By Richard Muhammad
(Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published in the April 13, 2007 edition of The Chicago Defender, one of America's few remaining daily Black-owned newspapers.)
The good news is MSNBC and CBS Radio canned talk show host Don Imus for racist remarks that demeaned Black women and incited a firestorm of outrage from the Rev. Al Sharpton to TV weatherman Al Roker.
Imus initiated the confrontation by calling members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy headed hos.” Those words have, for now at least, cost him his job.
CBS announced yesterday that broadcasting of the Imus in the Morning radio program on 61 stations would end effective immediately and permanently. "From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship with such class, energy and talent," said CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves.
"Those who have spoken with us the last few days represent people of goodwill from all segments of our society — all races, economic groups, men and women alike. In our meetings with concerned groups, 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," the TV exec added.
MSNBC canceled its TV simulcast of the Imus a day before CBS radio gave the venom-spewing cowpoke the boot.
Given the parade of white power brokers and media types, from Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe, to former Bill Clinton advisor James Carville to Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, who vouched for Imus’s goodness and lack of racial animus, without the Black outrage and solidarity that followed Imus would be on tomorrow morning.
Collective Black anger – across political, economic and philosophical lines – brought Imus to his knees. Even if he doesn’t stay there very long, Black America should feel proud of its defense of Black womanhood in the face of a sexist, racist assault.
The fight isn’t over.
The “solidarity forever” pledges made to Imus by whites and the insulting attempt to lay blame for his behavior at the feet of rappers show the massive perception divide between whites and Blacks.
Blacks generally saw a clear violation, while whites, in particular powerful white men, saw an opportunity to make excuses and essentially blame the victim. The racial slurs uttered by Imus didn’t originate with rappers, but are the children of America’s long history of derogatory and demeaning expressions about Black people.
Powerful white men at record companies – just like the powerful white men who defended and paid Imus and whose children purchase a substantial number of rap records – pay some entertainers to denigrate themselves and their people.
Selling out, cooning and performing for massa are unfortunate parts of our history.
Fighting negative portrayals of Blacks are also part of our history, from the establishment of Freedom’s Journal, the first African American newspaper in the U.S. in 1827, to Oprah Winfrey’s comments blasting gangsta rap’s mistreatment of women.
We need to clean up our act, but we don’t need white folks to tell us what to do. We can figure that out for ourselves. But the question is can whites heal their own racial maladies?