Thursday, April 12, 2007

One Lynching Isn't Enough

I’m not a white supremacist. Nor am I the sort of guy who makes it a point of saying “Hey, I used to have a good black friend,” or “I knew a Muslim guy back in the day. He was pretty cool,” or “I just loved ‘Will & Grace,’” to make myself sound tolerant when others are in earshot.

If people treat me with respect, I do my best to reciprocate. If people treat me the way they wish to be treated, I’ll generally treat them the same way…whatever their sex, skin color, religion, national origin, political opinion or sexual orientation. If I dislike someone, it’s likely because of the kind of person they are, or for that matter what they’ve done, etc. – not “what” they are.

Can Rutgers University’s women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer assure the American people that none of her players listen to hip-hop songs in which can be found the very same sort of near-“racist” derogatory language that, when casually spoken, has resulted in a crucifixion of Don Imus? She probably can't do so credibly, since even a skinny white guy like me - slim, I'm slim - sometimes listens to such songs. I've even danced to 'em. Not well, but I have.

What should be said about hip-hop radio station DJs in, say, New Jersey (because that’s where Rutgers is located) on stations like Hot97 and 105.1, who are known for making comments about whites that are, reportedly according to listeners, just as deplorable as the comments Don Imus made about blacks? Because they aren’t as famous as Imus, because they’re black, or because a majority of whites would likely not hear their comments except by accident or by hearsay, does that mean that such DJs should be able to get away with it?

Most of the people upset over what Imus said likely never heard his comments on the air. I haven’t personally heard what the aforementioned stations’ DJs have said about whites. But if others feel they have a right to be angry about what Don Imus said about a basketball team made up mostly of black athletes without hearing it themselves, then I have just as much a right to be angry about what black DJs say about whites even though the sound of their voices has never met my ears. If you tell me any different, then you’re a hypocrite.


Even Al Sharpton has been on the stations I mentioned above, and to his credit has denounced certain types of lyrics heard in hip-hop songs – but have we heard a peep from him about holding blacks just as accountable as whites? Nope.

Here’s a man who trumpeted the unfounded rape charges of Tawana Brawley almost twenty years ago – in a case eerily reminiscent of what happened to the Duke lacrosse players more recently – and has refused to apologize to those he wrongly accused. Fast forward to 2007, and Rev. Sharpton was among the loudest to demand an apology from Don Imus, and from CBS and MSNBC Imus’s ouster.

Sometimes, it might be acceptable – even necessary, for the greater good – to be hypocritical. This is not one of those cases. When one man of a certain skin color sees his career being reduced to ruins for making an absurdly stupid comment while another man who has a different skin color sees his career enhanced or, maybe, I daresay even sustained by making comments similarly racist in tone, it’s not simply unfair. It’s unjust. Either everyone can use the words, or no one can. Exceptions to the rule in this case are discriminatory.

If in three weeks this whole thing has blown over and Don Imus is the only media personality – of any skin color – to have lost his job for making racially-offensive comments…how, exactly, will these United States of America be better off? What will have been treated was not a cause but instead a symptom of an ill which has long-afflicted American society. And to say that only those of one skin color are responsible for perpetuating this ill would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

After all, during the 1984 presidential election season, Jesse Jackson referred to Jews as “Hymies” and referred to New York City as “Hymie Town”. That’s the sort of statement which gave your electoral chances a boost if you were running to be chancellor of Germany in the early 1930s, and today might win you votes in Ramallah.


Wait a minute, now. Come to think of it, Al Sharpton was a presidential candidate himself, too. Just a few years ago…

Could there possibly be any way that “Rev. Al” is using this controversy to selfishly position himself for a future run for some sort of political office? Nah. That’s about as likely as the Rutgers team using press conferences and appearances on “Oprah” to quietly use the controversy as a recruitment drive gifted straight from God, when their women’s basketball program’s performance should’ve been enough to do the trick. Oh well.

