It’s been in the news all week and it’s hardly a surprise but America can no longer listen to Don Imus refer to the Rutgers womens’ basketball team as “nappy headed hos.” I’ve only listened to quick snatches of his show as I can’t listen to him for long and I for one will not miss him.
But he raises an interesting issue on the state of racism in this country. First, let’s put to bed forever the “I am not a racist” plea. If he weren’t a racist at some level it never would have occurred to him to use that phrase. This dismissive characterization of the women on the team really does show that Imus thinks of all black women that way. But on a deeper and more disturbing level, Imus has been popular because he’s been a voice for the racism in the country. Like Trent Lott and countless others before him, Imus has been able to get away with statements like this because nobody else was listening. If his words had been directed at a more general audience he’d still have his show. By personalizing this in narrowing his attack to the Rutgers womens’ basketball team Imus crossed a line. Suddenly the “nappy headed hos” weren’t all black women, it was Coach Stringer and her players: Katie Adams, Matee Ajavon, Essence Carson, Dee Dee Jernigan, Rashidat Junaid, Myia McCurdy, Epiphanny Prince, Judith Brittany Ray, Kia Vaughn, and Heather Zurich.
The true mark of progress in this country won’t be when people like Don Imus are fired because of the outcry, it will be when people like Don Imus aren’t on the air because nobody is listening to him.