Race, Class, and Language

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[Since we ended up covering many of these issues on our Ralph Ellison's America show, we sent this one to the graveyard.]

Leave it to nother to channel exactly what we were talking about today:

Race, class, and language. The Right is defending Imus by claiming that African Americans use that language…so let’s take their argument head on. Should we discuss who — in this country of free speech — can use derogatory language about race? Can the youth say it; Chris Rock; only African Americans? Have we reached a point that it shouldn’t be cool for anyone — anytime, to use that language?

Nother, in a comment to Open Source, 4/13/07

Here’s Michelle Malkin’s version of that argument, one I sent around the office yesterday in near disbelief because for the first time I realized I half agreed with her. (For the record, it’s worth noting that Malkin’s piece isn’t a defense of Imus; it’s an indictment of much of the dominant American popular culture.)

Is it time to talk once again about who — and when, and how, and why — can say what?


  • Lumière

    Get Bill Cosby as a guest

    Cynthia Tucker on Cosby’s the Ghettoesburg Address aka Pound Cake Speech:

    But isn’t it about time that black Americans acknowledge that, at the dawn of the 21st century, personal responsibility has at least as much to do with success in America as race?

    http://209.157.64.200/focus/f-news/1143594/posts

    http://www.eightcitiesmap.com/transcript_bc.htm

  • Lumière

    Personal responsibility is at core of free speech.

    Yes, you can say whatever you want, but if you must take personal responsibility for it, you will know better what to say and what not to say.

    Imus had no idea he would be held personally responsible – now Imus knows full well.

  • nother

    Now we should take Bill Maher to task for his misogynistic tendencies.

    We have to admit that we hold a different standard for entertainers and politicians. We need the George Carlin’s of the world, but we don’t need them to be Water Cronkite.

    It’s this new breed of journalistic-tainers – guys like Imus and Maher and Dennis Miller and even Jon Stewart – that want to walk that line of irony; these are the guys we have to watch very carefully. When they screw up, it’s oh, I’m a comedian, it was a bad joke?

    So who I really blame is the politicians who sell out and enable these jerks like Imus and Maher. (although I agree with Maher’s politics, he is still a jerk).

  • EricPA

    Two big issues here, as I see it. The easy one is that civility has been on a long bender and seemingly has to hit bottom before recovery is possible. It might as well take the form of Imus, whose fall will be well-cushioned.

    Secondly, I always wondered who the Right was talking about when they prattled on about our “values-free” society. Listening to all the defenders of Imus, I now see them in stark relief. They are us! By that I mean, they are in our tent. I’m no absolutist, but does that mean there are no lines to be drawn? I’m really tired of the slippery-slope argument which seems to put one on an Abu Gharib box – one step in any direction means certain doom.

  • Bobo

    Lumiere: “But isn’t it about time that black Americans acknowledge that, at the dawn of the 21st century, personal responsibility has at least as much to do with success in America as race?”

    Whoa. What a way to start the comment thread, Lumiere. A year ago I would have disagreed with you on principal. I spent the past summer working in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. After that experience, I disagree with you based on what I have seen, the people I have talked to, the FACTS that I know.

    One of the most shocking aspects of the ongoing discrimination I witnessed is a form which is not often addressed. It is environmental discrimination. Factories and industrial plants often set themselves up in neighborhoods with low property values with residents who won’t or can’t complain about the company’s practices. These neighborhoods are often predominantly African American. What do these factories do that’s so awful? Sometimes it’s illegal dumping, sometimes it’s just normal leakage associated with that type of industry. In any case, the result is that these African American neighborhoods contain very dangerous levels of highly toxic chemicals. Some of these chemicals result in high cancer rates, some cause other strange and varied diseases, but one of the worst cases is heavy metal poisoning. Heavy metals build up in the nervous systems of children, and by the time they are school-age, they show significant reduction in IQ from the poisoning. It goes without saying that since these are low-income neighborhoods, most families can’t afford the expensive medical procedures which they and their children need.

