Imus: A Word or Two And Not Much Else

My first thought.  Why is Don Imus apologizing?  He has done this before.  He has done worse before.  His popularity is predicated on doing such things.  He is a multi-millionaire.  He has three homes and lives comfortably.  Could he possibly be “sorry” about saying something that is crass and politically incorrect and socially unacceptable when that is the very basis by which he makes direct deposits?  Is that actually possible?

In my world, it’s not possible.  Imus’ job is to elevate the self-esteem of his target audience by attacking the identity, ideology and being (humanity) of all others.  He does this better than most and is paid accordingly.  So, an apology for doing precisely that which drives his compensation, his raison d’etre is practically absurd.  By apologizing, he recognizes (at least in part), the humanity of that “offended other” and by apologizing, he DESTROYS his PACT with his AUDIENCE.

Simply put, “What sort of REAL WHITE MALE SHOCK JOCK apologizes?”  Do you mean that he’s afraid of losing his job?  Not likely.  Doesn’t need the work.  Perhaps he needs the audience…maybe.  A psychoanalyst might say that his audience serves as a substitute for his ever-present addiction to cocaine and alcohol and that their mutual connection around white supremacism, sexism and homophobia have insulated them from authentically feeling the insecurity of their loss of station in the world.

Perhaps.  It’s a thought.

I mean, how degrading must it be for all the fans of Don Imus to see their hero on Al Sharpton’s show apologizing for going over the line?  Indeed, this is a dark day!

This from the Associated Press, via ESPN:

NEW YORK — Don Imus had a hot seat on the other side of the microphone Monday, appearing on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show and enduring more criticism for his offensive comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Imus issued another apology for referring to members of the team as “nappy-headed hos.” Sharpton called the comments “abominable” and “racist” and repeated his demand that Imus be fired.

“Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far,” Imus said on “The Al Sharpton Show.”

Earlier Monday, on his own radio show, Imus called himself “a good person” who made a bad mistake. [Sounds like Michael Richards.]

“Here’s what I’ve learned: that you can’t make fun of everybody, because some people don’t deserve it,” he said on his show, which is nationally syndicated to millions of listeners. “And because the climate on this program has been what it’s been for 30 years doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that.”  [That’s a helluva thing to say…sounds like George Wallace.]

He pointed to his involvement with the Imus Ranch, a working cattle ranch for children with cancer and blood disorders in New Mexico. Ten percent of the children who come to the ranch are black, he said.

“I’m not a white man who doesn’t know any African-Americans,” he said.  [Sounds like somebody we all know.  If you’re asking who “we” are, you’ve probably said this.]

Imus said he hoped to meet the Rutgers players and their parents and coaches, and that he was grateful for the appearance on Sharpton’s nationally syndicated show.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m not looking for it to be easy,” Imus said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and about 50 people marched Monday outside Chicago’s NBC tower to protest Imus’ comments, and an NAACP official called for the broadcaster’s ouster.

Imus made the now infamous remark during his show Wednesday.

The Rutgers team, which includes eight black women, had lost the day before in the NCAA women’s championship game. Imus was speaking with producer Bernard McGuirk about the game when the exchange began on “Imus in the Morning.” The show is broadcast on more than 70 stations and MSNBC, which is owned by General Electric Co.’s NBC cable unit

“That’s some rough girls from Rutgers,” Imus said. “Man, they got tattoos … .”

“Some hardcore hos,” McGuirk said.

“That’s some nappy-headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that,” Imus said.

Imus apologized on the air Friday, but his mea culpa has not quieted the uproar.

James E. Harris, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, demanded Sunday that Imus “resign or be terminated immediately.”

Allison Gollust, a spokeswoman for MSNBC, said the network considers Imus’ comments “deplorable” and was reviewing the matter.

Karen Mateo, a spokeswoman for CBS Radio — Imus’ employer and the owner of his New York radio home, WFAN-AM — said the company was “disappointed” in Imus’ actions and characterized his comments as “completely inappropriate.”

What’s left?

Certainly an apology will not suffice.  After all, there isn’t a society in the world where punishment for transgressions are nullified by apologies.  Parents don’t even do that with children.  The transgression has already occurred.  So, the sanction must also be handed down.  The apology enters the realm of public discourse – as does the transgression and the sanction.  All three will share space.  In some instances, there is a response from the aggrieved party which also shares the stage.

At this point in Don Imus’ career, a firing is the least that he could reasonably expect.

