Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shocking Talk: Don Imus

Remember the ‘shock jock’ they fired, and now rehired? Don Imus who has a reputation for being controversial (he wears a cowboy hat and lives in Manhattan for crying out loud) finally stepped over a line that he has danced on for a long time. Shock jocks are not scary linemen for the Pittsburgh Steelers, though some of them act as though they have been hit too hard too many times. These formidable mouths stir the s---t and do it in a way that boosts ratings instead of getting a knuckle sandwich when they are seen in public, which isn’t to say that some of them haven’t feasted on that five fingered delicacy. What really gets me is this guy, who I have never listened to, used the phrase, “nappy headed ho’s” to describe a winning, mostly black, women’s basketball team. He said it once, but within days I have read it and heard it at least a dozen times over. The word ‘nappy’ supposedly describes the kind of hair blacks have and the only time I have heard the word ‘nap’ was talking about the rug or what the baby was doing. Since when did ‘nappy’ become a word that was associated with black hairdo’s? If Imus had said, “afro headed ho’s” it may not have come across as badly. Then again there is the word ‘ho’ and that can’t mean what John Wayne meant when he said, “Westward Ho!”. Cleary the long road to ‘ho’ (sic) is now what Imus is faced with having been canned for doing what he does best, insult and infuriate people who are too high on their pedestals. Let’s face it, there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t been insulted for their looks, race, sex, financial standing, what they eat, where they live, what they drive, what they wear, and who they are dating. It is pathetic that this has turned into a national debate when we are faced with the biggest financial meltdown due to sub-prime lending practices that will be making ‘ho’s’ out of suburbanites who can’t meet their mortgages all too soon.
The media, the black leaders, the outraged are acting like they are on a playground at recess and wagging their fingers at the maverick among them who has the audacity to call a ‘spade’ ….well, you know. Those young women who won their title have so much to celebrate that in their state of mind and euphoria could just roll over Imus like so much paste under the wheels of the Hummer he probably drives. “That’s right Don, we are number one, and the nappiest, headiest, ho, ho, ho ‘ing’ bunch of basketball players in the country. And by the way, you look pretty lame wearing that hat when you ain’t no cowboy.”
It use to be that people matched wits, but we have become literally ‘wit’ less and rely on others to make our case. Nobody has called Al Sharpton anything he hasn’t heard, nor for that matter Jesse Jackson. Mind you those young women probably haven’t heard themselves called, ‘nappy headed ho’s” before but would they have gotten upset or the attention if somebody hadn’t picked up the story? Words only have the power we give them. The word ‘denial’ has no meaning to George Bush so it doesn’t exist for him. The world could be going to Hell in a Samsonite and George would be saying, “How lovely they re-paved this route with good intentions.” We decide what the word means to us. Call a woman who only speaks Croatian a ‘slut’ and she is oblivious to your slur. Ignorance is bliss. Call a white man ‘niggardly’ and he will be confused because even though he knows he isn’t black, he will take it as an insult, but only if he knows what the word means. By the way it is the dictionary, “niggardly” which means “ungenerous”, “stingy” and “miserly.” So what are we saying? Slang has hijacked the meaning of words so one man’s compliment is another’s insult. Nowadays if a person under 30 says something is ‘sick’ they are saying this is very, very cool. If they say it is ‘dope’ they are not referring to weed or idiots but to something slick and desirable. So in a particular case being called a ‘sick dope’ could be the best compliment you get all day!
At some point somebody turned a word into a weapon and the rest of us bought into it. When the floor product came onto the market ‘Spic & Span’ did the people in the Hispanic community take offense when clearly they had every right to say, “Just because we clean your floors doesn’t mean you can name the product we use after us.”
A NYC cabdriver was going on a rant one day about something and he used the word ‘Eggplant’ do describe a group of people. My mind went to Italian’s because they make eggplant parmigan but the cabbie was taking about blacks. How did it come to calling Negros a purple vegetable? Who thought of this and said, “Great idea” and while we are at it lets call the Asian’s “Pears”, Irish “Potatoes” and the English, “Muffins” and the French ‘Dressing’.
Name calling has all the destructive power of a warm breeze. However we as a country have become a nation of cowards living in fear. Why do I think that? Only a people living in fear could confiscate my corkscrew before I get on a plane because of the remote possibility that I have the capacity to overpower the rest of the passengers and hijack a plane with it. It is fear that makes us do foolish things, like buy guns to protect ourselves against others who also have them. (By the way their guns are bigger than yours and holds more bullets) Fear makes us view other races and nationalities as a threat, instead of with curiosity. A child has no fear, (ever watch them on a skateboard?) but is soon taught to be suspicious of others by their role models, which unfortunately isn’t Spiderman or Wolverine. Fear now dictates our actions and re-actions.
The girls on that winning basketball team were so ‘high’ from their win that when somebody said, “Imus called you all a bunch of ‘nappy headed ho’s” they either said, “Whatever” or “You mean he mentioned us?!!!” When you are at the top (literally) of your game, name calling is the last thing that is going to bring you down because if it wasn’t, the loosing team could really ruin it for the victors by insulting them, Have you ever heard of that working? When you are on the top, even “Sticks and Stones” won’t break your bones because you will have an entourage of followers who will gladly ‘take the hit’ for you. These girls are winners and you can say whatever you want about a winner, it doesn’t change that fact. But if you are a looser, it is a completely different story. You have the right to collect sympathy which people will willingly give you. A person who is down is not to be kicked…. hard anyway. Shock Jocks don’t kick people who are down. There is no fun in that, it’s too easy and it is ‘bad form’ even for them. They want to taint, trouble, tarnish, hassle, and harass those people who are riding high on their hogs or resting on their laurels. Don Imus brought them up to talk about (insult really) because they are winners and as such can take some ‘Roasting.’
In his own ‘red-neck’ way Imus was saying, “Look at those girls go, they are stomping on some poor white trash ass now.” That would not have gotten the same response because the ‘poor white trash’ lobby isn’t that strong up on capital hill but if it was, Rush Limbaugh would be their spokesperson.

Copyright 2007 Michael Marlin