    This is just one example of the many types of discrimination which have been going on for generations and have a very long-lasting impact. This is not simply a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ situation. Intentional and unintentional targeting of African Americans to receive all the shit we can dump on them has taken its toll on a very large segment of the population.

    It is ridiculous to think that if African Americans stopped using the dreaded ‘n word’, and started wearing suits or taking yoga classes that all of a sudden a few hundred years of America’s refuse would be lifted off their shoulders.

    It’s the bootstrap rhetoric which has made the civil rights movement stagnate over the past 40 years. It’s time to own up to the fact that a lot of African Americans aren’t just being dealt bad hands, they aren’t even sitting at the card table.

  • Lumière

    BoBo:

    That quote is Cynthia Tucker agreeing with Bill Cosby.

    The personal responsibility that Cosby was talking about was for individuals and community members. In your example, it would be the owners of the factories who have to take personal responsibility.

    Personal responsibility gets around restricting free speech:

    say what you want, but be responsible for what you say.

    Imus was being irresponsible regarding his power position.

  • seymour

    You should get Curtis Blow as a guest – the first ‘hip hop’ artist to be signed for >$1M back in the 80′s. He is strongly against the use of violence, disrespect for women, or racial identity. Ask him about the “chains” (i.e. ‘bling’) popular with rap artists. Find Curtis via myspace.com

  • Bobo

    Lumiere: Sorry for the slight misinterpretation on the source of that quotation. I still stand fully behind what I said though.

    My problem with the whole Imus scandal, and all the press around it, is that to most white Americans, THIS seems like the most serious form of racism left in our society. Withing weeks, if not already, there will be novelty tee-shirts and coffee mugs with ‘nappy-headed ho’ printed on them, for sale all across the country. It will become one of those catch phrases that loses all its original gravity, and withing a year Imus will be forgotten, and white Americans will have forgotten about race once again.

    The effect of the Political Correctness debates and scandals over the last few decades is that now a lot of white Americans think they’re ‘fighting racism’ by telling their other white friends not to use the ‘n word.’ The ‘n word’ now appears to be the last great hurtle to racial equality in this country. The debate has now become focussed on something which many people see as trivial compared to other issues in the world. We only hear about racism in two situations nowadays. The first is when some random wing-nut decides he’s going to lynch a black man in the rural South, or the similar situation of inner-city, obviously racist police brutality. The second is when someone famous or semi-famous (Imus, Clooney) decides to let a few slurs slip.

    Let me assure you, (IMHO) if these were the only two problems facing African Americans today, language just wouldn’t be an issue.

  • Lumière

    Bobo Says: I still stand fully behind what I said though.

    No problem – the two thoughts are not mutually exclusive.

    In fact, they are related. Imus and the factory owner feel shielded from responsibility by their positions of power.

  • silvio.rabioso

    Michael?

    Eric?

    Dyson?

  • plnelson

    In the news CBS chief executive Les Moonves was quoted as saying that he was concerned about the effect of the language on young people.

    But Columbia Records has lots of gangsta rap artists who use language like that, and worse. (yes, I know there is a new CBS Records just started last year since Sony BMG bought the right to use the original logo from CBS).

    I had never even heard of Don Imus before this controversy (and I’m still not exactly sure who he is or what he did for a living). But I know that the companies and advertisers who are suddenly shocked, shocked that someone would use such racist and sexist language were happy to make money off his show up to this point, and are STILL happy to make money off the rap music that continues to use such such language and imagery. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Bobo

    Lumiere: What happens when the moral catch-all of personal responsibility doesn’t work?

    The obvious answer is punishment, but that really doesn’t happen in most cases. Although the Imus firing is very high-profile, the factory owners I’m talking about are still poisoning black New Orleans to this day. So do we then just increase enforcement? Should we have a race police? Or a Class or Gender Police?

