Monday, April 9, 2007

An Accident Waiting to Happen

It isn't too much to expect that a two-week hiatus will make it clear if Imus, in his wisdom, should continue to fight to keep his job.

Don Imus has been suspended for two weeks starting next Monday for referring to the Rutger's women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." The suspension will take his MSNBC morning drive time simulcast off cable, and CBS -- which owns the New York City station where Imus' radio show originates as well as the company which syndicates him -- will also keep him off the air for that period.

Imus has engaged in crude humor with a cast that does terrible and insulting impersonations of public figures for many years. Everyone puts up with it; his program is also flypaper to big-name politicians and a regular staging area for NBC journalists talking up their own projects so it has anchored itself firmly in the mainstream rather than the fringe.

The Rutgers' team are not public figures, and did nothing to even merit his attentions. It is the randomness of the comments, as well as the stinging stereotypes they conjure, that shocked pretty much everyone.

It was really just a matter of time that something Imus said would be considered going to far, and it isn't surprising that a racial remark has stoked a chorus of calls for his resignation or ouster. There is no place in the public discourse for the kind of language Imus used, and it's no excuse that others routinely mock themselves (and make money in the the process) with similar language.

Is Imus a racist? Nobody but Imus knows. But it isn't too much to expect that a two-week hiatus will make it clear to Imus, if in his wisdom, he should continue to fight to keep his job.

The world won't end if Imus retires, and that might be the only way for him to gracefully walk the walk and continue to do the good things he does in the sunlight.

1 comment:

Bob said...

The tricky thing about trying to conduct an ethical life is the way truths can be so contradictory and unruly, and how sometimes the attempt to make them simple, clear, make them stand still for a second so we can see them, actually clouds the truth by robbing us of context, or rather, many contexts. In the Imus case, there are many contexts. The most important of these is the one faced by the wonderful Rutgers lady basketball squad, their parents, fans and friends. Their tremendous achievement has been tarnished and made into a bad joke. Mr. Imus must surely know this now, and must sense a deep, serious responsibility of atonement in this regard, made all the more difficult by the fact that complete reparation for what these young women have lost is now beyond his power to grant. In this world of complicated truths, I abhor witch hunts and public hangings, and the oddly American habit of stripping people of their jobs, careers, livelihoods and voting franchises. One abhors Mr. Imus' classless, presumptuous, sexist and racist remark; yet, one is confounded by the stream of anti-black female invective, humiliation, degradation, and verbal rape promoted hourly, institutionally by mostly black, rap "artists" and their record labels [including some of the same companies for whom Don Imus works]. One is confused by the outrage and vicious backlash an African-American artist like Bill Cosby gets from other African-Americans when he "calls out" rap artists and their fans for the degenerate, hopeless, sexist, racist words, situations, impulses, and lifestyles they rhapsodize in their performances. The radio airwaves are filled with political, religious, racial, national and personal invective in this degraded culture of ours. It is endless, it seems. It demeans us all. How did this happen? Was it forced on us, or did we invite it? Is this free speech? Is this capitalism? Just a darn good business? And what is the solution? Do we fire Imus, while applauding the next "gansta" performance our high school age kids listen to in their rooms? If we push Imus aside, is that the first step in the right direction, or the last? Is that simply permission to get back to baseline? Don't we know it's hard out here for a jock?