(Initially written April 13, 2007)
America, unlock your daughters - Imus has left the building. Ladies, your dignity has been restored to the airwaves - Imus has left the building. Black women, your strength and beauty and character have been restored - Don Imus has left the building. And if you believe that, you believe Al Sharpton was really concerned about the use of the public airwaves and not looking to etch a high profile notch in his belt.
Outside of his dastardly "rap," Imus made at least two highly critical errors. By talking on the air to Al Sharpton and Matt Lauer he allowed Sharpton to control the overall situation and dialog. His second, and more serious error in judgment was his apologetic public spectacle before speaking with Coach Stringer and her team. They were the injured party, not him, not yet. He should have allowed the Rev. Soaries to set up the meet and then shut up until he spoke to them. He owed them that. His misguided attempt to be noble only served to fuel the media frenzy and encourage speculation. The Rutgers women went from a calm and dignified "let's wait and see what he has to say," to having to comment on what he said recently.
Wherever you are and wherever you live in America, Imus' dirty comments did not emerge from a vacuum. And the fact that they occur repeatedly over the "public" airwaves, that Al Sharpton looks to protect, and their aftereffects are already in a neighborhood near you. The next time you go to a PTA meeting, your school board, town hall, bridge club or book club, talk to your neighbors. You are going to find that a growing number of your daughters, granddaughters, nieces and their friends and classmates have been "bitch slapped" by their boyfriends, male athletes and other seemingly fine upstanding young men in your community. Fueled by underage drinking and drug use at parties and other unsupervised gatherings, physical aggression and sexual assaults against young women are on the rise in America's neighborhoods as the beats and lyrics of "gangsta rap" plays in the background.
Threatened boycotts and protests by Al Sharpton finally convinced NBC and CBS Radio that Don Imus was more trouble than he was worth. Don Imus now knows how the women at Rutgers University feel. It is doubtful that Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson knows, or even cares, how Dr. Condoleezza Rice felt.
Growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama as a little girl, her friend was blown to bits in one of the most infamous acts of terrorism in American history. From that she worked to prove those cowardly bombers, and all who thought like them, that they were wrong about black people. She became highly educated, fluent in Russian and an expert on their history. She became Provost at one of the top universities in the world, an accomplished pianist, developed a passion for football and served her country under two presidents framing US international policy. These phenomenal accomplishments led Harry Belafonte to reduce Dr. Rice to being a "house slave." Her dignity would not allow her to respond in kind. And it is that dignity which is undeserving of the disrespect leveled toward these black women by the men they raised.
Young women in every corner of the country are being verbally and physically abused by young men who are using the "language of the streets." Maybe by one of the two young white teens who walked on a Long Island street several feet behind me spouting, "That nigger slapped the shit outta that bitch!" Or by one of the many young Latinos for whom the "N" word has become the preferred noun of choice in New York. And by the young black, gun-toting video music thugs humping half-dressed women on your children's television sets. They are the same musical guests you see on Letterman, Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Saturday Night Live.
The dawn of the 21st century has seen Democratic political candidates such as Al Gore, John Edwards, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton gladly take political contributions and pose for photographs with the millionaire producers and "artists" of this visual and lyrical objectification and degradation of women and glorification of wanton violence.
Mr. Imus got himself fired for an ugliness that has become far too mainstream in our society. The pain suffered by the Rutgers Womens Basketball Team is just a small symptom of the disease. And it is only going to get worse unless parents and community leaders everywhere start to threaten boycotts of their own. The culture of using young women as punching bags and sexual playthings has become one of the most profitable businesses in America. I'm sure the exploited young ladies picketing outside New York offices, in protest of Mr. Imus, felt empowered carrying placards and chanting, "I am not a ho!" No, you're not - but guys like Snoop and Fitty say you are - and they have not left the building. And neither Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson nor the National Association of Black Journalists are picketing or boycotting to have them evicted.
BELATED FOOTNOTE: Un-coincidentally, at no time did I hear Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper or any of the CNN hosts offer a disclaimer during the length of this news episode. At no time did they offer to their viewers that they are a subsidiary of TIME WARNER and that TIME WARNER is a major distributor of the offensive language that they were discussing over the weeks long discussion.
Don Imus is scheduled to return to the airwaves on December 3rd.