Fire Imus. Yeah, that will solve everything.
We're all in a celebri-spiral over irrelevant, tasteless, and judgment-free Imus. But firing him is a band aid. Worse, I fear it means the conversation about race and what's OK to say on air stops instead of doing what it really needs to do, which is continue.
I am the last person who'd defend Imus, but where is the equanimity?
I love Coach Vivian Stringer, who said smart things like "I don't know if I will forgive Imus. I may. But forgiveness has to be felt" and then, today, forgave him. She and the Rutgers players seem smart, heartfelt and true. They truly have my respect.
My gripe is the demagogues who've taken to their podiums, pounding fists and saying we need to defend from people who demean others.
Oh really? Then why don't Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton and Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson criticize the rap artists who write/sing about killing hos, bitches, and fags?
Speaking of fags, during this sad, long week, Roseanne bashed gays:
"Never once in my 54 years have I ever once heard a gay or lesbian person who’s politically active say one thing about anything that was not about them. They don’t care about minimum wage, they don’t care about any other group other than their own self because you know, some people say being gay and lesbian is a totally narcissistic thing and sometimes I wonder. I’ve never heard any of them say anything except for 'accept me ‘cause I’m gay.' It’s just, it’s screwed. It’s no different than the evangelicals, it’s the same mindset. They want you to accept Jesus and you guys want us to all believe its ok to be gay."
Um, what about the three anti-war demonstrations, four Susan G. Komen breast cancer races, four pro-choice marches, letters to Congress about our many children left behind in a country conflicted over reasonable national standards, and other contributions to causes that have absolutely zero to with my being gay?
If someone poked a microphone in my face and asked me my opinion of her comments, I hope that I'd be as articulate as poised and strong Coach Stringer.
But no one bothers Roseanne. She slurs on the radio with a free pass. It's not only Roseanne.
Michael Richards is excoriated and rightfully so. Mel Gibson, too. But they are not on public airwaves, and it remains to be seen if market demand for their work has been hit. In the last year, however, there've been other choice abuses on our federally regulated airwaves that have gone unpunished:
Rosie O'Donnell knocks Asians. Has she left The View? No.
Ann Coulter calls Clinton, Gore, and John Edwards "fags." Banned? No. Nothing happens.
Isaiah Washington calls co-worker a fag. Post rehab, he's still on air.
NBA player Tim Hardaway says "(Gays) shouldn't be in the world or in the United States." Has he been shot down in a meaningful way? Nah.
And if Imus said the women's basketball team were a bunch of rowdy dykes, his scandal would have died, too.
My point is that, as a country, people, and as media watchdogs, we are very selective when we choose the focus of our outrage, and how to express those deep-seated feelings that fuel our speech, actions and, sometimes worse, our unexpressed thoughts.
Anyone seen Crash lately?
The other racial story this week is well under the media radar. Where's the statement from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson apologizing to the now exonerated Duke Lacrosse players? How does a prosecutor say that no further criminal investigation is planned? Why is the exotic dancer-sorry, I mean stripper-getting off without a possible fraud investigation now if withheld exonerating evidence that might disbar the prosecutor prove that charges were false?
If hatchet-ready CBS is serious about improving race relations, will they look at their music business arm? Or was the decision all about money?
We expend about as much critical analysis of these choices as Bush and Co. did in choosing Saddam Hussein, of all possible evil-bad-guy-dictators, to go after in the misbegotten Iraq war.
Face it, Imus is an easy target. His remarks are inexcusable and he's unlikable, especially amid talk of other racial commentary and cancer camp impropriety.
But what comes after the likely suspects climb down from their demagoguery soapboxes? Will we hold Al Sharpton accountable for all the high minded things he's proposing? Why don't we note in three months if rap/hip hop changes, or if he ever brings up Duke's Lacrosse players again?
If this sad Imus episode becomes an opportunity for people to have conversations about race and public discourse, that would be a great outcome from an unfortunate, hurtful remark. If one young African American girl feels like there's an army of defenders out there to protect her from bigots, unlike what many experienced when we were the targets of mean, hurtful comments, yet too little to defend ourselves, then I am glad.
Still, there are many unanswered questions. Will there be standards for all to uphold, on airwaves and in life? Will people look into their hearts, dig a little deeper, understand themselves a little better, and pay attention to the relationship between words and context, without hiding behind the falsity of political correctness?
I hope that this celebri-spiral leads to substantial, balanced dialogue, addressing real issues of race that fester in this country. But if it's just another passing celebri-spiral, then what a waste. Skip the band aid. Take the opportunity this latest "crash" provides to heal the wound.