Today on TomPaine.com I offer my take on the Don Imus controversy, as well as that of Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who writes on another critical aspect of the flap for AlterNet.
Yes, it’s well-worn ground, but there are a couple of points that I thought it was important to stress.
First, Imus’ slur against the Rutger’s womens’ basketball team wasn’t an exception to the rule. It was the rule, and it has been for years.
Second, as late as this morning, people such as Democratic operative and talking head Paul Begala was on the Imus show, and then defending his appearance on CNN minutes later. Begala considers himself a friend of Imus. Friendship aside, doesn’t the on-air appearance of peoplle such as Begala and Bostom Globe columnist Tom Oliphant—in the context of Imus’ long history—send a message that it is acceptable for people who claim credibility and respectability to wallow in these wastelands?
Third, where was the progressive blogosphere, before and in the hours immediately following Imus’ remark about the basketball players? I don’t know the answer; if you do, feel free to take a swing in the comment space. What I do know is that I saw groups in the African-American community such as the National Association of Black Journalists jump to the forefront to suggest that Imus be fired. I wish I saw more evidence that white progressive voices responded as quickly and forcefully.
Finally, a lot of people besides Imus think of themselves as “good people” as they say and do racist things. Some of them ran Southern plantations in the 1800s and made a point of treating their slaves in ways they considered humane. But the black people on their plantations were still slaves, inferior to their masters. Today, there are white people who reinforce their subconscious superiority by brandishing their associations with one or two “good Negroes” while dismissing the remainder of the race as, well, “nappy-headed [fill in the blank].”
That’s why we need to have real, frank dialogues about race—including on the topic of how some of us in the African-American community are poisoning the atmosphere—and real moves toward national racial healing. We also need to set a standard for entering the circle of respected broadcasters.