Haven’t yet polished off my first cup of coffee. But I’m already fielding calls and e-mails in response to my Don Imus column in today’s GO. One lady was incensed that people blame hip-hop for public figures’ racist statements since racist mentality has been around a lot longer than gangsta rap.
Then there was the gentleman who write the e-mail below, suggesting there was much more to the man than an overblown sound bite:
I’m still passionate about this topic, weeks later, which I guess is amazing given my usually passionless middle-aged existence.
What I find most offensive about this entire Imus controversy is how few people who write about him ever listened to his program. Did you know that every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day he insisted on playing the “I Have A Dream” speech in its entirety, and would follow with African-American guests who would be given large blocks of time to thoughtfully discuss the current state of race relations in our society? Did you know that he developed a close friendship with the late Bishop G. E. Patterson, a black minister he heard on television, and used excerpts from his sermons as “bumper music” on his show? That Imus brought the Bishop’s widow on his show to talk about her late husband’s ministry, and plans for his succession in the church? That Imus campaigned for the rights of Native Americans in New Mexico, threatening Governor Richardson with banishment from his program if problems at a school weren’t corrected? That he raised money for autism, injured troops, SIDS and siblings of SIDS, the Tomorrow’s Children Foundation, and created the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer? That he championed the candidacy of Harold Ford, Jr. against a white Republican in his senatorial race?
He’s been reduced to a series of slurs by people who are happy to repeat that general knowledge, but who have no idea how interesting and informative his program was. I listened daily for decades, and learned a great deal. I heard people like the “God Squad”, a rabbi and priest that Imus would bring on frequently to talk about spiritual issues that interested Imus. Virtually once a week, if not more often, I would hear an author discuss a book that was so interesting I would buy it the same day: Sam Tannenhaus’ book on Whitaker Chambers, for example, would never have raised a ripple but for Imus. Don was well-read, thoughtful, and interested in meaningful topics: that’s why so many movers and shakers were on his program. But those who didn’t listen to the program, and still feel they have credibility to criticize, reduce him to a used up old man with a filthy mouth. That’s just not true.
He’s been fired for what he said. It’s a waste, and tragically a loss for the African-American community, because this 54 year old white male learned a lot of tolerance from Imus, and realized the humor had it’s place as well. He made fun of no one on that program nearly as much as himself, however, in spite of the general reports I read.
I won’t go into my usual rant about the hypocrisy here, except to point out that a brief search of Saturday Night Live transcripts revealed nine uses of the word “ho” or “hoes” by such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kevin Nealon, etc. Tune in Comedy Central or BET some time. And tell me what was worse: Imus’ gaffe or Alec Baldwin’s rant against his daughter? And we can be sure that Baldwin won’t lose his job. How about Biden’s casual racism in his comment about Obama?
I don’t know. I’m bitter, sure, because my morning fix of interesting and informative and FUNNY TV and radio is gone. I think it sucks, and I think it was done solely so the Revs. Sharpton and Jackson could get some face time. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that not a thing will be done about rap music, or Bill Maher, or Biden, or Chris Rock… only those old white males that are easy targets for the bullies of the League of Professional Hurt Feelings. Who knows who they’ll pick next?
And I’m still curious about what the rest of you think, especially regarding whether there is a double standard for elderly shock jocks and rappers.