    I don’t ask these questions in jest. With all of the horrors perpetrated against minority groups in America (and around the world), maybe they should have special police and militias looking out for their interests. But I don’t think this is an issue of enforcement. Imus’s off-the-cuff assessment of strong, successful, black women was the same assessment he would give upon walking into a crack-house. This isn’t a case of isolated racism. I think that Imus’s slip-up reveals a truth that he was probably unaware of: no matter how successful and strong those women are, they will always be black women. There will never be a time in their lives when they won’t be conscious of both those facts. How often do you think Imus, or anyone, or me, thinks about their race and gender? Until we make some pretty fundamental changes, success just doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. And as a result, neither does personal responsibility.

  • plnelson

    It’s this new breed of journalistic-tainers – guys like Imus and Maher and Dennis Miller and even Jon Stewart – that want to walk that line of irony; these are the guys we have to watch very carefully. When they screw up, it’s oh, I’m a comedian, it was a bad joke?

    But that’s your label (“journalistic-tainers”) – you are defining the label and trying to tell them what their limits should be based on whether they are a “journalist” or an “entertainer”.

    Imus is a guy with a microphone. Who’s to say whether he’s a “journalist” or an “entertainer” or what? Politico’s used to appear on the Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson shows; now they appear on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. All of these guys are guys with microphones or cameras. (as is Chris and Terry Gross, etc) And what are bloggers?

    We have a right to free speech in the US – there’s nothing in the Constitution that says that the sort of speech we are free to make depends on what label nother or plnelson attaches to someone.

  • herbert browne

    Ok… I read Malkin’s piece- and all the “troubling” lyrics (which I never can get, when I hear that stuff on a radio… where it generally holds my attention for about the same length of time that Rush Limbaugh does, albeit for different reasons); and what I got from those lyrics was, primarily, Posturing Young Male Primate. There was no misogyny [actually, one guy is saying that he's emotionally secure enough that he doesn't feel any need to (hand)"cuff" his female associates]… and another is basically going “Wowee” over some pole dancer in a strip club. MM’s “interpretation” of Snoop Dogg’s comments to MTV are not really worthy of her, except as they’re her self-serving springboard to disparage Snoop while sucking up to a sympathetic white audience… duh.

    With regard to Imus’ usage of black idiom (along with any other high-rolling member of the dominant culture in our society, to whom millions of similarly acculturated people are exposed, every day) here’s a hypothesis. White people have historically placed non-whites (both here & abroad) into 2 categories: the english speakers are “useful”; and the others are “quaint.” Black people have realized the ‘value’ of “quaintness”, after centuries of being forced to be ‘useful’… and Ebonics (& gullah, and various dialects) have continued to be a way in which to demonstrate a cultural presence as separable from white, english speakers as that provoked by skin color (about which they can do nothing). It’s simply a “lemonade” that can be made from the “lemons” of racism. That a rep of “the man” (Imus) should appropriate their idiom to dis their cultural heroes (sheroes?), on as powerful & public a setting as public network media, isn’t simply a “gaffe” on his part… it’s a calculated effort to reinforce the (hopefully) dwindling latent vindictiveness & racist pathology of those who resent a society that they see slipping away from total control of people like Them. (In a way, the insult is compounded by its source in a field- Entertainment- that’s one of the few pursuits that’s relatively “open” to blacks… and the insult is aimed at those in the “other” available field- Sports- in which blacks may realize an “even playing field”, socio-economically… but so what? We’ve come a long way since Gov. Faubus could pontificate about God “putting the White man in America… and the Black man in Africa… and have an audience that agreed with him.)

    I found it rather tender to hear David Brooks wistfully recall what a pleasure it was to partake of Imus’ offerings in group sessions with other media folks… the wonks & pundits, such as himself, and the hairy-chested, two-fisted talkers like Don- who is, essentially, a chest-thumping, wanna-be-dominant Primate… just like the rappers that Malkin despises. ^..^

  • herbert browne

    ps I second Sylvio Rabioso’s speaker nominee, Michael Eric Dyson- an excellent choice! ^..^

  • plnelson

    Imus and the factory owner feel shielded from responsibility by their positions of power.