This transgression is not equivalent to firing hoses at young black girls as Bull Connor did.  It’s not equivalent to bombing a church with young black girls inside.  It’s not even equivalent to barring young black women from an education as George Wallace did.  No, it isn’t any of those things – but it’s a slippery slope along a continuum of contempt.  And, by his own admission, Mr. Imus has been sliding down this path for three decades.  Now might be a great time for him to retire to his ranch and seek the counsel of some of those “African-Americans” he knows.  Though, a word of caution here, if they’ve been unable to advise and influence his behavior thus far, he is perhaps better off ignoring them as well.

Nor is this reaction about men of the cloth like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.  If you are the dim-witted white person about to place “blame” for “blowing this out of proportion” on those two, contemplate that the  National Association of Black Journalists called for Imus’ ouster before either Reverend was “engaged.”  Further, if you are that dumb ass, consider that very few Black folk need a preacher to tell them when they’ve been insulted.  If you are that dumb ass, and doubt the veracity of this claim, go out and try it yourself.  Any black person will do just fine for Exhibit A.  Just run right up and call them a “Nappy-headed ho.”  There will be a moment of extreme surprise, but there will be no pause to look or listen for a preacher.  After the shock wears off, you can expect to get your ass kicked with some severity.  Trust.  If you’re not that dumb ass with the “out of proportion” line, skip to the next paragraph or blog, if you prefer.

 There can be no doubt that the arid air and pace of desert life will be more forgiving than the families, friends and coalition of the offended of those young black women who were callously disparaged for the sake of a laugh.

8 comments

  1. The past years everytime I saw Al Sharpton I turn him off. I will never forget the Tawana Brawley affair and Mr. Sharpton’s involvment. I feel that I should have the same opportunity with Mr. Imus. If you don’t want to watch him turn him off, but give us the chance to make the decision. No need to punish him. He has done so much good let him continue.

  2. It’s a thought.

    I doubt that you read the post since you made this about Sharpton. Not surprising.

    Imus has reportedly done a number of great things for many people. The questions before you and the question me are entirely different however. I believe my post already addresses the question before you – and perhaps you’d like to propose an acceptable sanction. Perhaps you believe nothing should be said – and that this should merely pass. The question before me is, “How should Black people in the United States and in other societies deal with ritual assaults on their humanity?”

    I also doubt that you see the situation as such, but I can also assume we’ve seen many different things in our many days. If I’m off base, I welcome your correction.

    You could be correct that nothing need be said about this. Perhaps it should be ignored. Perhaps it should be forgotten. Perhaps folks like Tom Brokaw and others should continue as if its business as usual…maybe it was just a joke…maybe comics have said much, much worse with impunity. That could all be true – but there is a reason why the NABJ and others have found this particular incident so objectionable – and it’s not because it’s a mistake. It’s part of a continuum and if you’ve heard his show for years, you know that to be the case.

  3. In my world, it’s not possible. Imus’ job is to elevate the self-esteem of his target audience by attacking the identity, ideology and being (humanity) of all others. He does this better than most and is paid accordingly.

    I’m assuming that you listen to Imus and that your critique is therefore fully informed? I mean, it’s not as if he’s never been fully self-effacing as regards the totality of all his own personal failings, now is it?

    The only people that were pricked by Imus’ comments were those people for whom identity is a pretty fragile garment. Out here in the Tuskeegee sector, we know the difference between a heartfelt hate cut and somebody getting caught up in some puerile shit talk.

    Frankly, I believe all y’all know the difference too….,

  4. Don’t make that assumption c. I live in New York and have inadvertently caught bits and pieces of his show for over 20 years. It’s always been the same – the mythic black voice speaking some form of slang minus the coherence and rules that frame the language (white folks don’t typically know the rules – and often sound as someone would who doesn’t know the rules: think “I ain’t be got no weapon” – Hollywood Shuffle).

    It’s always pimp this, ho that, etc. – and these are simply snippets of conversation picked up over decades…sometimes (and this would have been before 2000) I might see an interesting guest on TV (simulcast) and watch for a minute – and then it was back to the same old shit.

    For me, it’s not a question of fragile identity, but a question of does this person and their work contribute more than the obvious racism of his delivery? Don Imus is not Arnold Toynbee or some other person who stands as a gatekeeper to an entire discipline or profession. He’s a dude I’ve ignored for three decades who routinely castigates black folk as a means to generate flow. He’s essentially a drug dealer trafficking in the dopamine-serotonin flow of anti-niggerism. He’s not the only one who traffics in this psycho-sexual release. I’m thinking Jerry Heller, Quentin Tarantino and their minions. I don’t patronize them either.

