4.12.2007

State of Black America Part VIII: Nappy-headed Hos

By now, you've heard over and over about (irrelevant) radio shock jock Don Imus calling the Rutgers' women's team "nappy-headed hos" and others on his show referring to the team as "rough hos" and "hardcore hos," even going so far as to compare the team to the Tennessee women's team calling it the jigaboos vs. the wannabees. Spike Lee doesn't like being dragged into it, but calls for an immediate boycott of all advertisers. Rutgers is not happy. The coach is not happy. Tennessee's Women's Coach is not happy. (Please don't make Pat mad. She really looks like she could harm you.) The NCAA is not happy. The Washington Post had a very interesting live online chat.

As with anything, I get a little less pissed, but a little more contemplative with each passing day. I'm absorbing a lot of information and the changes keep coming. It started with the boycotts and protests, then CBS and MSNBC suspend him for 2 weeks. Then advertisers, including Staples, Bigelow Tea and Proctor and Gamble pulled their support. Now MSNBC has pulled its simulcast after taking "into account many conversations with our own employees. What matters to us most is that the men and women of NBC Universal have confidence in the values we have set for this company."

And yet the questions continue. Is Imus so relevant that it hurts for him to call any educated Black woman a nappy-headed ho? No, he's not that relevant, or even relevant at all to me. I only knew who he was prior to the incident because there is a giant bank of televisions covering every news station at work. Every morning I look up and he's on. Yes, he's a shock jock. But at what point do we say enough is enough? Where do we draw the line? Not knowing the sexual proclivities of the women in question, can you really call them hos? Or does that border on slander? Nappy-headed is also in question considering 2 of the people on the team are white. At the very least, he's inaccurate and NOT FUNNY.

I was amazed when I first heard it, then shocked, then really, really pissed off. I have, and love my, natural hair, and I don't like when my own father calls me nappy-headed. It just doesn't sit right with me. It's the implication. Nappy as in unclean or undesirable. Some would disagree. But that's what you meant right? Or what did you mean? Let us know. Then the "they say it so I can" argument is foolish. It's okay to just go along with everything everyone says? Come on. There has to be something that is not okay to you. What is it? Where is the line?

This is not the first time he's made questionable comments. According to wikipedia, Imus may be familiar with the word nigger. He previously pledged not to engage in further racist talk. He has repeatedly apologized, but is it enough? Now the shock jock is upset that the most recent incident is clouding his record of community service. This is true. In many articles, if mentioned at all, his service record is relegated to the final paragraph, which in media terms means first to be cut if there is a space or time issue. Here's a tip. When you make incendiary comments, that is precisely what happens. Any positive impact you have becomes clouded by controversy.

The context also matters. When Imus, a 66-year-old white male, used the airwaves, television and radio, national television, a nationally syndicated radio program to denigrate a group of black women and say they looked like men (didn't hear that part? He and members of his radio program said the women looked like the Toronto Raptors. One took it further and said the Memphis Grizzlies), there is a problem. Take heed. I wouldn't like it if some black people said it either, since so many have chosen to bring rappers into the mix. I'll get to that in a minute.

I'm not clear, however, on how Al Sharpton can say, I will complain to the FCC. On what grounds? FCC indecency standards are somewhat convoluted. I think the better complaint would go to the stations themselves and the advertisers. Imus makes a lot of money for these stations. Do I think he should be fired? I don't know. What does Imus think should happen?

If you've been watching any of the coverage of this issue, I'm sure more than once you've heard the question, but what about the rappers? Black people have got to stop saying it themselves. We're back to this again? Like with nigg(a)(er), right? Trust and believe, there are many black and white people calling rappers to the table on a regular basis for their community-destroying lyrics. Search music on many of my regular bloggers' pages and you'll find great disdain not only for the music and their "artists," but also the media outlets that play them. At some point, you get tired of being nigga-ed, bitched and hoed, not to mention encouraged to sell drugs and smack asses. We've covered that. But since you want to ask, let's go to the source.

On Hollywood.com, Rapper Snoop Dogg refused any comparison to Imus. Snoop went so far as to say "(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s**t, that's trying to get a n**ga for his money. These are two separate things."

It's a bit clearer now, but do go on. "We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthaf**kas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever."

I kind of hate you right now Snoop. Maybe even more than I did when you brought those women to the MTV Awards on a leash. You have a wife and I'm pretty sure, a daughter. So, though you are not referring to them when talking about hos, surely you see the problem with leading a WOMAN around on a LEASH. I suppose at this point, you are still saying it's not your wife or daughter, but what message are you sending? Can you really get mad if your daughter shows up on someone's leash one day?

But let's get back to the point at hand, an elderly, white, male radio personality referred to a group of young, educated black women as hos. This is not just a black issue. He made it racial by adding the nappy-headed part, but not only black people are up in arms over this. True, some people are weighing in for their own personal gain, but that's neither here nor there.

