There has been an issue in the news over the past couple of days that has really bothered me.
Consider, for a moment, the following quote:
"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."
Now, what does it sound like this person is talking about? To me, it sounds like some media outlet has repeatedly and purposefully stepped outside the boundaries of decency and political correctness when it comes to race, and perhaps to gender. If this was the case, that quote would make complete sense. However, that is unfortunately not the case. It is actually something CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves said regarding the following comments aired on Don Imus's morning television show and radio simulcast, Imus in the Morning:
"That's some rough girls from Rutgers, man, they got tattoos, and, some hardcore hos. That's some nappy headed hos right there, I'mma tell you that right now."
No, seriously. I kid you not. That is the media scandal of the week, and, potentially, the month.
He was talking about the Rutgers women's basketball team, in a segment about their championship loss last week to Tennessee. Now, this team happens to be mostly African American women, so right away Imus's offhand remark that the team looked like "nappy headed hos" got tossed into the mosh pit of racial relations in America.
Over a week's time after being aired, these comments slowly stirred increasing amounts of anger from civil rights groups. Civil rights leaders and proponents from Al Sharpton, to Jesse Jackson, to Barack Obama, to Oprah Winfrey, began to call for Don Imus to be fired. They got their wish. First, MSNBC and CBS, the two companies which aired his program, gave him a one-week suspension. Now they've completely removed him from the air, indefinitely.
Now, there are a few incredibly ironic things about this whole situation.
Firstly, in growing publicly angry about these offhand remarks, these people have gained the comments nationwide noteriety. While a week ago, the only people who knew about these comments were the faithful viewers of Imus in the Morning, now everyone in the country knows about them. Everyone in the country has been exposed to this supposedly horrible racial slur, "nappy headed hos." They have taken something they violently disagree with, and they have given it exposure. They're worried about "the effect language like this has on our young people," but in combatting it they have exposed "our young people" to it.
Secondly, the comment itself. It's not even stereotyping. He didn't say "All African American women are nappy headed hos." In fact, he went on to say that the Tennessee team - which has just as high a percentage of African American women as the Rutgers team - "all look cute." In using the phrase "nappy headed hos," Imus was referring to the Rutgers team, and only to the Rutgers team. He wasn't sending a cruel, hateful message to African Americans or African American women. He didn't use any blatantly racist terminology. All he did was call one small group of people "nappy headed hos." While this may be somewhat tasteless and mildly offensive, it is not grounds for firing.
Thirdly, let's take a look at Don Imus himself. Sure, he has a reputation as a "shock jock" of sorts, and he's said some pretty risky things in the past. But there's another side to him. Since 1990, his Radiothons have raised over $40 million for children with diseases like cancer. And he's quite profitable, as well. He makes CBS $15 million a year, for example. Does he sound like a horrible guy? I think not. The news of his firing came down in the middle of his most recent Radiothon, at the beginning of which he quipped, "This may be our last Radiothon, so we need to raise about $100 million." He really cares about the charitable causes he raises money for. Taking him off the air will not only cost the companies which chose to do so, but it could also potentially cost these foundations millions of dollars. Is the pride of one basketball team really worth that?
The greatest lesson we as a people can learn from this media scandal of the month is that we've grown too sensitive to political correctness. When the media can be brought to a screeching halt by one morning host calling a basketball team "nappy headed hos," there are some clear priority issues in America. Why should we force our broadcasters, who spend nearly insane amounts of time gathering and presenting the news to us, to constantly watch their mouths in fear of even a minorly offensive remark? Sure, there are things that should not be said on news programs, but I'd hardly say "nappy headed hos" qualifies there.
The final message I'll leave you with is this: That cracker Imus may have said something somewhat indecent, but I highly doubt those nappy heads have lost sleep over it.