There is a dichotomy that is running rampant in America, and that is of equality when it is comfortable for all parties. On one hand, it does not matter what skin color you happen to live in as you should be allowed to have the same job opportunities, the same respect, and the same dignity of anyone else. But then, whenever it is most appropriate to the situation, the dividing lines are drawn. Race becomes a cause of concern and a means of division to get points across. This schism is becoming all too real and apparent in this "post-Imus world," and it needs to stop.
The Imus Incident--given caps and a name because it is so obviously important--is by no means a polarizing issue. To polarize would mean that there would be two different and equal opposing sides that people would gravitate to. There weren't two sides in this case, unless you wanted to be Wrong. The only side one could take is that Imus is a racist sonuvabitch who has no right to spew his hate speech anywhere, let alone on the public radio waves that could be broadcast to anyone close enough to his hateful radio transmitter. To think otherwise would label you just as Imus himself was labelled. No one would stick up for someone who is a racist out of fear of being called a racist as well. Who is going to defend him, Oprah? Dr. Phil?
The pile on began. Throughout all facets of media, from talking heads to blogs, it rained shit on Don Imus. A lot of people took advantage of this incident and tried to show how liberal, good hearted, and morally correct they were in opposition to such a terrible person. It was the equivalent of a decathlon against Terry Schiavo. The bigger the story got, the more elitist the response became.
Let's see someone on his high horse. ESPN seems as good a candidate as any, having carried the Women's NCAA title game that put the Lady Scarlet Knights in the news in the first place. Tim Keown, a columnist for ESPN's Page 2 (a sub-site on espn.com that tries to mix pop culture and sports, usually in a comedic vein), takes a very strong and holier than thou approach to the whole matter. His column, found here, discusses the Incident in the most pompous, arrogant, and elitist way imaginable. He does not go out and call Imus's listeners stupid, instead implying it by saying that they "were laughing into their gun racks and plastic tablecloths." He does not give any merit to the rights of freedom of speech, instead criticizing the humor. On the comment of "nappy-headed hos," he asks, "That's the kind of humor you can't get away with anymore? That's humor? And Bernard McGuirk saying the word 'jigaboos'?"
The issue becomes confused. What someone feels is funny or not should have no baring over whether or not a man should lose his job. Furthermore, the arrogance to tell people what is or is not funny, what is or is not tasteful, is astonishing. Who put you in charge of what I should have to listen to? There is no universal mandate on what is racial insensitive and what is not. Dave Chappelle had an incredibly popular show that dealt with racism on a constant basis, and he's hailed as a genius (and rightfully so). Where were all of these people when Chappelle would mock whites? Is that not racist? When he would go after Asians, that wasn't racist? No one threw him off the air. People weren't coming out of the woodwork to badmouth Chappelle's Show. The Klu Klux Klan still has the right to march the streets of New York, why in God's name can't "nappy-headed hos" be broadcast in radio waves above their hateful pointy hats?
A week later, another (shittier) radio show in New York, JV and Elvis, was suspended after they made a prank phone call to a Chinese take out place using a stereotypical "Asian" voice. An Asian coalition, much like Al Sharpton's National Action Network, decided to put them out on the streets as well. In the New York Times article, the final line did not have anything to do with the comments from the radio hosts, but that the organization "was not yet as media savvy as Mr. Sharpton’s." Is that the real issue here? What small entity decides what is most appropriate for the masses to hear?
We have all learned that race isn't something to be toyed with. It is an issue that divides. It brings up many emotions, including anger, and it's best to not fan those flames. Thankfully, we have all learned our lessons, and from now on.
Study shows black players whistled more than whites.
Poll: Whites, blacks view Bonds' chase differently.
The first story is about how white refs in the NBA call more fouls on black players than on white players. The discrepancy "is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew." Let's just go beyond the fact that the majority of players in the NBA are black and that most of the refs are white, beyond how this isn't based on a single ref but calls made by all three members of the officiating team on the court, and even beyond that the study used statistics only and did not look at whether or not the foul calls themselves were fair or not.
The second story describes a large racially based discrepancy between blacks and whites on how Barry Bonds is viewed. 74% of black fans want Bonds to break the all-time career home runs mark, currently held by Hank Aaron (an African-American, like Bonds) while only 28% of white fans are rooting for Bonds. Furthermore, 46% of black people polled feel that Bonds has been treated unfairly while only 25% of whites do. Of those 46% of African-Americans, 25% think he is being unfairly treated because of his race (21% blame his personality). For the white side of the equation, 66% blame his unfair treatment based solely on steroids, and virtually none say it is because of his race.
For all the bullshit pandering that people like Tim Keown like to spew, the media conglomerate that pays him is very obviously keeping racial issues at the forefront of national thought to further their own profit. What does this story have to say about race? What general good does this do for the race relations that we hold so dear, especially after the Imus Incident? Where are the outraged masses to march on ESPN and demand that they not poll specifically between blacks and whites as we are all equals? Where are the Asian-American groups to ask why they were not equally represented? Why is the line drawn here?
The schism in this society is brought out by all of us, perpetrated by all of us, and then when someone "crosses the line," we all put up our dirty hands and attempt to show that we have wiped them clean. We are all guilty of playing into this game and then casting the first stone when it is comfortable and accessible in an effort to show others how "correct" we are, too. How can we have the audacity to say that we live united under one common, humanitarian banner when garbage like this permeates the air of society? These stories don't come from a "shock jock." This can't be pinned on someone who doesn't have the proper taste as any of the other Morally Correct people who are strewn across our land. No, this comes from the same media who shook their finger at a Don Imus. The hypocrisy is never ending.
This will not be the last time, either. At some point, another figure of questionable morality or decency will make a comment that is racially based and they will be run through the ringer. The media will ask aloud who is to blame, what sociological underpinnings make it so that the black race feels inferior and subject to ridicule, that whites have to be tolerant of other races, etc. etc. We are being played the fool. If polls which further divide the races are not published, what happens to Al Sharpton's position as a black leader? What happens to the Network he has put up? What happens on a slow news day when there needs to be a new angle on Barry Bonds? These stories sells papers, they make for airtime, and they bring up ratings and we all play along like marionettes.
This goes beyond the simple idea of what is funny or not, what is insensitive and what is not, or what is racist or what is not. This is about the majority (meaning all people) being jerked around by a minority who are thinking of themselves first and using a racial banner in order to achieve their personal goals. Instead of trying to unite, we are turned against each other, on purpose. Never once will they turn the mirror on themselves. Never once will they try and understand that they are the ones who perpetrate the never-ending racial issues. Never once will they question themselves because it drives stories, sells papers, fills up airtime, and gives certain people positions of power. This is an issue of morality and ethics, but it is not pointed at the proper targets, nor will it ever be.