    Who decides what that responsibility is? Who enforces it?

    Do successful, high-profile gansta-rap artists who also promote negative images of black prople, and especially black women, have a responsibility for their words?

    Political correctness, and censorship resulting from groupthink, is a dangerously slippery slope. As a writer, poet, photographer and artist I’m very worried about creating some kind of code of conduct or rulebook circumscribing free expression.

  • rc21

    The Imus fireing is wrong for so many reasons. First and most importantly Imus was fired for exercising his right to free speech.. I have heard only a few people speak of this. Does any one even have as to what this whole thing is about?

    Imus is a controversial shock jock. He is on the air to voice his opinion on various subjects,from political to social. Much of what he sais is offensive and stupid. You can either listen or change the dial. Now he has been silenced because he gave an opinion on a subject,and it upset someone.

    You would think in America that a person would have a right to speak on any subject they felt like.

    This all started years ago with people being silenced for using the word nigger then it was fag, now it is nappy headed ho. What is next?

    Someone once said freedom is having the right to be offended.

    I don’t even want to get into NBC and Munves they are nothing but whores. As to the black community taking responsibility for it’s own destructive culture that is something you could write a book about.

    Political correctness and censorship are destroying the citizens right to do and say what they believe. Why don’t all the pc thought police people just get togeather and start their effort to change the first amndt.

    This whole episode and others like it sicken me. Anyone in favor of Imus being fired is not a real American, or certainly have very little respect for a persons right to free speech.

  • Lumière

    Bobo Says: So do we then just increase enforcement? Should we have a race police? Or a Class or Gender Police?

    In RI we have two environmental police: CRMC and DEM

    One reports to the legislature

    One reports to the governor

    Bobo Says: How often do you think Imus, or anyone, or me, thinks about their race and gender? Until we make some pretty fundamental changes, success just doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. And as a result, neither does personal responsibility.

    I’m not seeing the connection between a definition of success and personal responsibility. You can define success any way you want – those who have power, such as IMUS, should exhibit greater personal responsibility – if that isn’t obvious to you, it is completely obvious to IMUS now.

  • Lumière

    plnelson Says:

    April 13th, 2007 at 5:44 pm Who decides what that responsibility is? Who enforces it?

    Do successful, high-profile gansta-rap artists who also promote negative images of black prople, and especially black women, have a responsibility for their words?

    ####

    Yes 100% Snoop knows the dif:

    Snoop Dogg: Imus Words, Rap Lyrics Don’t Compare

    “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 mutha—-as say we in the same league as him.” Rap star Snoop Dogg said in a expletive-filled interview with MTV News Tuesday that Don Imus’ use of the the slang “ho” is a “completely different scenario” than the use of word in rap lyrics.

    plnelson Says: Political correctness, and censorship resulting from groupthink, is a dangerously slippery slope. As a writer, poet, photographer and artist I’m very worried about creating some kind of code of conduct or rulebook circumscribing free expression.

    ####

    Personal Responsibility is a personal ethos – if someone feels that making racists remarks is the responsible thing to do, then they are jerks.

    The ethos comes from education and parental guidance. Read Cosby’s speech:

    http://www.eightcitiesmap.com/transcript_bc.htm

    Imus did what he did b/c he thought he could get away with it –

  • Lumière

    rc21 Says: The Imus fireing is wrong for so many reasons.

    Imo, he was fired b/c his sponsors quit – not for exercising his right to free speech.

