I Must Defend Imus

Kick Don Imus in the balls. Get a dollar. This is pretty much the value proposition for every me-too media critic hanger-on these days, and they're lining up to ensure that they get their share of screen time kicking the old man in the nut sack when he's down.

Granted, Imus fell down of his own accord. What he said about the Rutgers women's basketball team was the kind of off-the-cuff banter that whites have mistakenly come to think makes them hip, not racist.

Fact is, Imus didn't say anything worse than the lyrics of any given rap song. I realize that as a Clueless White Guy I'm not supposed to point that out, but just how much worse is it for one idiotic, racist, loud-mouthed white guy to call women "nappy-headed ho's" than hundreds of black guys to call them something-something bitches? I ask because I'm genuinely curious. And just to be clear, I do in fact understand the linguistic, postmodern power that comes from oppressed people reclaiming language formerly used to disparage them. It's just that black male culture has a serious, dangerous problem of demeaning women. Is white racism a bigger problem? Damn straight. It'd just be nice if somebody in this world were semi-consistent in their outrage.

The problem with Imus is that, last I checked, he's a shock jock. He was paid to be outrageous. That's why people listen. It's expected. To earn that mantle, Imus has undoubtedly said many worse things over the course of his 40-year career.

So forgive me for not grabbing my torch and joining the pitchfork-waving mob on this one. When this kind of groupthink happens on such a massive scale, I get nervous and more than a little suspicious. The Don Imus takedown is the kind of takedown that happens when people have been sharpening their knives in wait for a long, long time. Maybe Imus asked the wrong politico the wrong question at the wrong time and it was decided to put him on The List. Or maybe it's because he has that unsettling, frozen zombie face that seems like it'd be incapable of showing emotion at his own mother's funeral.

While I find it hard to garner much genuine sympathy for a guy who can dab his tears with $1,000 bills, there's a larger, more concerning trend at play here: namely that the range of what's considered acceptable discourse seems to be narrowing rapidly. Step out of line on the left like Don Imus, and a crowd of spectators will quickly gather to clamor for the execution of your career. Step out of line on the right (say by criticizing the latest back-of-the-napkin war plan from the Worst President Ever) and you're "aiding the terrorists." What's left to talk about in the middle? "American Idol" and low-fat recipes? Fuck that. It's boring. Furthermore, what the pundits don't seem to realize (or Christ, maybe some of them do) is that it actually undermines the cause to make Don Imus the poster boy for white racism in America. It's like making Oscar the Grouch the poster boy for homelessness.

Is Don Imus a crank? Yes. But guess what? We need our cranks. And when push comes to shove, us cranks gotta stick together.


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I Must Object to Your Defense of Imus

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Fact is, Imus didn't say anything worse than the lyrics of any given rap song. I realize that as a Clueless White Guy I'm not supposed to point that out, but just how much worse is it for one idiotic, racist, loud-mouthed white guy to call women "nappy-headed ho's" than hundreds of black guys to call them something-something bitches? I ask because I'm genuinely curious. And just to be clear, I do in fact understand the linguistic, postmodern power that comes from oppressed people reclaiming language formerly used to disparage them. It's just that black male culture has a serious, dangerous problem of demeaning women. Is white racism a bigger problem? Damn straight. It'd just be nice if somebody in this world were semi-consistent in their outrage.

Dear Mr. Clueless White Guy (aka Mr. Cranky):

If you want to defend Imus because he's a fellow crank, that's fine, but I take strong offense at you using the fact that black males use sexist language to justify Imus' right to use similar sexist language.

Yes, rappers have misogynistic lyrics. Contrary to popular "mainstream" belief, there is dissension within the African-American community about these types of lyrics in rap music. But I guess that dissension doesn't get heard by other racial groups because the rap dissenters don't have mics. Also, you shouldn't assume that rappers are only using this language to describe black women because, trust me, they're not.

Anyway, my point is that just because some black male rappers use derogatory language in lyrics DOES NOT give permission to some crypt-keeper old white man to do the same thing. Yes, it's much worse. This may get your hackles up, but we know the reason why these black males use that language. It's complicated psychology that has its mental and emotional roots based in black slavery. But I won't go there right now because it will take too long. Let's just say the answer to your (rhetorical?) question is "It's a black thing. You wouldn't understand."

Signed,

Offended Black Woman who's NOT a Nappy-Headed Ho

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