Saturday, April 14, 2007

I'm In, Imus, I'm Out

"Nappy headed ho." Such cute syllables, almost singsong baby talk until you look at their history, their meaning, their meanness. Combined with the context, the timing, the reality... almost the perfect storm.

Why? What made that comment seem necessary, apropos or amusing to anyone at any time? I'm not a fan of being politically correct, but whoa. A true journalist wouldn't think of saying something so inept and inaccurate. A shock jock would have chosen an easier victim. So in this case, did stupidity rule? Ignorance is bliss until youtube gets ahold of you.

It's a mixed blessing - at least this issue came out so it can be discussed. The sad side is that this type of commentary is a daily occurence in many lives. And even more think it without voicing it.

After the initial shock, I started to notice that so many called this a racist issue. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were right on it. NAACP squawked immediately. But few mentioned the sexism. Feminist groups chimed in, but I wish they had the anger and fierceness of Al et al. If they did they'd risk being considered nasty overly aggressive bulldogs. The irony of feminism is that to appeal to potential converts, you must often walk a dainty line yet carry a fierce schtick. Remember Mel Gibson's alcohol-induced honesty? His anti-Semitic comments grossly outpaced the weight of 'sugartits.'

Does it matter what you noticed first? Yes and no. Does it make you think? Hopefully. The most interesting part of this issue is our own reactions. It's like a Chinese menu and shows us more about our culture, or lack thereof.

Imus was wrong because:

  • the Rutgers team doesn't have 'nappy' hair
  • he said mean things that hurt people
  • he said things that he should have only thought
  • he can't say 'nappy' because he's not black
  • he's not funny enough to get away with slurs like that
  • he's ugly and stupid

Leave Imus alone because:

  • he holds fundraisers for charities
  • he lets Democrats talk, and old white Republican fence-sitters listen
  • he's just saying what people wanna say but can't
  • he's a harmless old fool
  • he's ugly and stupid

Imus is Robin Hood, Everyman, and a sad, ignorant ass all rolled into one. Sixty years ago, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Amazingly, that barrier, and many more, are still here. But why even categorize the comments and barriers at all? When do we get to be simply shocked that someone called someone else such a nasty name? When do color, sex, religion cease to matter?

So many insults, so little crime. After the dust settled, Imus was asked what he had learned. "I've learned that there are some people you can't make fun of." What a crappy-headed schmoe.


Anonymous said...

One thing I found surprising about this whole thing (I've heard of Imus but had never heard/watched his show) was that he had said a lot of racially mean stuff before. Why was this one the straw that broke the camel's back? Why wasn't he slapped down for this before?

I also am confused about why "nappy hair" is an insult. OK, so I'm white; maybe I just don't get it, but I have curly hair myself and love it (OK, it takes some extra work and has a mind of its own, but it's pretty). Are people ashamed of having very very curly hair? Or is it one of those words where it doesn't matter where it came from or what it originally meant - now it's just an insult?

Kristina L.

Annie said...

Kristina - Imus has never been one to watch what he says, for better or worse. People have cut him slack because he does a lot of good charity work. And I'm guessing his other comments didn't get the press that this did.
Plus, of all the people to pick on, the Rutgers women's basketball team is collectively eloquent, serene and classy. Direct contrast to the befuddled ol' Imus. In fact, if anyone's hair could be considered 'nappy', it's his.
"Nappy" has historical derogatory connotations. It was supposedly proof that blacks were inferior to whites. So it carries nasty implications and smacks of white supremacy.
I had to bring this idea home to my own son. He didn't get why Martin Luther King Day was such a big deal. "Suppose," I said,"that in our family, only brown-eyed people could eat in the kitchen. Blue-eyed people (he's the only one with blue eyes) had to eat in another room. And they couldn't use this bathroom - they had to use the one down the hall."
His eyes teared up and I gave him a hug.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Good way to explain it to your son.

In my immediate family, the females have hazel eyes and the males have blue eyes. When my little sister was very little, she thought that was how it always was.