    He was fired for being a jerk – he didn’t get up and defend himself on his first amendment rights to free speech – he knew he was wrong

  • greenbrier

    RC–as Michelle Malkin says, boo-freakin’-hoo. If Don Imus wants to stand on a street corner and call everyone who walks by whatever nasty name he wants, he may well have the right. But like every other overpaid TV personality, he’s a slave to advertisers and it was the advertisers’ pulling out that sealed his fate. It’s not about free speech, it’s about staying within the bounds of what’s considered decent by the folks who are paying your salary. He didn’t get dragged off to jail for saying what he said; he was punished for a graceless, mean-spirited remark that fell on millions of the wrong ears. If you want to bend the rules–and btw I’m one of those who’s distinctly unhappy with the state of rap and hip-hop culture these days–you have to do it with a degree of wit, grace and style. I’ve laughed at jokes I shouldn’t have because they tickled me; I still find the expression “wife-beater” for a Stanley-Kowalski undershirt charmingly descriptive. But Imus blundered clumsily and rudely–and pointlessly–and he lost his job (no doubt he’ll get another soon…). And here you are, waxing nostalgic for the days when you could freely call people fags and niggers without tedious social approbation…cry me a river.

  • Lumière

    Richard Pryor took personal responsibility:

    His visit to Kenya in 1979 was life-changing and resulted in a condemnation of the word nigger. His abandonment of the word in his stage performances attracted death threats, hate mail and attacks on his home from some deranged former fans. But he stuck to his beliefs, never losing any of his funny.

    http://www.richardpryor.com/0/4113/0/1240/

  • Lumière

    Bill Cosby on personal responsibility:

    I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else (laughter) And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said if get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.

    Not you’re going to get your butt kicked.

    No.

    You’re going to embarrass your mother. You’re going to embarrass your family.

    Don Imus embarrassed us all.

    http://www.eightcitiesmap.com/transcript_bc.htm

  • herbert browne

    (rc21) “The Imus fireing is wrong for so many reasons. First and most importantly Imus was fired for exercising his right to free speech.. I have heard only a few people speak of this. Does any one even have as to what this whole thing is about?”-

    Sure… it’s about an A-hole losing his overpaid job because his bosses thought it was gonna cost them Money… and if you want him back, just get a bunch of like-minded folks to pound those show sponsors about that. AND, if there’s enough of you, they’ll convince his boss to hire him back. ^..^

  • plnelson

    ####

    Yes 100% Snoop knows the dif:

    Snoop doesn’t “know” the diff, he has an opinion about the diff. His opinion is no more or less valid than mine or yours or Imus’.

    plnelson Says: Political correctness, and censorship resulting from groupthink, is a dangerously slippery slope. As a writer, poet, photographer and artist I’m very worried about creating some kind of code of conduct or rulebook circumscribing free expression.

    ####

    Personal Responsibility is a personal ethos – if someone feels that making racists remarks is the responsible thing to do, then they are jerks.

    But you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If it’s a “personal” ethos then Imus is welcome to his and you are welcome to yours. A racist may be a jerk in your opinion but that’s just YOUR personal ethos.

    The whole thing about living in a free society with freedom of expression is that one man’s expression is another man’s immorality. I’m arn artist and I run a website featuring what I regard to be beautiful female nudes. Some people might regard it to be pornography. They have their ethos; I have mine.

  • herbert browne

    plnelson Says:

    April 13th, 2007 at 5:44 pm “Who decides what that responsibility is? Who enforces it?

    Do successful, high-profile gansta-rap artists who also promote negative images of black prople, and especially black women, have a responsibility for their words?”

    I suppose they do, yes… and perhaps it’s THEIR place to judge what constitutes a “negative image”- along with those of whom they speak- but not yours, since you’re not involved, really, are you?

    (ibid) “Snoop doesn’t “know” the diff, he has an opinion about the diff. His opinion is no more or less valid than mine or yours or Imus’..”-

    If Snoop’s opinion “is no more or less valid than”(etc), we’re promoting an egalitarianism that doesn’t recognize education?.. or professional expertise?.. or taste?.. or culture? Really? If so, then I suppose we are a “values-free” society… simply a collection of opinionated ethos-bearers, whose proclivities shan’t be judged beyond the innards of those who practice them… ^..^

  • Lumière

    herbert browne Says: we’re promoting an egalitarianism that doesn’t recognize education?.. or professional expertise?.. or taste?.. or culture?

