Apparently there’s some kind of NABJ boycott on against Don Imus, veteran shock jock, for his and his pal Bernie McGuirk’s comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team during March Madness. They called these young scholar-athletes, for no apparent reason, “nappy-headed hos”. It’s not hard for me to participate in this boycott since, like Prometheus 6 and most black people, I ain’t a fan. Kudos to the National Association of Black Journalists though. Hopefully non-black and black fans will respond.

Let’s not go into how the popularity of “I Love New York” and the negative hyper-sexualizing stereotypes it promulgates about black women, especially those of working class or poor origins. I don’t think I need to explain how shows like this that take images of black women back — I don’t know, maybe a 100 or more years — open the door for guys like Imus. I’m not going to get into it because the mere mention or sight of New York’s show makes me sick.

No, what I find interesting is that the racism of Imus’ comments does not seem open for debate among white people. In contrast, I recall that some white people seemed confused as to how racist Michael Richards’ “nigger” plus lynching metaphor tirade was. I give you Malcolm Gladwell and Gawker’s sendup of his misguided blog entry. Not to mention Richards himself who insisted he was no racist.

No, everyone seems to agree that it was racist. The difference in the episodes actually points to the depth of racist attitudes in our country. Richards was responding to hecklers who happened to be African-American. Is it possible that deep down, some white people felt that those young men somehow deserved Richards’ tirade? That they invited it? Provoked him? That one of America’s most lovable funny men was defending himself?

Yet the Rutgers women were “innocent”. They were just doing their jobs on the court and doing it well having moved forward in the NCAA tournament. Imus threatened to derail their progress forward representing their college and state. They had done nothing to invite his scorn, making his comments “unjustified” and unacceptably racist.

Let’s take a look at Imus’ second apology for supporting clues for my theory(emphasis mine):

“Here’s what I’ve learned: that you can’t make fun of everybody, because some people don’t deserve it,” he said on his nationally syndicated radio show Monday morning. “And because the climate on this program has been what it’s been for 30 years doesn’t mean it’s going to be what it’s been for the next five years or whatever.”

It’s good to see that finally we’ve reached a stage where the voices of African-Americans can be heard and that even those like Imus who use racist humor to make money are learning that the audience for hatred is fast declining. That said, I’d invite folks to take a second look at these 2 episodes and examine their own attitudes toward African-Americans as targets of racist humor.

The bottom line is that for blacks, there is no spectrum of racism. Something isn’t a little racist or kinda racist or very racist. It’s all just racist. It’s an indication of how someone really thinks or feels — the Freudian slip. The only mitigating factor might be someone’s deeds. So for example, if Imus were a major contributor to HBCUs or the Urban League or something like that, he might receive a little sympathy. Only because his actions would belie his speech. This is the story of Bill and Hillary Clinton. We are willing to give them more room to make mistakes because of what they’ve done for black people in the past.

That doesn’t seem to be the case for some white folks, particularly when it comes to media coverage. There does seem to be a kind of spectrum analysis in operation. Like some kind of measurement of what did the person say and to whom did they actually say it? African-Americans are stronger, politically and economically, than we have ever been. We are losing our tolerance for spectrum testing of racism and making it known. No one deserves racism. No one.

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