In examining the Don Imus controversy over the last few days here in our Don Imus and the Rutgers Nappy Headed Hos and Race and the American Humor Line articles — I now realize when one ponders on the core purpose of this Urban Semiotic blog — one cannot escape the hard reality that an “Urban Semiotic” has most powerfully come to mean in this blog the matter of Black skin and its place in The American Dream.
Time and again many of our most poignant and powerful articles published here have addressed Racial issues in America — and that necessary, and sometimes uncomfortable dialog — has been examined and perpetuated in conversations here that are as invigorating as they are enlightening and, for that, I thank you.
If you have a favorite Urban Semiotic article that deals with Race and The Color Line, I would appreciate it if you would provide the title and a link in your comments — along with your reason for picking the article(s) — so we can create a new thread of understanding, a new way forward, and a context for the history and the now that we have tried to covet and change when it comes to getting along with each other beneath the barriers of our skin.
Where do we go from here?
Imus is finished on MSNBC and CBS will soon follow. A network broadcast cannot sustain the loss of large advertising revenue plus the expressed dismay yesterday of Dr. Maya Angelou and Al Roker and Barack Obama and other luminaries and carry on with the current course and not avoid being co-branded as a Racist along with Mr. Imus.
The Rutgers women’s basketball team have become all our daughters. We stand with them. We shall defend them. We admire their accomplishments even in the light of their dismay.
If Imus had not been finished yesterday, Bob Herbert of The New York Times, would have placed the silver spike in his coffin with today’s article:
You knew something was up early in the day. As soon as I told executives at MSNBC that I was going to write about the “60 Minutes” piece, which was already in pretty wide circulation, they began acting very weird. We’ll get back to you, they said. In a “60 Minutes” interview with Don Imus broadcast in July 1998, Mike Wallace said of the “Imus in the Morning” program, “It’s dirty and sometimes racist.” Mr. Imus then said: “Give me an example. Give me one example of one racist incident.” To which Mr. Wallace replied, “You told Tom Anderson, the producer, in your car, coming home, that Bernard McGuirk is there to do nigger jokes.” Mr. Imus said, “Well, I’ve nev — I never use that word.” Mr. Wallace then turned to Mr. Anderson, his producer. “Tom,” he said. “I’m right here,” said Mr. Anderson.
Mr. Imus then said to Mr. Anderson, “Did I use that word?” Mr. Anderson said, “I recall you using that word.” “Oh, O.K.,” said Mr. Imus. “Well, then I used that word. But I mean — of course, that was an off-the-record conversation. But —-” “The hell it was,” said Mr. Wallace. The transcript was pure poison. A source very close to Don Imus told me last night, “They did not want to wait for your piece to come out.” For MSNBC, Mr. Imus’s “nappy-headed ho’s” comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team was bad enough. Putting the word “nigger” into the so-called I-man’s mouth was beyond the pale. The roof was caving in on Mr. Imus. More advertisers were pulling the plug. And Bruce Gordon, a member of the CBS Corp. board of directors and former head of the N.A.A.C.P., said publicly that Mr. Imus should be fired.
The greater lesson in the matter of Imus is that people count. There was a concerted effort, as I understand it, inside NBC where Black women who worked there rose up and said, “Enough.” They have had enough of the public battering of their lives from the media and from “their own men.” I also think that beyond the level of power and money, a stand was taken against the crassness that has become American culture and there was a movement — even if momentary and fleeting but inspired by Imus’ hate speech — that began to bind much of us together in red.
Not Rutgers red. Blood red.
There was a realization on a national level for the first time in perhaps 40 years that we are in this life together, that we all share the same lifeblood across all skin colors, that we are all bound to each other beyond words and hatred and despair and that we finally belong to each other — especially in the difficult task of loving and respecting each other as human and not just human beings. Our blood is red. Our anger is crimson. Our ongoing national shame is sanguine. Our joy is forever scarlet.