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Imus, I Must

With everyone in the free world weighing in on the comments made by Don Imus, who on his radio show called the players on the mostly black Rutgers University women’s basketball team, “nappy-headed ho’s”, I felt I must have my say. As a woman with my own nappy hair and the mother of two girls with those naps Imus spoke of, I wanted to take this opportunity to commend the intolerance we have witnessed over the past week. Don Imus was fired yesterday from both CBS radio and MSNBC, swept away by a tsunami size wave of intolerance over his vitriolic comments. He was fired because we showed intolerance to thinking that confuses hatred with entertainment.

I applaud the intolerance of the broadcasters who finally took a stand and said enough is enough. However, before I clap too loudly, let’s not forget that the networks didn’t hand out the most severe penalty - termination – until after sponsors pulled their advertising dollars from his program. Obviously, the main color both the networks and the advertisers were worried about wasn’t black, it was green – the green of the money they would lose from customers who would refuse to support companies who stood behind such comments.

I listened to Imus as a kid, twenty-fivesome years ago and I remember even then thinking that what he was saying was vaguely “naughty”, something I could only listen to when I knew my parents weren’t around. I enjoyed that, enjoyed being bad by listening to him, laughing. He said things that others might have thought, but never articulated out loud. But as I grew older, I realized what he said wasn’t naughty, it was just plain wrong. His stories and comments were racist, sexist, and homophobic. They were arrogant and ignorant. Yes, this is America and you are free to say what you want, that’s the beauty of free speech. But free speech has a price. Just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean you won’t suffer the consequences of what you’ve said. So, do I shed a tear for Don Imus? Hell, no.

I’m thrilled at the way women and men of all colors responded to his comments. It was as if what he said was just the final proverbial straw in a long and seemingly endless history of bigotry being considered acceptable in our society. Not just from Don Imus or Mel Gibson or Michael Richards or…I don’t have enough space to list them all, but you get the point.

A friend of mine, Rosanne, called me on Tuesday, the day after the thirteenth anniversary of my mother’s death from breast cancer. Rosanne, who is white, related a very touching story about a conversation she had with my mom about race. Rosanne told me that my mother said to her wearily, “I don’t mind fighting the fight (against racism), I just thought that at some point I’d be able to move on to a different battle.” Maybe the way all people responded to the Imus comments is an indicator that finally, we are starting to move on to that next battle. Perhaps now we are beginning to realize that by preserving and protecting basic human dignity by respecting each other, we can finally move on to dealing with other crucial issues affecting our country and our world.

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