Radio "shock jock" Don Imus got what he deserved two weeks ago when he was fired from his radio and TV "gigs" by CBS Radio and MSNBC-TV for gratuitously and crudely insulting members of the over-achieving Rutgers University women's basketball team. But Imus is only the tip of the race relations iceberg that continues to damage our country so many years after our forefathers fought a Civil War to abolish slavery and treat black people like human beings.
Imus unleashed a media firestorm by referring to the Rutgers basketball players as "nappy-headed hos" (whores, for the uninitiated). Their Hall of Fame coach, C. Vivian Stringer, deplored the broadcaster's remarks as "despicable," which they were, and defended her scrappy and talented team, which finished a surprising second to Tennessee in the recent NCAA women's basketball tournament. "It's not about the players as black or nappy-headed," Stringer told the media. "It's about us as a people. When there is not equality for all, or when there has been denied equality for one, there has been denied equality for all." Well said!
Imus issued a series of apologies before he was fired by CBS Radio and MSNBC, which carried his hugely profitable "Imus in the Morning" show for many years. "What I did was make a stupid, idiotic mistake in a comedy context," Imus said before he went off the air, and he offered apparently sincere apologies on NBC's "Today" show and the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio talk show. "I'm a good person who said a bad thing," he told Sharpton and Today's Matt Lauer, but that wasn't enough for Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who demanded that Imus be fired for his racist remarks.
Just one question: Whatever happened to the Christian concepts of forgiveness and redemption?
And that's where double-standards and hypocrisy raise their ugly heads in this discussion because Jackson and Sharpton have made a lot of money over the years by trashing Jews and other white people. Many of us recall that Jackson called New York "Hymietown" and that Sharpton destroyed the life of a white district attorney by hyping false rape charges in the infamous Tawana Brawley hoax. The outspoken clergymen also savaged the mostly white Duke University men's lacrosse team last year at the outset of that school's notorious non-rape case, before any facts were known. Unfortunately, these high-profile black spokesmen usually blame white people for most of the world's ills, which fits the definition of racism as far as I'm concerned.
So who are Jackson and Sharpton to pass judgment on Imus and other alleged white racists? Yes, they've undoubtedly suffered from racial discrimination, as have far too many of our black friends, but other black leaders like Oprah Winfrey and comedian Bill Cosby have called upon their community to accept its fair share of responsibility for race relations problems in the U.S.
Cosby has denounced the "gangsta" culture along with rap and hip-hop musicians as major contributors to the deterioration of black families and the coarsening of American culture in general, along with black "comedians" who spew hate and vitriol against whites and anyone else who doesn't share their sexist and violent world view. To them, all women are "hos" and whites are the enemy. With these sick role models, is it any wonder that young people of all races and ethnicities spew such filth at each other? Just tune in one of those "gangsta" comedy shows on cable TV to learn what I'm talking about. It's totally disgusting, and what Imus said pales by comparison.
A young black journalist, AOL sports columnist Jason Whitlock, has urged Jackson and Sharpton to step down as president and vice president, respectively, of "Black America."
"Their leadership is stale. Their ideas are outdated. And they don't give a damn about us," Whitlock wrote in a scathing commentary. "Jesse and Al might win the battle with Imus (which they did) ... but we don't stand a chance in the war. Not when everybody knows 'nappy-headed hos' is a compliment compared to what we allow black rap artists to say about black women on a daily basis."
Many years ago, I was called a left-wing radical for trying to integrate my fraternity at the University of Washington in Seattle. When I urged the "brothers" to accept an outstanding African exchange student, several of them complained that their parents would disown them if a black person moved into the frat house. That's how it was in Seattle in the 1950s. Later, I roomed with a popular black officer while serving in the Air Force at Klamath Falls, Ore. And finally, a black Foreign Service buddy and I integrated several bars in Austin, Texas, about 30 years ago while organizing a Mexico-U.S. journalism seminar at the University of Texas.
I offer these examples not to argue that I'm a model citizen on race relations, because I'm not, but merely to illustrate my personal belief that good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, and even sexual preferences. We could start by refusing to stereotype one another for irrelevant reasons and abiding by the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s admonition to judge others by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.
So as we condemn Don Imus for his reprehensible and indefensible comments about black women, let's condemn all of the celebrities and entertainers who hurl racial and sexual epithets at people who are "different."
In other words, what's good for Imus would also be good for Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and those who use racist rhetoric for their own selfish reasons, usually to make money at the expense of others. Enough already!
• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.