Ishmael Reed on Imus

Opening excerpt from Ishmael Reed’s great article at Counterpunch: 

“Some of us relish the naughtiness.”

–Howard Kurtz

In his 1995 book Hot Air, Howard Kurtz wrote that “Imus’ sexist homophobic, and politically incorrect routines echo what many journalists joke about in private. ‘”

“Later, host Don Imus brought up McGuirk’s prior impersonations of African-American poet Maya Angelou asking, “[W]ho was that woman you used to do, the poet? . . . We used to get in all that trouble every time you’d do her. ” As McGuirk launched into the impersonation, Imus said, ‘I don’t need any more columns. Come on. ‘ But Imus did not stop McGuirk, who delivered his impression in verse:

McGUIRK: Whitey plucked you from the jungle for too many years. They took away your pride, your dignity, and your spears With freedom came new woes. Into whitey’s world you was rudely cast. So wake up now and go to work? You can kiss my big black ass”

George Curry, March 3, 2007

What began as a firestorm against Don Imus’ remarks against the members of Rutgers women’s basketball team ended, thanks to Imus’ friends, who controlled a bogus “National Dialogue About Race,” with a referendum on Gangsta Rap and the morals of Revs. Sharpton and Jackson.

By Monday, April 16, appearing on CNN, an all Imus buddy panel, including John Roberts, Paul Begala, and James Carville, engaged in a tribute to Imus. All that was needed were champagne glasses. On the same day John Roberts and his colleague, Wolf Blitzer, described the murder of 31 students at Virginia Tech as “the worst massacre in American history”–ignoring mass killings of blacks and Indians that had been far worse. Moreover, the fact that the shooter Cho Seung-Hui, was a fan of Guns N’ Roses–he named a play, “Mr. Brownstone,” after one of the band’s songs–didn’t inspire the 24/7 castigation of white Heavy Metal music that was dealt to Hip Hop music in the wake of Don Imus’ firing.

The President of NBC News, Steve Capus, was disingenuous when he claimed that Don Imus, the shock jock, was fired solely because employees at NBC were outraged at Imus’ description of the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “Nappy Headed Hos.” That might have been part of it. But it was the multibillion dollar purchasing power of African-Americans and organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists, a more difficult target for Imus’ fans than Sharpton and Jackson, that gave the African-American community its greatest victory against a racist media that have been its bane since the first slave ships arrived. Before television and radio, it was the newspapers alone that raised lynch mobs on African-Americans. In Charles Chesnutt’s novels, The Marrow of Tradition (1901) and The Colonel’s Dream (1905), the villains are newspaper men. The inflammatory coverage of one led to a lynching. The other editor caused a race riot. A book, The Betrayal of the Negro by Rayford Whittingham Logan, indicts some of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers for inciting civil strife during the 20th Century, based upon malicious and false reporting.

The “National Dialogue” that MSNBC held after the Imus outburst about the Rutgers team was a telling example of this historic trend. The so-called “dialogue” was dominated mostly by white talking heads, including white women, who seem to be prospering at MSNBC, receiving as much airtime as the men. (Even so, Gloria Steinem maintained, in a recent New York Times op-ed, that white middle-class women and blacks share the same social predicament. Really? The college enrollment of white women is higher than that of both white men and blacks.) Instead of the opinions of black academic feminists like bell hooks, Michele Wallace, Sandra O’Neale, Paula Giddings, Joyce Joyce, or Sonia Sanchez being solicited to comment about Imus’ remarks, Naomi Wolfe, a white feminist, whom bell hooks has criticized, spoke on behalf of black women.

It’s fortunate that the money people at General Motors and Bigalow Tea, Direct TV, Ameritrade, Staples, Sprint, American Express and Proctor and Gamble, stepped in, because had they not Imus’ groupies at MSNBC, like his pals, Mike Barnicle, David Gregory, Bo Dietal, the author of a vicious anti-Muslim tirade during Imus’ last weeks, and Joe Scarborough, would have rescued their buddy by following their leader’s talking points. (Keith Olbermann reported that Dietal was even reprimanded by rightwing fixer Dick Morris for using Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, to make even more anti- Muslim comments.)

Imus griped that he was a victim of the African-American male culture, where, according to a man who has a lengthy record of making misogynist remarks, men mistreat women. Yet a recent SUNY study reveals a different reality: white men commit most of the assaults upon women in this country. According to the study conducted by Lois Weiss, professor of education at the University of Buffalo, and Michelle Fine, professor of social psychology in the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, white women are afraid to talk about the abuse. Weiss and Fine found that 92 percent of the white women interviewed said that “serious domestic violence” had been directed against them, their mothers and/or sisters, either in their birth households or in later relationships. By comparison, 62 percent of black female subjects reported similar levels of violence in their lives. The authors of the study said that they were surprised because these were white women largely from middle class homes. On the other hand, there has been a steady reduction in the murder of black women by their husbands and boyfriends, while the murder rate of women by white men has remained about the same. One of the reasons for the falling rate of domestic abuse among blacks is that black women are more likely to retaliate. This drop in black domestic violence has been reported in The New York Times, yet the face of domestic violence in the pages of the Times continues to be painted black. Do you suppose that MSNBC will ever conduct a “National Dialogue” about white domestic violence? Maybe Newsweek? One of its writers, Evan Thomas, recently told Imus’ audience that black men in the inner city enjoy beating up their women.

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