women "hos" for years. Ignoring for a moment that this is really no excuse at all, it's interesting to note that for just about as long as the word has been circulating in contemporary pop-culture, black leaders (Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, et al) have been fighting against it. The fact that nobody who's not black knows this is precisely the result of the fact that on your average day, the media has no interest in what black people have to say--about their own communities or about the world at large.

In any case, as terrible as this all is, I'm happy to finally see some real black people on TV, talking about the real and persistent issue of racism in our society. Now what we need are a few women, black, white or otherwise, to stand up and claim this as a women's issue as well. Not too many folks have pointed out that after the "nappy headed hos" comment, Imus went on to riff on the attractiveness of the Tennessee team and how he'd like to insinuate himself sexually in their midst. The point? This isn't just about race, it's about sex and gender, too. And every self-respecting woman in America ought to be crying from the rooftops in defense of these girls. Kim Gandy from NOW fired the opening salvo, and
Rosie O'Donnell seconded the call yesterday. Today, Selena Roberts' article in the Times sports section offers up another set of arrows for our quiver. Let's see who else steps up to the plate.

No comments: