A penguin and a polar bear are sitting on an iceberg. The penguin yells, "No Soap Radio!" They both jump in the water.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Whitlock: Time for Jackson, Sharpton to Step Down

"I’m calling for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the president and vice president of Black America, to step down."

Under the curious but understandable designation of "Sports Commentary," AOL writer Jason Whitlock takes the ministers Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson aside and gives them what for. Whitlock says that Sharpton have done nothing to help blacks in the past 20 years, and uses their reaction to Don Imus' racist remarks toward the Rutgers women's basketball team as an example.

This is the reason you've got to keep an eye on sports writers. People don't realize it these guys sort of exist in their own little athletic world, but given the opportunity there are a lot of sports journalists who can put you on your ass given the opportunity. Like Dave Barry's column after 9/11 or after his dad died - which as you can guess weren't funny but were a couple of his best, period - it's a combination of sheer writing talent and delivering something completely unexpected.

Now to Whitlock (I'm picking rather long quotes from a rather long column):
Hey, what Imus said, calling the Rutgers players "nappy-headed hos," was ignorant, insensitive and offensive. But so are many of the words that come out of the mouths of radio shock jocks/comedians.

Imus’ words did no real damage. Let me tell you what damaged us this week: the sports cover of Tuesday’s USA Today. This country’s newspaper of record published a story about the NFL and crime and ran a picture of 41 NFL players who were arrested in 2006. By my count, 39 of those players were black.

You want to talk about a damaging, powerful image, an image that went out across the globe?

We’re holding news conferences about Imus when the behavior of NFL players is painting us as lawless and immoral. Come on. We can do better than that. Jesse and Al are smarter than that.

First of all, I take issue with Whitlock calling USA Today a "newspaper of record. The LA and NY Times, the Post, Wall Street Journal, those are records. USA Today is more like the pop-up book of journalism.

Imus' statements are no doubt receiving national news coverage because, with Michael Richards and Mel Gibson's high-profile tirades, this is still an issue the public is interested in, but what is the actual good coming out of this? Imus is being demonized, which is good on some level. As happened with Richards, though not so much with Gibson, it sets an example: "say something racist in public and your career will end." Imus isn't done, yet, but he does appear to be on a downward slope to retirement.
Had Imus’ predictably poor attempt at humor not been turned into an international incident by the deluge of media coverage, 97 percent of America would’ve never known what Imus said. His platform isn’t that large and it has zero penetration into the sports world.

Imus certainly doesn’t resonate in the world frequented by college women. The insistence by these young women that they have been emotionally scarred by an old white man with no currency in their world is laughably dishonest.

The Rutgers players are nothing more than pawns in a game being played by Jackson, Sharpton and [Rutgers women’s basketball coach Vivian] Stringer.

Again, I agree and disagree. Had it not been for a cell phone video, Michael Richards' racist rant probably wouldn't have received nearly as much attention. It's a trend I noticed (probably well after everyone else was in the know) at the journalism convention in Portland over Spring Break.

Well, I should say I noticed it in the hotel room during a break between sessions, so it had very little to do with the conference aside from me being trapped with little else to do other than watch TV news. Ugh.

CNN was playing a cell phone video from some midwest state that showed a man running into a supermarket and attacking four people with a knife. Random attack, completely unprovoked, no one died, they caught the guy soon after. Not really national news. But with the video, hell, we've got some ratings! The inherent hackery of television will always keep me from taking TV news seriously. I'll admit that printing the words Richards said and a description of the events just isn't as powerful and can't tell the story as true as video can, but when you put small news over big news because the small news has an eye-catching video, then you're not a journalist. You're a hack.

But this argument doesn't really apply here. Imus was hosting a national radio show and, up until April 11, a TV simulcast. It's not as if he didn't think his words would travel. Pointing out that his voice only reaches a few thousand, as opposed to the millions it ended up reaching through media coverage, is a little irrelevent. There's a certain point where something said becomes public property, and for Imus that's when he starting talking into a microphone hooked to an antenna.
We can’t win the war over verbal disrespect and racism when we have so obviously and blatantly surrendered the moral high ground on the issue. Jesse and Al might win the battle with Imus and get him fired or severely neutered. But the war? We don’t stand a chance in the war. Not when everybody knows “nappy-headed ho’s” is a compliment compared to what we allow black rap artists to say about black women on a daily basis.

We look foolish and cruel for kicking a man who went on Sharpton’s radio show and apologized. Imus didn’t pull a Michael Richards and schedule an interview on Letterman. Imus went to the Black vice president’s house, acknowledged his mistake and asked for forgiveness.

It's not like Don Imus blamed his behavior on alcoholism and half-assed the apology; he was serious about it, and he's taking his licks like a man. I'm not saying let him off the hook completely, and it's quite possible that without this level of backlash that he wouldn't have apologized, but enouch is enough reverend. Do the Christian thing and turn the other cheek.
We have more important issues to deal with than Imus. If we are unwilling to clean up the filth and disrespect we heap on each other, nothing will change with our condition. You can fire every Don Imus in the country, and our incarceration rate, fatherless-child rate, illiteracy rate and murder rate will still continue to skyrocket.

A man who doesn’t respect himself wastes his breath demanding that others respect him.

We don’t respect ourselves right now. If we did, we wouldn’t call each other the N-word. If we did, we wouldn’t let people with prison values define who we are in music and videos. If we did, we wouldn’t call black women bitches and hos and abandon them when they have our babies.

If we had the proper level of self-respect, we wouldn’t act like it’s only a crime when a white man disrespects us. We hold Imus to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That’s a (freaking) shame.

Wow. What he said.


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