Don Imus

One little controversy that blew up recently while I was out of town was Don Imus's offensive racial comments about the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team.

Those who call for Imus to be silenced have got the First Amendment all wrong. We're allowed to say offensive things. Even racist things. Now we're going to "punish" people for saying the wrong thing? "You can apologize, but what does that mean when you have a history of making disparaging remarks about people?" [National Association of Black Journalists officer and Boston Globe Assistant Sports Editor Gregory] Lee asked about the acid-tongued Imus. "This kind of behavior must be punished. I hope the company and sponsors he has take some sort of action ... to educate him." And that from a journalist.

Actually, the 'marketplace of ideas' treated the comments appropriately. They were rejected, and Imus lost his job. If someone thinks his future comments are worthy of consideration for financial or other reasons, they can put him on the air. Then he can express his thoughts, regardless of whether we like them or not.

I think the best I have read about the whole affair come from two black journalists, here and here. These are powerful words:

I'm not sure if the last few days will serve as a watershed moment for this MTV, middle-finger, screw-you generation. Probably not, according to my hunch. A short time from now, the hysteria will turn to vapor, folks will settle back into their routines, somebody will pump up the volume on the latest poison produced by hip-hop while Al Sharpton and the other racial ambulance chasers will find other guilt-ridden white folks to shake for fame and cash. In five minutes, the entire episode of Imus and his strange idea of humor will be older than his hairstyle. Lessons learned will be lessons forgotten.

I wish I were wrong about that last part. But I doubt it, because any minute now, black people will resume calling themselves bitches and hos and the N-word and in the ultimate sign of hypocrisy, neither Rutgers nor anyone else will call a news conference about that.

Because when we really get to the root of the problem, this isn't about Imus. This is about a culture we -- meaning black folks -- created and condoned and packaged for white power brokers to sell and shock jocks like Imus to exploit. Can we talk?

Tell me: Where did an old white guy like Imus learn the word "ho"?

Was that always part of his vocabulary? Or did he borrow it from Jay-Z and Dave Chappelle and Snoop Dogg?

What really disappointed me about that exhausting Rutgers news conference, which was slyly used as a recruiting pitch by Stringer, was the absence of the truth and the lack of backbone and courage. Black women had the perfect opportunity to lash out at their most dangerous oppressors -- black men -- and yet they kept the focus on a white guy.

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