Barack Obama called the comments "divisive, hurtful, and offensive to Americans of all backgrounds." Kind of pat, but a response nonetheless. Hillary Clinton dedicated space on her website for people to send their support. The National Organization of Women jumped on the bandwagon, too. Though a bit late to the party, the Journalism and Women Symposium also added their two cents.

I think the bottom line is for you not to come out of your mouth against a group of women who did nothing to deserve it. The team captain is a straight-A student who plays the piano, bass guitar, drums and saxophone. The team includes All-Americans, a future attorney, a psychology major a player of the year. And this is how they are rewarded.Talk about kicking someone while they're down. They'd just lost the national championship. You are talking about someone's sister, someone's daughter. Do you know how I would react if someone attacked my sister or child like this?

Black people have a tendency to group identify. When you attack one black person, many feel like you're attacking all black people. This particular incident also has a sense of no matter what you accomplish, to some people you are still nothing but a nappy-headed ho. So maybe there is a lesson in this after all.

For Previous State of Black America posts, go here.

16 comments:

CNEL said...

I was on vaca when it happened, so I didn't understand the entirety of what Imus said until Sunday night.

Imus's comment and those of his producer were flat out wrong. It was irresponsible to degrade people in such a matter, irregardless of race or gender. Taking it there only made it worst.

I felt for the girls. This just goes to show why there needs to be greater attention paid, and a greater discussion of race and gender in America.

As for Snoop, reading that just shows ignorance on his part. What he does is degrading to women, as is what Imus has done.

For my own part it made me think about the standard of beauty I might consciously or subconsciously impose on the women in my life. Maybe I'll leave my sister alone about her hair.

amber said...

the importance of words is obviously ever present... imus has lost his job ... and yet i wonder ... imus said what im sure more than a few folks were thinkin ... while i dont agree with his comments and they were mos def unwarranted ... perhaps he kept it real and payed the consequeneces ... but what about the folks who exist under the radar ... who will say what you want to hear but always have and always will be rootin for your downfall?... it makes you think really cause as long as that hatred exists underneath ... in any race ... black white or otherwise ... imus will just be one of many...

Vdizzle said...

First off, up with natural hair. Ladies don't live the lye!!

Second, what was he thinking pissing off Pat!?! It's Pat Summit mayne. She rocks!

NOW, I forgot who made the point, but Tennessee has won yet another national championship and the Rutgers ladies have reached a new level in their athletic careers, but it's all be overshadowed by this ASSHOLE! They can even enjoy their accomplishments.

Finally, it doesn't matter that he lost his job, he's just gonna go to satellite radio like everybody else and make tons of money.

*sigh*

jameil1922 said...

cnel... you should. she loves you and it probably hurts her more when you bother her about it than when imus said what he did. it hurts more when it comes from people you love.

ai... whether he was keepin it real or not, there is a responsibility to the consumers. advertisers were jumping ship left and right, those companies have diversity and inclusion clauses and had to answer to their employees. if you support him, then what does that say about what you claim? freedom of speech exists. he can say what he wants in his little corner of the world, but when you bring it out into society, prepare to face the consequences.

v... pat is gangsta. tenn and rutgers are probably getting far more attn than they ever would have. women's sports are sooo overshadowed. he can absolutely go to satellite radio. that's a whole nother ball of wax. enjoy yourself over there. that's radio you pay for. but right now, the consumers have spoken.

LaurenAshleigh said...

Wait a minute- be not decieved. He has NOT lost his job. MSNBC has fired him, as has NBC. He still very much so has a job as a radio personality. He's on 2 weeks paid vacation... ahem, I mean "leave".

What pisses me off moreso than anything is not his comments, because we can't very well expect him to respect black women if we can't get our own men to respect us, but rather the lack of action that has happened. Just NOW has it started to pick up steam and STILL his has a job. Please believe is Tom Joyner went on his show and said, "Cracker bitches are single handedly ensuring that every STD known to man gets passed on to professional ball players" best believe he'd be on the street within the hour. Is that not the same thing? Racial slur+ hoes.
Don't believe the hype; he hasn't been fired at all. His major source of income, his radio show, is still in the pocket. And our race is too short sighted to see that we've not been served.

Keeping it real or not, there are certain things you can freely discuss with your boys while throwing back a few in front of the tv in your living room that you cannot say on a platform before a national audience. He needs to be held accountable. Shock jock or not please believe if he was black or hispanic he'd already be out on his minority ass.

Chris said...

It's crazy that it took for a scrotum-looking cross between Sideshow Bob and Phil Spector to open a wide-ranging discussion about the usage of those two words. As someone who is guilty of using those words quite often, I was outraged when Imus said these things, but it DID force me to look at my usage of those words, and it's no better when I say it. Like everyone else, I feel bad for the girls who put in hardwork and have a very good shot at winning the chip next year being overshadowed by this nonsense.

jameil1922 said...

la... he's been fired now. i'm sure you're shouting from the rooftops.

chris... that didn't really start the discourse. oprah talked about it more than a year ago. lots of bloggers and black scholars have been saying for years that rappers need to find another way to describe a woman. it may now be on the national stage, but its BEEN an issue for at least 4 years. I remember discussing it at Hampton prior to my senior year (which *gasp* was three years ago). i think 2 years ago spelman's women were goin hard on nelly for his usage of the terms.

