I watched Dateline NBC last night which had a timeline from an internal perspective on the Imus controversy. NBC executives were interviewed on how they handled the situation. What stands out is the impact of African-American voices from within NBC, particularly among the talent and the executive team. Blacks with influence inside NBC consistently urged higher-ups to make an example of Don Imus.

Early on, Correspondent Ron Allen wrote on the NBC Daily Nightly Blog:

Ultimately, this is more important than one radio talk-show host. It’s important because the “mainstream media” has a tremendous influence on how we see each other, how we think of ourselves, how we determine what’s acceptable and what’s not. Organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists and other advocates for diversity have long argued that if America’s newsrooms looked like America — if the faces we see on the air, behind the scenes, and in the management suites — looked, thought and had sensitivities and experiences more like everyone, the culture inside these institutions would be much different.

And so would what’s considered to be a joke.

Think of how you’d explain this to a young little girl, with tightly curled hair, when she asks, “why did he call people who look like me that?”

Something more has to happen. Not just with one individual, but also with the environment that produces all of this. Something that people in power can look back on a few years from now and tell that little girl that we tried very hard to do the right thing.

Al Roker also blogs (who knew?). I knew Imus was in trouble with TV’s most lovable, clownish, chubby weatherman weighed in. He showed some real leadership, writing three times to advocate for and finally applaud Imus’ dismissal. Here’s Al before the firing:

People have written in asking why haven’t I spoken out against others who have made similar transgressions. The answer is simple; one that I’m not particularly proud of: It wasn’t in my “house” and it wasn’t so profoundly blatant.

Don Imus broadcasts under the NBC News banner via MSNBC. This is a reflection of my company. I won’t stand for the idea that someone who has the privilege of working under the aegis of NBC News could damage this organization with the taint of racism and sexism.

They were heard. Here’s news anchor Brian Williams blogging:

I don’t like seeing my friend Al Roker so angry and so upset. Al voiced his anger in his blog, as did my friend Ron Allen, in this space. I also saw the effect this had on my other friends who work here, like a young woman named Amanda Johnson, who was moved to tears by the basketball team’s press conference at Rutgers, and who became a part of the robust and emotional internal dialog here that resulted in last night’s announcement. That we got to know more about those incredible women at Rutgers — their achievements, their strength, determination and grace — means something positive will come out of all of this.

Roker’s post after the firing echoes what many African-Americans believe. It’s not that the subject of rappers’ denigrating words has gone unnoticed and unmentioned in our community. Many a church sermon and dinner table conversation has focused on this very topic. Don’t even get a black man over 55 started on the subject of music today.

Music executives have amplified an unsavory, narrow aspect of our culture and have exploited it to sell images and music to white suburban teenagers. And too many young musicians have sold out, made a quick buck and created a negative image that the rest of us have to pay for. 50 Cent is all that we are. There’s a lot of great, positive hip hop out there: Talib Kweli, Mos Def, OutKast, Dead Presidents among others. It’s not all bitches and hos. Those bands don’t get much airplay for some strange reason yet are popular artists.

Here’s Al in the end writing on April 12

A line has been drawn as to what is acceptable and what will not be tolerated. A dialog has been started about race in our country. An opportunity has been created to start holding responsible those who produce and broadcast offensive music lyrics, both rap and rock, that denigrate and marginalize women.

We can use this time to really look at ourselves and dig deep to create a world that our children will be proud to inherit. Diversity, inclusion and acceptance are great goals to strive for.

For all those who think this punishment is too harsh, consider having to explain to your daughter why someone would call a person they didn’t know, a “nappy headed ho”. And by the way, for all those people who posit that the phrase is rooted in the black community, it is not. My childhood neighborhood of St. Albans, Queens is a middle class neighborhood. People keep their homes neat and their lawns mowed. I never heard the word “ho” in my neighborhood or in my parents’ home. To this day, when I go back to take my kids to see their grandmother, there aren’t young black men on the corner calling women “hoes”.

‘Nuff said. I appreciate the courage of African-Americans inside NBC who chose to use their power to speak out against racism and sexism within their organization. That’s leadership. Much thanks alsp to Media Matters and other bloggers — Dateline NBC’s report certainly noticed the blog activism against Imus.

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