Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don Imus is Not the Problem

Eight months after the controversy that made Don Imus a national lightning rod for accusations of being a racist, the radio personality has returned to the air.

Imus, according to news reports, was contrite and spoke of his error as "reprehensible" in using a racist and sexist slur in referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos." Back in April when he made his thoughtless comments, Imus met with the female athletes for four hours. He vowed after that encounter to "never say anything in my life that will make those young woman . . . feel foolish that they forgave me." Despite his contriteness, Imus' comments led to his quick dismissal after just one week.

Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters for America, said to the Washington Post of Imus, "Don Imus has an opportunity to show the American people that he has learned from his experience -- that the bigoted insults he once leveled on a regular basis have no place on the public's airwaves." Assuming Imus makes regular ethnic slurs on the airwaves, he cannot be excused.

I do not excuse Imus' irresponsible comments made eight months ago. Philip Nobile, a freelance moralist, noted that "Imus needs to apologize for a lifetime of bigotry." Yes, Imus has an issue. A serious issue.

But he is not the issue.

The real and deeper issue is the consistent usage of these racist comments by African American rap singers.

When the Imus storm broke, Oprah invited to her show the Rutgers Women Basketball team plus several music industry moguls and a "clean" rap star. The take away from the show was a promise made by the music industry crowd to host meetings to discuss the usage of offensive language in rap songs.

On a recent Hannity and Colmes show, Sean Hannity asks some of his guests whether any rap stars were fired in the past eight months because of racially offensive language in their songs. The guests evaded any answer.

So what we do conclude from this white/black interchange of racial comments? Are African American rap singers held to a lower standard of intolerance than whites? Listen to the lyrics of the rap star 50 Cent in his song ,"That Ain't Gangsta" (please excuse the repeated references to the "N" word):

How you gonna take this? like a Man or a bitch?
you gon' get it on nigga or you gon' snitch?
I represent niggas in the hood gettin' rich
man, I stack chips and I unload clips
after 3 Summers in the joint I thought life was hard
some niggas started fightin', some niggas found God
you know me, started sellin' leek in the yard

Offensive enough? He makes Don Imus look like a pussycat. Why is 50 Cent allowed to use the "N" word? Just because he's black? That doesn't matter. It's a racist ugly term whether it comes from the mouth of an African American or a Caucasian. Unfortunately, the term has become commonplace among blacks and used as a greeting. I grew up in Newark, NJ in the sixties. Unfortunately, I speak as an eyewitnesss.

As a Jew I would be highly offended if a fellow Jewish person said hello to me using the "K" word or any other antisemitic term. I have a lot of Italian friends and the only time I have ever heard an ugly word used to describedanother Italian is when they are angry at that person or the other individual did something despicable. I've never heard an Italian refer to another Italian using a racial slur in a commonplace manner.

The problem is not Don Imus. The problem is a lack of respect among African Americans in how they speak to one another and how the rap artists sing to each other.

I could never imagine Martin Luther King referring to his staff using the "N" word. Listen to the speeches of Bill Cosby asking blacks to stop using the "N" word.

The only thing wrong about Imus' comment is that it came out of a white mouth. If he was Black, that would not have been a problem . . . so it appears.

How do I know? Listen to the lyrics of Soulja Body in their recent 2007 song Crank That Soulja Boy:
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Crank It
Watch Me Roll
Watch Me Crank Dat Soulja Boy
Then Super Man Dat Hoe
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)

Do you see the "H" word? Isn't this word a put down on African American women, calling them "hos"? Why does Soulja Boy get a free pass referring to Black women with a term that got a white man fired from his job? Something is wrong with this picture. . . terribly wrong. I call it "injustice."

Meetings among music industry gangsta rap executives will not change a thing. As bold as WABC was in firing Imus, there needs to be more courageous firings in the music media.

Martin Luther King use to warn of the ideology of gradualism, the idea that eventually and gradually using meetings and speeches, civil rights for Blacks with eventually change. Dr. King rejected that idea and called for immediate action. When I hear African American record executives speak of dealing with racially offensive language in rap songs by having meetings, it's gradualism all over again.

Want to make gradualism go away? Stop buying rap artist's CDs until something changes. I am speaking to white suburban types who purchase this music. I am speaking to the African American community and their need to rise up with the likes of Bill Cosby and say, "Enough is enough. Clean it up. No more "N" words in your music. Stop accusing whites like Don Imus for using racial slurs while you use them yourself." It's an issue of self-respect and the Black community has accomplished quite a lot to be proud of and has produced some incredible leaders and intellects to create a deep sense of pride.

As a white man . . . a Jewish white man . . I say "Stamp out the 'N' word from Rap music." The time is now.

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