Imus is past, not the future

Published 3:23 pm Sunday, April 15, 2007

Radio shock jock Don Imus has been all over the news in recent days after blurting out a truly offensive phrase on the air.

In an apparent attempt to be funny, edgy and hip, Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”

Few people laughed.

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National advertisers quickly bailed as the fervor over Imus’ comments grew.

On Thursday, CBS fired Imus, temporarily silencing the longtime radio personality.

On Saturday, days after Imus attempted to apologize, the team publicly accepted his apology.

Since the issue first erupted, the world has learned how talented the women of the team, most of whom are black, truly are. These are not just basketball players; they are intelligent young women.

Unfortunately, Imus will likely not go away. He’ll probably be like countless other “celebrities” who do truly offensive things but return to the limelight.

Remember pop singer Britney Spears’ no-underwear flashes to the cameras, actor Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Jew tirade or perhaps Tennessee Titans player Adam “Pacman” Jones’ off-field antics?

For some reason, society seems to quickly forgive these social screw-ups.

But in the case of Imus, he’s not really that big of a deal.

His radio show was not particularly popular. He’s an old white man trying to be young and hip. He’s from another generation. Imus is the past, not the future.

Imus’ remarks pale in comparison to some of the lyrics of popular music especially some forms of rap and hip-hop and other harmful stereotypes popularized in our culture.

And don’t think for a minute this is a black and white issue. Young people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds listen to the music.

Young men who grow up hearing lyrics that demean them as only sex objects certainly molds their young minds.

How many times does one have to hear women referred to as “hos” before that begins to become part of their everyday vocabulary?

Watching some rap videos and the lives of the artists would have one believe that treating women like crap, drinking and smoking marijuana all day is the ultimate in success.

MTV’s “Cribs” show often explores the amazing houses of rap stars, some of whom have become millionaires through such negative lyrics.

Use of objectionable phrases, some artists say, is not the same as Imus’ use. Rap includes poetic license, they say.

Is anyone buying that any more?

Interestingly, the flamboyant Rev. Al Sharpton isn’t.

Sharpton, one of Imus’ biggest critics after the remarks, has come out and said Imus is only a small part of a much bigger problem.

“We will not stop until we make it clear that no one should denigrate women,” Sharpton said in an Associated Press article after Imus’ firing.

“We must deal with the fact that ho and the b-word are words that are wrong from anybody’s lips.

“It would be wrong if we stopped here and acted like Imus was the only problem. There are others that need to get this same message,” Sharpton said.

The good reverend speaks the truth.

Watch a few minutes of popular music videos and you’ll almost certainly see at least one rap video featuring at least a handful of scantily clad women shaking parts and insinuating sex acts that would make most sailors blush.

Yet, ironically, many of our youth — black and white — have these images pumped into their heads through song lyrics and music videos.

Attempting to outlaw such behavior outright isn’t the answer. The First Amendment must be preserved.

Imus has — and should continue to have — the right to spout as much crap, racist or otherwise, as he wants. America is a free country. But no one says we have to listen to it. No one says we have to buy demeaning music. No one says we have to support radio stations playing this junk.

Capitalism is the best way to curtail this junk.

The solution is to switch the channel or turn the knob off.

Doing that will send a message much louder than the fleeting fluff over the old white guy who was trying to be cool by being vulgar.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or