    If you’ve found some redeeming value in that, aiiight. You’re up at 5:30 much more often than I am. But with these twins on the way, I suspect I’ll join those ranks – and I have no intention of spending that time with Don.

    Taken for what it’s worth, it is significant when a national radio/tv host refers to a group of young women as “nappy headed ho’s” precisely for the reasons that pt cruiser says…this is not about linking biology to criminality or debouchery or some sordid behavior – it’s strictly about you BEING you.

    and, if he thinks he went too far, I am a bit surprised you don’t think so. I know you’re not the sensitive type – and you know I don’t roll that way either. so, there is clearly something else at work here. perhaps it’s the recent thing down in Texas…perhaps it’s the Michael Richards thing. I doubt it because I tend to look at the long arc and this sits squarely with “Darkie Toothpaste” and Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima and Cream of Wheat and your boy Vicente down Mejico way.

    When a guy has been doing essentially the same thing for 30 years, it looks an awful lot like a heartfelt hate cut. Honestly, I believe this would have happened years ago if Emmis Communications hadn’t taken over. Their commitment to this type of programming is what put them on the map – that and buying up every station on the planet…but Imus is hardly the first Emmis DJ/VJ to hit a bump in the road about this stuff. If I recall this correctly, Imus was fired from his last gig and picked up by Emmis…which was parleyed into the more lucrative national deals with MSNBC and XM, etc.

  5. From ESPN:

    Even Howard Stern of Sirius Satellite Radio, a big fan of unrestricted content, mocked Imus’ apology, according to the New York Daily News. “He’s apologizing like a guy who got his first broadcasting job,” Stern said. “He should have said, ‘[expletive] you, it’s a joke.”‘

  6. Yo boy big sessie on Imus;

    I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

    Bear in mind, my exclusive objection to the bruhaha is that we have no business engaging in collective knee-jerk reactions and we squander much too much emotional energy on issues and events rather than channeling that passion into projects and institutions. This identity fundamentalism serves a collective cathartic role, which in many regards is masturbatory, and you know that the old ladies told you that that shit will make you go blind…., identity fundamentalism HAS in fact made us go collectively blind to what’s real.

    on second thought, here’s the whole piece in case you haven’t registered with the Kansas City Star;

    Imus isn’t the real bad guy
    Instead of wasting time on irrelevant shock jock, black leaders need to be fighting a growing gangster culture.
    By JASON WHITLOCK – Columnist

    Thank you, Don Imus. You’ve given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.

    You’ve given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.

    You’ve given Vivian Stringer and Rutgers the chance to hold a nationally televised recruiting celebration expertly disguised as a news conference to respond to your poor attempt at humor.

    Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

    The bigots win again.

    While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

    I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

    It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

    Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves.

    It’s embarrassing. Dave Chappelle was offered $50 million to make racially insensitive jokes about black and white people on TV. He was hailed as a genius. Black comedians routinely crack jokes about white and black people, and we all laugh out loud.

    I’m no Don Imus apologist. He and his tiny companion Mike Lupica blasted me after I fell out with ESPN. Imus is a hack.

    But, in my view, he didn’t do anything outside the norm for shock jocks and comedians. He also offered an apology. That should’ve been the end of this whole affair. Instead, it’s only the beginning. It’s an opportunity for Stringer, Jackson and Sharpton to step on victim platforms and elevate themselves and their agenda$.

    I watched the Rutgers news conference and was ashamed.

    Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for eight minutes in 1963 at the March on Washington. At the time, black people could be lynched and denied fundamental rights with little thought. With the comments of a talk-show host most of her players had never heard of before last week serving as her excuse, Vivian Stringer rambled on for 30 minutes about the amazing season her team had.

    Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that the comments of a man with virtually no connection to the sports world ruined Rutgers’ wonderful season. Had a broadcaster with credibility and a platform in the sports world uttered the words Imus did, I could understand a level of outrage.

    But an hourlong press conference over a man who has already apologized, already been suspended and is already insignificant is just plain intellectually dishonest. This is opportunism. This is a distraction.

    In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?

    I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?

    When Imus does any of that, call me and I’ll get upset. Until then, he is what he is — a washed-up shock jock who is very easy to ignore when you’re not looking to be made a victim.

    No. We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out.

  7. Can’t disagree with that. There is no question that folks respond to these “respect” issues more than they respond to “power” issues…because it’s easier.

  8. I believe the title of my post indicates how much effort I believe should be spent on this…both of us have already gone too far here. By the way, the Sharpton-Jackson post isn’t really about this…it’s about their role in everything – and their non-role in everything. Next.

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