In closing, I’ll leave you with the wisdom of Kanye West:

“Now I ain't saying she a gold digger/But she ain't messin with no broke niggas/”

That’s from the song “Gold Digger”, featuring Jamie Foxx. It’s got a good rhythm to it; the first time I heard it in on the radio in Israel, explicit lyrics and all, it made me shake my booty.

Even the watered-down-by-FCC-regulations version of it is good:

Yo, you tell ‘em, Kanye.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Too...Or No?

By now you probably have heard at least a little bit about the comments radio shock-jock Don Imus made about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Now, I’m throwing my two-cents in. Why? Because thank God, I have a surplus of pennies. That’s why.

What ever happened to free speech? Don Imus called the girls "nappy-headed hoes". It’s not like he used the "n"-word (which, it must be remembered, is said by more African-Americans than whites). Is expressing one's opinion no longer acceptable? Is joking, even in bad taste, no longer allowed? You ask me, this is making an aircraft carrier out of a schooner. People rushed to judgment about this so quickly.

Rutgers could have simply shrugged his words off as a commentator doing his thing, expressing his opinion in a way that some find funny, and others offensive. No one forces people to listen to or watch Imus – they do so of their own accord. It’s likely that the Rutgers University girls, and their coach, didn’t hear the broadcast themselves. As far as incendiary comments go, “nappy-headed hoes” is pretty light compared to what others say.

Now, though, we have opportunists like the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson talking marches and revving up the country for race riots – that’s what they’re doing. That’s what they usually do – they don’t seem out for meaningful change. Any time they're worried people are going to forget about them, they manage to weasel their way back in. If I find it difficult to associate Rev. Al with anything but opportunism, that’s not my fault – it’s his.

It might be my particular problem with him, but I think in general he’s a counterproductive presence. I mean, you may have heard him some months ago railing about the fatal shooting of a black man by cops on the night of his own bachelor party in Queens?

We heard a lot from Rev. Sharpton about the white officers involved, but didn’t hear much from him about the black NYPD officer who also participated in shooting of Sean Bell. From the way Rev. Sharpton and others sometimes speak, you would think the NYPD is one step away from being a bunch of brown shirts.

Rev. Al and Jesse Jackson like to act as if they are this generation's Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks or Malcolm X – or all three rolled into one - when they are nothing like those figures...and never will be. It’s because they are the way they are, but also more because for all its issues, America today thankfully isn't like what it was in their day. Evolution isn't limited to plant and animal life.

Don Imus is no George Wallace. He's no David Duke. He’s no Howard Stern, either (Stern, at least, has had naked boobies on his show. God bless him). If Imus is worthy of any real opprobrium, it’s gotta be because of his hair. Talk about “nappy-headed”.


You know, it's too bad. The Rutgers girls' accomplishments – getting as far as they did - should stand on their own. Now, though, people are more likely to remember that Imus said what he said, and less likely to remember that the Rutgers' girls basketball team made it to the national championship game after a poor start at the beginning of the season. Come on, they beat Arizona State in tourney play – that alone makes ‘em winners in my book.

And I don’t think that this undue attention on his comments is the fault of Imus himself.

Maybe since they'd just lost a national game they worked quite hard to get to, feelings at Rutgers were raw, they didn't want their hard work to be forgotten, and so a big deal was made over this, a big deal that in the end diminishes what they did.

Rutgers University has allowed Don Imus’s comments, made in jest, to determine the nature of what, years down the line, people will remember about the end of their season. That’s the last thing Rutgers should want, whether they get good press, bad press, or no press at all.

If you ask me, if Don Imus must pay a price, get suspended and apologize, every rapper that has ever talked about shooting at cops or slappin' his hoes or bitches should be held accountable for their words too. None of this “it’s only entertainment” bullshit – not if it’s okay to vilify Don Imus but let 50 Cent off the hook. Don’t get me wrong – I like some hip-hop, to a certain degree.

But, but...if my saying "nigger" earns me an ass-beating, while Jamal gets a handshake or even a hug after saying the same word...that's wrong. Holding whites accountable for their words while letting blacks slide is…well, it’s racist!