Comedianand radio talkshowhost DonImus, who hadbeen talking tonearly half a million people in New York every morningsince 1979 through his radio show “Imus in the Morning,”received severe criticism last week after he made commentson the air about the Rutgers University Women’sbasketball team, calling them “nappy-headed ho’s.”
CBS, along with MSNBC the day before, officiallycancelled Imus’ show, meaning that he will no longer beseen on TV or heard on the radio.”In our meetings with concerned groups, there hasbeen much discussion of the effect language like this hason our young people, particularly women of color tryingto make their way in this society,” CBS chief executiveLeslie Moonves told The New York Times last Thursday.
Imus, who apologized several times for his mistake,admitted having gone “too far.” He was evenly sitting onthe other side of the table a few days after the incidentwhen Rev. Al Sharpton asked for him to take part in hissyndicated radio show. Sharpton, who was upset andexpressed his wishes to see Imus fired immediately, askedhim during his show, “Do you repent once a decade?”
Imus answered, “What makes a difference, a crucial differenceis, what was my intent?”Imus said that he intended to be funny and that hesimply wanted to make a joke, which failed miserably.
How do you make a joke by calling a women’s basketballteam comprised mostly of black women “ho’s” and thenexpect laughs? In fact, there is a crucial differencebetween a joke and an insult.
Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer, whose team was givena chance to speak in a press conference to express its outrage,said last Thursday that the team is accepting Imus’apologies and was “in the process of forgiving.” The teamdemonstrated to be more mature than Imus during theconference, where the players vented their anger withoutinsults. They expressed it by means of an intelligent attitudethat proved their moral superiority in the matter.
There is a question that must be lingering inside theheads of countless Imus fans: what was he thinking? Theissue of racism in this country is a delicate one. Whywould Imus, who knows by now that what he says isheard by a diverse New York audience, want to jeopardizehis career like this?
Well, the past provides us with a bit of an explanationfor Imus’ actions, a past in which he could not refrainfrom making other demeaning comments. He called formerSecretary of State Colin Powell a “sniffling weasel;”New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson a “fat sissy;”Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, anAmerican Indian, “the guy from ‘F Troop;'” and finally,the New York Knicks “a group of chest-thumping pimps.”
There are no doubts then that Imus had simply toldone too many “jokes.” His firing comes as a responseagainst racial stereotyping. MSNBC and CBS did theright thing. Although Imus has been talking to generationsof Americans, by firing him, MSNBC and CBS show thatthey care and know that this kind of behavior is not acceptable anymore.