    Let me add:

    the ability to learn, to appreciate, and, most important to western culture, to progress.

    There was a guy in my arts group who said about art:

    you either like it, or you don’t

    And he had an MFA!!!!!!!

    lollollollollollollol

  • rc21

    pln, if women find your art offensive than I guess going by the opinions and thinking of most of the people on this forum your art should be banned.

    The fact that Imus is a bitter racist moron is totally beside the point in this whole debate.

    Imus and others who use language and express opinions that the majority of us find offensive are the people who need the most protection from those who would seek to censor or erase their speech,art,music, or writings.

    It’s incredible that so many supposed intelligent people just don’t understand this.

    My question to all the people who feel Imus should be fired for his racist insensitive comments. Do you all feel Rosie O’Donnell should be fired for her inflammatory speech about christians.

    In response to people talking about thir fear of another extremist muslim terror attack. She stated to a national audience that she feared attacks from christianity much more than from muslims. This was clearly inflamotry abusive, hurtfull, and dangerous speech aimed at a group of people Rosie seems to dislike. Never mind that what she said was based on absolutely no factual data. The USA has never come under attack from christian terror groups that are intent on over throwing the US government.

    Where is the outrage?

  • Lumière

    rc21 Says: Imus should be fired for his racist insensitive comments.

    Skimming back over the thread, I don’t see anyone saying that (with one possible exception, which was a vague suggestion to blame politicians).

    What has been said here was that he got fired for losing sponsors.

    Are you suggesting that sponsors promote an offensive association with their products?

    Imus could have defended himself on a free speech/shock jock ethos, but he didn’t try – that is very telling.

    The issue is cut and dry for me and it isn’t about free speech. What has been said here is that one is free to be a jerk and speak like one. The operative word is free – the constitution doesn’t say jerks MUST be compensated.

    Rosie doesn’t have a show of her own, does she?

  • plnelson

    If Snoop’s opinion “is no more or less valid than”(etc), we’re promoting an egalitarianism that doesn’t recognize education?.. or professional expertise?.. or taste?.. or culture?

    But we are all part of the culture and the language belongs to all of us. No one “owns” vernacular language or its uses. As a writer and poet I’m especially interested in the way words emerge out of the surrounding culture and are free to be used by anyone, in any way that seems useful.

    Snoop is a wealthy high profile influential entertainer. He’s as welcome to his opinion about what it’s like to be an oppressed, poor woman in a violent and mysogynistic culture as anyone else, but he doesn’t own the language or its uses.

    My point about gangsta rappers is that they have achieved tons of wealth and influence using the same means as Imus – being shocking and provocative, racist and mysogynistic, so it’s hypocritical of them to complain. Infact what they do every day is so much like what Imus did that one might be forgiven for thinking that their reaction is a matter of seeing someone else horning in on their (very lucratice) turf.

  • plnelson

    rc21 says pln, if women find your art offensive than I guess going by the opinions and thinking of most of the people on this forum your art should be banned.

    I think it’s interesting that you think that it’s “women” who complain. As far as I know none of the complaints have come from women, or at least not from women claiming to represent women-as-women, feminists, etc.

    All of the complaints I’ve had about my website have come from self-styled morality police and religious nuts who seem to patrol the internet looking for stuff that offends them The weird thing is that my work is not even explicit strictly “R” not “X”.

  • Potter

    Is this another installment in our “Race and Class” series? I think so..

