2007-04-20 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

If Imus Had To Go, So Should Russell Simmons

Everybody is talking about Don Imus and the racist, degrading, sexist comment he made about the players on the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team on his tasteless, racist, degrading radio-television show two weeks ago.

Nobody who listens to Imus regularly was surprised by what he said. He does it daily. It's part of his shtick, a large part of why people listened to him in the first place.

Actually, I listened to him regularly on my short morning drive between Belle Harbor and The Wave office in Rockaway Beach.

I enjoyed listening to his conversations with such luminaries as Tim Russert and Bob Schaeffer.

I know, that's like saying that you enjoy reading Playboy for the interviews, but it's true.

I often turned him off when his comments or his constant sales pitches for his ranch or the private airline he uses got under my skin.

I do remember turning him off when, chortling about Len Berman being fired from WFAN, he called him "Berman the Jew." Not, "Berman the bad sports announcer," or "Berman the failure," but "Berman the Jew."

Then, there was the time that he said, "You don't have to say 'cheap Jew,' because it's redundant."

Funny, I don't remember the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, or Al Sharpton, for that matter, taking him to task for those comments. That's probably because Imus is an entertainer and he makes his living being racist, sexist and homophobic.

My feeling is that if you don't like what he's saying, you just shut him off. Enough people do that, and he's out of business.

The point is that he's been so successful that millions of people like what he has to say, even if he is racist, sexist and homophobic. They don't shut him off and he becomes a millionaire.

I didn't like what he had to say about the basketball team, but I don't think he should have been fired. You don't like the entertainment, shut him off, turn the station and put on somebody you do like.

I was at a conference hosted by The Society of Professional Journalists at Hofstra University on Saturday.

There was one panel at the conference entitled, "The 'N-word' and More." On the panel were E.R. Shipp, who wrote for the New York Times and Daily News and is now a professor at the college's Journalism School and Richard Dalton from Newsday, the former vice president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

It was interesting.

While the conference was planned long before Imus spoke his now famous words, the discussion turned to him almost immediately.

Both of the panelists thought that not only should Imus be fired, so should the reporters who repeated those words continually on their newscasts.

I questioned how a reporter could do a story that centers on the use of language without stating the actual language. As an example, I talked about The Wave's front page two years ago where we printed a photograph of the Hatzolah Ambulance scrawled with racist comments.

They both said that I should not have printed that photo because it would "have been harmful to those who saw it and were bothered by the statements."

They said that I should not have used the photo, but should have written a story using euphemisms for the actual words and detailing why those words are harmful to some residents.

Personally, I think they are out of their minds.

My mission is to tell the story, tell the truth.

Their mission is to first, do no harm.

I asked Shipp why Imus should be fired and not Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul who supports racist, misogynist, sexist, anti-police rants.

Shipp said that she did not support Simmons and hip-hop, and that neither did most of the people in the black community.

I think she had been in academia far too long and has lost touch with what's going on in the streets.

Take a look at some of the names for "music" that is popular on the streets today.

"Bitch better have my money," by AMG. "Money, Slabs and Ho's," by Throwed Minded Click. "Money, Ho's and Clothes," by DJ Shortstop.

Look at the lyrics from the number two rap hit, "I'm A Flirt," by R. Kelly and Bow Wow.

"Ima b pimpin,

I don't be slippin

When it come down to these ho's.

I don't live them."

Or, the number one hit for several weeks running, "This Is Why I'm Hot," by Mims.

"I love the dirty, dirty

Cause Niggas show me love

The ladies start to bounce

As soon as I hit the club."

Those are all songs put out by major music companies and supported by the hip-hop crew, including Russell Simmons, who often says that it's perfectly all right because its part of the "black experience and tradition."

Why is it perfectly fine for hip-hop artists to call black women "Ho's" and to use the N-word while Imus gets fired for doing the same thing?

Obviously, it's all about money.

Hip-hop means big bucks to the music companies and the "talent" that makes the records.

Imus meant big money to CBS and MSNBC until the sponsors started to pull out. Then, they dropped him like a hot potato.

As long as hip-hop continues to sell big, no black activist will actually do anything to stop the racist, homophobic, misogynist rants.

There is too much money to be made.

Where is the Reverend Al Sharpton marching against rap music like he did against Imus? He is not, nor will he ever. You will see some black columnists in mainstream papers argue that rap music and hip-hop should clean up its act.

Katti Gray in Newsday wrote recently, "If black outrage over Imus' appalling attempt at being hip and funny is supposed to get right down to the real nit and grit, it demands a black follow-up.

The next strategic move has to be

an equal-opportunity offensive that strikes against every money maker of any color whose anti-black slur rips over the waves, pumps from an adjacent car at a stoplight, and especially into an impressionable ear."

I say, amen to that.

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