Tuesday , May 21 2024
No one wants to admit that everybody is uncomfortable and doesn't know how to act around each other.

Don Imus: Race Problem? What Race Problem?

It looks like the dust is starting to settle after the week of unrest caused by Don Imus’ stupidity on the radio. It was fascinating to watch the amount of headline space this incident managed to grab in the media across the board.

From Meet The Press to blog sites across the Internet, this one story dominated the news for a week almost to the exclusion of everything else. No one’s daily coverage was complete if they didn’t give you the latest update on the situation and get reactions from their panel of experts as well.

Why was this story so newsworthy? A radio host made a comment that was obviously insulting to the women of a University basketball team by calling them a bunch of whores. That he couched it in Black street/rap slang and added in the comment that they were nappy headed as well to give it credibility as slang only served to add insult to injury in the eyes of many, and making the comment racist.

Don Imus is a misogynist racist creep, an insensitive lout, or a congenital idiot. In any event, he was going to be sent down the river for it by his employer or the FCC. What was the big deal? Why was so much time spent on this one damn matter? (Truth be told, if I were a woman, I’d want to know why no one was very upset about the women of the team being referred to as whores – somehow everyone seems to have focused on the race thing, but not the gender issue)

You’d have thought it was the most important story that occurred all week. I guess it was a slow week in Iraq. There must have been some suicide bombs, but I couldn’t tell you how many. There was a tsunami in The Solomon Islands, but heck only 900 people were killed and there aren’t that many people living there to begin with, not even enough to have a decent telethon over.

Wasn’t there something about Iran and their claiming to have succeeded in being able to produce the right type of plutonium to make bombs? It’s funny you know; it’s almost as if they want the U.S. to invade them. I’m sure Dick and George would be willing to oblige them if they could find any more soldiers.

They just extended tours of duty to fifteen months from twelve months for soldiers heading over to Iraq — that was announced this week, too, by the way, in case you missed it — so it looks like they’re starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel in terms of what they’ve got to send over there. I guess it will just have to be the ones who’ve done their tour in Iraq. They can now do a tour of Iran.

Stories like that don’t sell newspapers. Who’s going to believe them, for one thing – I don’t, do you? It’s depressing as hell anyway and people want to be cheerful. That’s why they watch stuff like 24 Hours and CSI New York – shows with nice upbeat stories about pleasant subjects like the end of the world and serial killers.

When a nice human-interest story like a child falling down a mineshaft isn’t available to milk for all its worth, what could be better than a celebrity deathwatch? Lets watch Don Imus’ career going down the toilet on prime time news shows with commentary. I bet that got great ratings, far better than any story about the possibility of Israel bombing Iran and what the repercussions of that would be.

There is only one other reason I can think of that made it possible for this story to have stuck around so long. I know this is going to sound far fetched, but could it be that America still has a race problem? You know Black versus White, White versus Black – that sort of thing?

I know it’s hard to believe America still having a race problem, but why else would people be making such a big deal over it? If society didn’t have any problems, and if there were no questions about what is right and what is wrong, would this have gone on for a week?

If the country can get so caught up in something like this to the exclusion of almost anything else, you’d have to think there might be some unresolved issues along those lines. If there weren’t a problem, would this have been such a problem? It seemed like the comments were more offensive to women then to Black people, and nobody has made an issue out of that in the same way they’ve made it a Black and White issue.

It means Black and White is still an issue in the United States no matter what anybody wants to say. Don Imus was the story of the week when he was only another in a series of foul-mouthed shock jocks who went too far. There shouldn’t have been any debate. He was foul mouthed and insulting to women and should have been fired on the spot.

Instead it degenerated into a debate about Black and White, “Ghetto Culture,” and Rap music. To me that says this runs a lot deeper then just an “incident.” Too, people on both sides are too eager to close the door on something that still exists. I know why White people don’t want to think about there being a race problem. I even think I understand why Black people don’t want to think about it either.

Maybe they feel guilty for having left so many of their own people behind while they mix it up in the White world. Maybe they feel if they say too much and rock the boat they’ll find themselves on a slide back down the rungs of the ladder they struggled to climb.

When you see no one rushing to rebuild the poor, predominately Black neighbourhoods in New Orleans after Katrina. (The mayor said if they came back the areas would be rebuilt – but what do they do while they wait for that to happen – go back and live in the Super Dome?) When the prisons are still full of predominately poor Black people, and the inner cities still home to Black people and poverty, and you hear White upper middle class people saying things like “it’s a great neighbourhood, only 1% Black”, you can understand a little of why Black people who are doing okay today are afraid.

They still feel like their positions are precarious, that if they step out of line just a little too much they can be replaced by any number of eager White executives, or Black ones who “don’t get so uppity.” The race problem in America is a difficult one now because it’s no longer overt. It was easier when you knew who the enemy was and could take definite action like voter registration drives and lunch counter sit-ins.

A generation later the worries are different. Today’s Black people are discovering what yesterday’s Jews went through. They’re wondering what they say about us behind closed doors, why there are still doors closed to them, and the feeling that it can all be taken away again at any minute.

White people still aren’t comfortable with seeing Black people in the boardrooms sitting across the table from them instead of how it was in their father’s time: Blacks serving the coffee and shining shoes. It’s not that they don’t want them there; it’s that they don’t know how to act with them in the same room as equals.

America is still trying to come to terms with the first generation of equality under the law for Black and White men. The problem is that no one wants to admit that everybody is uncomfortable and doesn’t know how to act around each other. They are like a bunch of adolescents at their first dance and nobody wants to be the first to say anything for fear of embarrassment. Somebody needs to ask somebody else for a dance soon so everyone can move on.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to Qantara.de and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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