Now I can't get away from Mr. Imus, even when I shut my radio off. The story of Don Imus's recent racist name-calling incident and the ensuing public outrage, corporate retaliations, and his subsequent firing all came to me as a shock but not a surprise. (It's funny to me that he should take the fall on "nappy-headed hos" when he's said such--and worse--show after show, all these years.)
Democracy Now, NPR, Alternet and the like are all doing their part to bring as much societal relevance to their treatment of this event as possible. Even the New York Times is doing a better job than I would have expected by running long op-ed pieces that venture headlong into the issue with broadening and sometimes confession-tinged perspectives that come darn close to showing the entire episode as the red herring that it is.
We of color know that racism is so much more than single, or even regular episodes of name-calling. Straight up racial hate-speech is simply the acrid, spattering foam that lets us know the pot is hot, full of poison, and about to boil over. Racist comedy is more subtle and, unfortunately, all too easily commoditized, even when misappropriation abounds. (Let's face it: Chris Rock can function a a self-effacing satirist when he does negative black stereotypes. Not so Mr. Imus.)
MSNBC, NBC, and the advertisers who pulled their advertising are not enlightened heroes refusing to sanction corrosive, racial humor. Far from it. Having made lots and lots of money off of the consistently racist behavior of Mr. Imus and the show's producer of 20 years, Bernard McGuirk, they've cut and run when the denigrative act became a liability rather than the high-margin product itself.
-- Khalif Williams, IHE Executive Director