Don Imus did isn't unusual.
Shock jocks, national and local,
habitually make racist remarks and sexually humiliating comments about
women -- as "jokes".
I always wonder why these guys are so oblivious to minimal standards
of courtesy. Is it that they really think that only white men, like
themselves, deserve basic respect? Or, is it that making degrading
comments about people of color and women is their attempt to "put
THOSE people BACK in their place"? As a woman, I'm absolutely clear
that when men talk about women in disgusting ways, it communicates not
only hostility, but also has another message: "You think you're equal
-- but, you're still just p--sy."
Even today, some long for the old hierarchy, where white men were
privileged in every situation. Now, they have to share the field with
the rest of us.
Some point out that African-Americans use the 'N-word" and "ho" is hip
hop vernacular -- as if that gets Imus off the hook. It doesn't.
From Princeton's African-American Studies professor Cornel West's rap
album to the organization Abolish the N-Word, and a recent column in
Insight News, a Minneapolis African-American newspaper, some
Black voices question the proliferation of one of the most horrific
epithets -- racial or otherwise -- in the English language. Some
defend using that word (or younger Gay people using another old
epithet, "queer", or women casually using "bitch"), arguing that
they're "taking the power to hurt and oppress out" of such terms.
The civil rights and women's movements floundered in the 1990s
backlash and rise of the rightwing rollback. We hit brick walls of
white supremacy and masculine prerogatives. Did some take a path of
least resistance by accepting hateful words "as our own"? The pain of
that racial obscenity isn't any less when white people say it, so how
is Black people using it "empowerment"?
There are certainly some significant differences in experiences of
women of color and white women. But, when it comes to being called a
bitch or a "ho", my guts say none of us want men slurring us like
that. Beyond the beats, African-American young women and girls are
hurt in a deep place. Attacking women's sexuality remains the oldest,
deepest way to insult women. Reducing women to sexual objects publicly
available to any man -- which is what 'ho' means -- hurts all women
regardless of race.
No matter who says these ugly words, what's being reinforced is racism
Of course, no women deserve such treatment, but, that Imus attacked
accomplished young African-American women at an Ivy league college
is especially troubling. That Black hip-hop artists do the same thing
provides convenient "cover" for Imus and other white men. But, hip-hop
artists didn't create the N-word and whites used it long before rap.
The same goes for sexist slurs, once whispered and now blaring from
every corner of pop culture.
One positive result of this public furor is that musicians should
contemplate their frivolous use of a word said every time a Black
person has been lynched in this country. It's long overdue to
challenge the relentless sexual disrespect all women are subjected to
in what some have termed the "pornification" of American culture.
Forget shallow apologies. Shock jocks and their fan base should grow
up and remember a kindergarten lesson: the Golden Rule.
We The People own the airwaves, but media companies profit from
spreading ignorance while mostly excluding women and people of color
-- except as crude entertainment. Let's demand more inclusion and far
better from the media. Don Imus has regularly broadcasted bigoted
remarks. This time, several sponsors yanked advertising. The First
Amendment guarantees everyone free speech, but it doesn't guarantee
anyone a big-bucks megaphone to spew racism and sexism.
is a Minneapolis journalist, poet and activist, and producer/host of
Catalyst: Politics & Culture, which airs on Tuesdays at 11am on
KFAI Radio, 90.3fm in Mpls, 106.7fm in St. Paul