Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus: wankeroo

Gwen Ifill, of whom I'm occasionally critical, has put it best so far:
...Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It’s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.

So here’s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.

And puhleaz, let's stop pretending like: a) this is the first, or second, or third time Imus and his producers have polluted the airwaves with this filth, or b) Imus' age or distance from the black community or off-the-cuff style assuages his remarks. In what setting or in what time was it ever okay to call a Cinderella-story collegiate women's basketball team a bunch of "nappy-haired hos"? Or to call the upper management of a major TV network a bunch of money-grubbing Jews?

So tell me again, please, on what basis should this bigot keep his job?

There's a lesson here about humor. Molly Ivins once said:
There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.

Imus first gave a half-hearted defense that it was just an idiot comment meant to be amusing, and I suspect that was the most truthful reaction we ever got out of him. I've never listened to his show, but this type of humor is ubiquitous on talk radio so it doesn't exactly surprise me to hear that Imus has a penchant for verbally beating up on women and black people. I don't quite understand the humor defense, either, the "can't you take a joke?!" retort when you say something out of line. What does that mean, that you don't actually believe what you said (or, in this case, the premises and stereotypes behind it) is true? If not, then why would it be funny? "Nappy-haired hos" wouldn't be funny in reference to the Smith College class of '95, or the Chinese women's volleyball team, let alone the Edmonton Oilers.

But in its proper context, it's funny 'cuz black women live in the ghetto and have ugly hair and are loose and say funny-sounding words like "nappy" and "ho"!

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