Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don Imus Must be Fired

Don Imus must be fired. We should all honor freedom of speech, but freedom of speech does not condone insensitive and seemingly incorrigible comments. Freedom of speech should not protect Don Imus in this situation because if he retains his job, we face a greater risk, the declining significance of the apology in America.

Ok, in all honestly, public apologies really do not mean anything. Let me take back that last comment because if we look at the litany of public figures who have offered apologies over the last twelve months,George Allen, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and Isaiah Washington have all offered for derogatory remarks that they made in public., we see that these apologies rarely really a sincere conviction to changing. This makes sense because in a homophobic, misogynist and racist society, virtually everyone will at some point trip and make an offending comment. However, the fact that we are inevitable to make mistakes does not mean that we should not face the consequences.

Thus far, Imus has been suspended two weeks for calling members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “Nappy headed hos.” In an era where media outlets repeatedly push compromising pictures of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Tara Reid one understands where Imus finds the precedent for his disregard for women. The lives of these young white starlets is often presented as a never-ending episode of “Girls Gone Wild” on the entertainment news programs and tabloids.

However, these women are young, white, extremely wealthy, and there is clearly an industry invested in their exploits. There is no comparable coterie of young black women and clearly no one is interested in the exploits of young black women—no—B.E.T. does not count because it’s often the male rappers and r&b heartthrobs that drive that machine.

In most cities women college athletes are often minor stories with the majority of the attention going to their male peers. The success of women’s college basketball teams at the University of Tennessee, Connecticut—and—Rutgers over the past two decades has indicated that women’s athletics have the ability to anchor a universities athletic department. C. Vivian Stringer’s team at Rutgers has done the most impressive job in this arena because unlike her peers at Tennessee and Connecticut, her team has kept that athletic department afloat without a national powerhouse in either men’s basketball or football.

Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, another woman coach, a white woman coach, has been the only member of the holy trinity of college basketball coaches extending her support for Imus’s firing. Summitt arguably realizes that Imus’s comments disparaged her team members as well, and just as importantly, it is unlikely that Imus would have made these comments about members of Geno Auriemma’s team at UConn. Imus would have surely found more subtle ways of disparaging the white male Auriemma’s athletes, if at all.

As you could have guessed Stringer is the lone African American woman coach in this trinity. What does that matter you ask? Imus wasn’t calling her a “nappy headed ho.”

Oh he was, he may not have thought he was, or rather he thought he wouldn’t get caught doing it, but he was calling C. Vivian Stringer a nappy headed ho. It’s not his fault, someone had to do it, she was too big for her britches, Rutgers couldn’t go on being a school known for women’s basketball. Rutgers’ football team had finally come alive this year and awakened to national prominence under head coach Greg Schiano, the man who turned down a job offer at the vaunted University of Miami this year to remain at Rutgers.

No, I’m not implying that Schiano or anyone else at or affiliated with Rutgers put Imus up to making his racist and misogynist comments.

What I am clearly saying is that a week after playing in the women’s national championship game C. C. Vivian Stringer has to defend her players who were assaulted as “nappy headed hos.” Weeks after their bowl game appearance the members of the Rutgers men’s football team were still being feted at NBA games and award dinners. Their white male coach did not have to defend the integrity of his players because no one dared to challenge his own integrity. He had made history and was treated as such.

At a point in time when she should be hosting boosters, raising more funding for her team and the athletic department that she has helped keep afloat, C. Vivian Stringer has to spend her time holding press conferences answering back to disparaging comments made against her team, and arguably herself. Knowing that he couldn’t call C. Vivian Stringer “a nappy headed ho,” to put her in her place, Imus instead chose to attack her players because that would have the same effect.

Don Imus should be fired because by calling the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy headed hos” he defamed the team and their coach. He should be fired because his actions have undermined the success of one of the most respected women in her profession, and a public institution’s revival. Don Imus’s comments have initiated a racist and sexist maelstrom that in any other workplace are grounds for dismissal.

He doesn’t work at Rutgers you say. Correct, Don Imus, does not work at Rutgers. However, he does work at a public forum which implies that he works everywhere. He’s the voice of listener’s everywhere, and his firing is an apt sign that calling African American women “nappy headed hos” is not permitted anywhere.

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