Don Imus's reckless, condescending and racially derogatory remarks are losing the spotlight to the reaction to them. One man made foul remarks about good people in a poor and unthinking attempt at street-common humor. He apologized, profusely, and repeatedly. He got fired - he wasn't hired to not think before opening his mouth. It was just. That is all there is to that story. Now the bigger story is unfolding.
Who is hurting Black Americans in America more, Black Americans or white talk show hosts? Hands down, it is Black Americans who invent the 'nappy headed ho' gutter talk and make a living off it in rap music and now a movie genre dedicated to Black Americans degrading and spoofing Black Americans. There's good money in Blacks spewing degradation at other Blacks and Whites. Ironic that it took a white man to bring this issue to the fore.
The bigger story is two fold. First, the American premise that if profit can be made, risk is acceptable. Second, racism in America is culturally pandemic. Our churches are still largely segregated. Our schools becoming segregated again. Our neighborhoods in our cities are re-segregating. Our cultural arts have been segregating for decades. America likes segregation - they just don't want it exposed. Which explains the uproar over Imus' remarks. His remarks exposed a culture tolerant of segregation and racism. For that he had to be punished.
Now the conspiracy theorists are hitting the media. Some Black writers are saying this is a precursor to infringement of 1st Amendment Rights about to come crashing down on the Black rap music industry. Some White writers are saying Rev. Al Sharpton and Sen. Barack Obama are laying the groundwork for a new race war in America. But the simple truth is, America is still struggling with class and racial bigotry that spans the length of its existence.
Will America seize this opportunity to focus on American community and neutralize class and racial differences to the point that they become irrelevant? Phrased another way, will America grow from this? Or, will this simply become another political issue to be used to divide Americans further?
Those who are familiar with the social sciences are aware of the immensely important role public leaders play overtly, and subtly, in role modeling the values and standards which millions of onlookers will emulate, adopt, and adapt to. Is it time we the people demanded more and higher standards from our public figures? That is afterall, what all this hullabaloo about Imus' remarks are really about.
Will consumers stop buying the hate and violence in video games and music as the advertisers at MSNBC and CBS stopped purchasing advertising? Will politicians stop campaigning on issues that divide America and run on solutions to problems that we all face in coming years? Will we as a people, rebuke, withhold our vote from, and withdraw our support for icons who make their living degrading and stereotyping other people?
Culture is such a wide and pervasive phenomenon. It takes more than a politician, or religious leader, or rock star, to change its fundamentals. It takes a vast majority of the society's people to willingly, and consciously, exert effort to alter its (their own) fundamental assumptions and biases. We have a wake up call, thanks to Don Imus.
But, will we delegate the effort and work to alter our racial and class bigotry to our leaders, pundits and politicians? Or will we as Americans, seize this opportunity for our own, and keep the issue alive after personal gain has come and gone for public figures. Will we continue to change ourselves as representatives of the America we want her to be?
There is much work to be done. The whole street gutter music industry needs our attention as well as movie makers. The public can censor with their wallets and there is no 1st Amendment issue at play. There are many more Imus' to deal with as well. Here are just a few examples:
Limbaugh: "The government's been taking care of [young blacks] their whole lives"
Boortz: Rep. McKinney "looks like a ghetto slut"
Boortz: Islam is a "deadly virus" and "we're going to wait far too long to develop a vaccine to find a way to fight this"
CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies' "
Carlson: "[G]rouchy feminists with mustaches" control the Democratic Party