Ladynay said...

YAY, State of Black America! Personally I am tired of the entire Imus situation. I never heard of the dude till folks were pissed off at him. I don't think he should have lost his job. I think that a whore is a whore is a whore, whether Snoop said it or Imus. Either way is offensive. I think now that most of "us" are gathered together and hyped up we can make some moves on some serious issues in our communities.

P.S. I am a happy nappy! To me nappy don't mean dirty but apparently like other words, it means different things to different people.

Honey-Libra said...

I think you said this rather well LOL

Big J said...

Well said, as always...

JOB said...

Jameil, I don't know if you saw this article - http://www.local6.com/news/11521240/detail.html


This article basically reported on two young black girls in Orlando fighting during the school day. Someone had recorded it on their cell phone.

The story kind of sickened me at first, because they threw the blame on some poor hapless substitute teacher. "Why didn't the teacher do anything about this?" As a teacher, I got my teacher feathers all ruffled thinking, "once again, the teacher is being blamed."

What I later realized is- and being a tv person, you know the deal- they saw they had some great footage... but they can't just put up a random fight regardless of how GREAT TV it is, so they had to frame some sort of story around it.

But this is the kind of crap that the media bathes in... they stretched out the Imus thing because they were reaping HUGE amounts of publicity... and which is why his story is still all over the media.

I wonder, if those advertisers hadn't jumped ship, would Imus still have a job? I tend to think yes, but I'm cynical all over the place.

PS, perhaps the most troubling... we watched a news report about Imus' firing in my class - which included a replay of Imus' comments, and you couldn't hear the next few lines of the report over the laughter of my (80% black) class.

jameil1922 said...

lady.. tired of it too. but still confused. still waiting for those important issues to surface with some action. AL AND JESSE SIT DOWN!!!!!!!

honey... if nothing else, it was long.

job... its not that cut and dry. a fight between teenagers is not just "great video" to a journalist. maybe a sensationalist but many journalists are parents, as well, so they want to know what happened and if their child would be beat up while a sub stood by. if i had a child, niece or nephew, i'd want to know the same thing. in everything, there is a story.

there are lots of people in any newsroom who won't just say "yeah lets run it." that IS a story if someone is standing by while a child is beat. we're not making that one up.

who in the media is benefiting from the imus issue now that he's fired? perhaps his future employers who don't mind his constant comments along that line. that is NOT something you want blown up and re-played if you are the head of a network that preaches diversity.

do i think he would still be on the air if the advertisers hadn't jumped ship? its possible (anything is) but if you listen to the comments from the heads of the CBS and NBC News, you hear things like, their employees saying to them, "that could have been my child" and "why just pay lip service to the spirit of inclusion and diversity?" it makes you question (and i believe they knew this) if you could really work somewhere where there is such a constant, reckless disregard for other people. that is not what anyone in that sort of leadership position wants. they had tough decisions to make.

i think the bigger reason why his story is still all over the media is because it calls all of our accountability into question. as viewers, as music listeners, as men and women, as members of the media. it begs the question of who will be next to go? has political correctness gone too far? is this censorship? what about the first amendment? i could go on for quite some time. the point is, he is not the first, and he won't be the last to spread hateful words on the airwaves. the job of the media is to inform and to push you to that next level of understanding, maybe even raise further questions and search for those answers (in its most lofty form). i'm not going to say its always accomplished well, for whose task ever is? the advent of the 24-hour news cycle can be a burden, wearying even the least tiresome story which can be a shame when there's so much to be discussed. but then it gives you endless angles to pursue. a blessing and a curse. (ed bradley mentioned it very eloquently).

there is something to be said for the desensitizing of our culture. nothing is sacred anymore. a sense of worth is destroyed in the quest for the almighty dollar, everything else be damned. so yes, that probably is the most disheartening thing. to see a group of mostly black children watch someone else black child denigrated on national television without provocation, and laugh? where do we go from here?

LaurenAshleigh said...

Yay!!! Except, the issue is much bigger. Read Harvey Firestein's op ed piece in the New Yorker

jameil1922 said...

umm... dearest la... would it have hurt thou terribly to link to the article? that would've been far easier. cuz i can't find it.

La said...

sorry. I was on my sidekick at the time. Look on my blog. Done and done, lol.



you know I'm lazy. :-)

Stacie von Kutieboots said...

1. al sharpton needs to sit down

2. i actually, somewhat, agree with snoop. know your place imus. and not saying snoop's rightful place is having women on leashes and calling people bitches and hoes but... i do think he has more of a grasp of the word than

3. i LOVE this post!