It appears that Don Imus, the reptilian radio personality, will get off with a slap on the hand following his latest remarks.
During a recent broadcast, Imus referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team – mostly African-American women – as “nappy-headed hos.” He has since apologized for the comments, made on his April 4 broadcast. CBS radio and MSNBC have also suspended his program for two weeks. (UPDATE: Imus has now lost some sponsors, as well.)
It seems to this observer that Imus is getting off with very light punishment indeed. It is difficult for me as a White man to express or even understand the level of insult that Imus’ remark represented. The best that I can say is that it encapsulizes nearly 400 years of degradation and oppression that African-American women have suffered on this continent.
The United States of America is a wonderfully diverse place. “E Pluribus Unum” – out of many, one – is a statement of the strength of America. The strength of this societal fabric is not limitless, however. We only need to look at places like the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, and Rwanda to see how easily torn that fabric is. We cannot tolerate language from a professional communicator that so demeans a group of citizens as Imus’ remarks did.
Imus deserves much more than a two week suspension – he truly deserves a career death penalty. The only reasons for his career not to end would be if he shows genuine repentance – working to heal the hurt caused by his words – or if by shining the light of scrutiny on Imus’ repellent sentiments, we prevent them from spreading and growing.