I used to listen to Don Imus during my morning runs. He had interesting interviews with people who didn't often give interviews: Imus regulars included Chris Matthews (photo above, during one of his many appearances), Tim Russert, Dan Rather, John McCain, Pat O'Brien, Laura Ingraham, Chris Dodd, Brian Williams, Mike Huckabee, and the like. Republicans were rare, unless they were clever interviewees. But I finally stopped because I always felt like I needed to wash my hands after listening. The show was crude and cruel, or both, 50% of the time.
So I wasn't surprised at all when Imus finally blew it. But what he said about the Rutgers womens' basketball team was no worse than what he said almost daily for years before that time-- when all the above members of the news media elite seemed to be dying to be on his show. They knew very well what his show was like, but they were all regulars. So to me, the current level of outrage over vulgar and hateful remarks by a man who has run a vulgar and hateful show for years seems a little overwrought.
Here's what Jason Whitlow had to say:
In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?Makes sense. And here's Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology - at Rutgers - who comments on the history of the word "ho," the use of which to describe a group of young female college athletes was part of Imus' downfall:
I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?
When Imus does any of that, call me and I’ll get upset. Until then, he is what he is — a washed-up shock jock who is very easy to ignore when you’re not looking to be made a victim.
Perhaps because I was raised in Victorian Canada, I have always found the casual use of the H word perplexing, offensive and violent. Whatever its etymological derivation, the fact is that it's understood to be shorthand for "whore." The term appears to have achieved currency and seeming acceptability initially and mainly in the community of people with dark skin. Just take a look -- if your stomach is settled -- at any number of MTV video spectacles of Rapper Princes surrounded by wholly compliant and nearly nude women grinding their lives away. But this is of course no alibi at all for any people with any pigment to describe any woman or group of women in a manner which deprives them of their sexual autonomy and paints them with the sign "commodity for purchase."Sums it up for me.
. . .
When Don Imus meets with the Rutgers women, as they agreed he can, it is doubtful he will have the bravery or stupidity to call them whores to their troubled faces. He was after all an unelected representative of a broader culture when he used That Phrase.
Nevertheless, for those of us in the Rutgers community, these are our accomplished young women, whatever their color. In their stately tearjerker news conference on Tuesday, they conducted themselves with discreet dignity and care. And to a woman they called him Mr. Imus.
Update: Here's an Imus clip that reminds of why I stopped listening. (HT: David Frum at The Corner. David's post is informative, too. I won't miss Imus.)