Black people have a great sense of humor about themselves. I don't just say this because I happen to be black but because there's ample evidence to support this. For instance, arguably the most celebrated black comedians (Richard Pryor, Chris Rock come to mind) have been self-deprecating when it comes to the subject of race. Yet there was nothing remotely funny, incisive or somewhat excusable about radio personality Don Imus' remark about the black players on Rutgers' women's basketball team.
For those of you not in the know, he referred to them as "nappy headed ho's". This is not the first foray into racially insensitive rhetoric from Mr. Imus. He's also notoriously referred to respected black PBS anchorwoman Gwen Ifill as a "cleaning lady" and has been known to regularly use the epithet "ragheads" when referring to Arabs. Yet unlike his similarly politically incorrect, but I'd argue more entertaining counterpart Howard Stern, Imus has somehow managed to gain some semblance of mainstream political acceptance.
Left-wing politicians like John Edwards and John Kerry have enthusiastically appeared on his show and while they've never, as far as I know, gone so far as to endorse Mr. Imus' views--by appearing on his program they've more or less implied that they aren't offended enough by them to not be his guest. He even headlined a White House correspondents' dinner in 1996, although he promptly bombed after making off-color jokes about the First Lady.
It was reported today that Imus is going to now take part in what is becoming the official ritual of the repenting racist white man--an appearance on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show. Apparently the mainstream media has decided that Rev. Sharpton and his radio show are the mouthpiece for all of Black America and that an apology on said program is the best way to mend fences with African Americans.
I prefer the Rev. Jesse Jackson's reaction to this incident. He is going to organize major protests against Imus and the stations like MSNBC and CBS Radio that broadcast him. The chances that Imus will be removed the air are slim to none. The incident will only increase his ratings in a medium that has become more and more about creating outrage than actually informing or enlightening people. But I'd rather draw a line in the sand then play this phony forced apology route anymore. So-called progressives should not only boycott listening to Mr. Imus' show, they should stop appearing on it as well.
© 2007 The Nation