    Yo greenbrier my sentiments and I echo others here:

    Don Imus still has his free speech; he can go to Central park and collect a crowd. He just does not have the public air waves or the sponsors. They did not want to be associated with him because of the groundswell of public reaction. Imus was well rewarded (10 million a year?) for his schtick. Now it’s over. Maybe that is why he was paid so well:what he did was risky. Now it’s over. No more “power position”.

    I disagree with Malkin and her interpretation of Snoop; rappers are in a different category. If that stuff offends you, don’t buy it, don’t listen to it.

    “It’s a completely different scenario,” said Snoop, barking over the phone from a hotel room in L.A. “[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 ho’s that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing sh–, that’s trying to get a n—a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain’t no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC [the cable network home to Imus] going hard on black girls. 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 mutha—–as say we in the same league as him.”

    Bobo’s probably right: Withing weeks, if not already, there will be novelty tee-shirts and coffee mugs with ‘nappy-headed ho’ printed on them, for sale all across the country. It will become one of those catch phrases that loses all its original gravity, and withing a year Imus will be forgotten, and white Americans will have forgotten about race once again.

    And Herbert Browne too probably: That a rep of “the man” (Imus) should appropriate their idiom to dis their cultural heroes (sheroes?), on as powerful & public a setting as public network media, isn’t simply a “gaffe” on his part… it’s a calculated effort to reinforce the (hopefully) dwindling latent vindictiveness & racist pathology of those who resent a society that they see slipping away from total control of people like Them

    If it’s so do you suppose that Imus was conscious of that? Until now he was not required to reflect.

  • Potter

    From David Carr’s column, “ Flying Solo Past the Point of No Return” April 13 2007New York Times [behind the wall]:

    “All the elements were there,” said James Carville, the political consultant who has appeared on the show and has seen a few stories blow up in his time. “You had some dry brush, gasoline, high winds, no rain and low humidity and before you know it, man, it was a wildfire.”…………..

    News thrives on the same thing entertainment does: character and narrative. In this case, a barely repentant curmudgeon had effectively mugged Cinderella. “It is a perfect story,” said Martin Kaplan, a professor of media and entertainment at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. “You have a grizzled cowboy up against innocent victims.”

    Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton might have résumés at odds with their status as avatars of racial rectitude, but Essence Carson, a junior with a soft hand for both the piano and the jump shot, carried no such baggage when she suggested that Mr. Imus had some explaining to do. “The Rutgers women’s team this year will go down as one of the most famous teams in history, like the ’71 Nebraska team,” Mr. Carville said.

    After listening to Mr. Imus on the “Today” show, Al Roker, the weatherman who is the very picture of America’s jolly uncle, made it plain in a post on his blog: “CBS Radio and NBC News need to remove Don Imus from the airwaves.”

    Who countered for Mr. Imus? The cadre of white, accomplished males who have been his running buddies for years. He may have black friends, but they don’t show up on his show much and that broadcast apartheid left him without meaningful allies. Mr. Imus was alone and ineffective in his defense, after years of being surrounded by sycophancy that has left him reflexively entitled and ill-prepared for media opportunities in which he does not control the microphone.

    A SPANKING MACHINE WITH NO EXIT Time heals, time forgets, but Mr. Imus was seeking to shore up his career immediately. Mr. Imus never caught a breath because he was in the middle of a 24-hour news cycle that kept him in the cross hairs. It is the kind of media ceremony that generally ends in a human sacrifice.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    rc21, The Imus controversy is not a fist amendment issue. Imus is still free to stand on a soapbox (or print leaflets, start a blog, sing a song, paint a picture, whatever) and say what he wants. Radio advertisers are free to decide what they want to pay for. The public is free to boycott goods that support programs they find offensive. If Imus were thrown in jail for saying something it would be a first amendment issue but employers do have the right to fire employees who jepordize their business.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    rc21 misses the point about “free speech”, which is about as completely free in a social space as is the “free market”. The right to free speech is not about protecting someone’s right to publicly disparage and defame others based on their gender or racial identity. That is not what it was intended for. With every right comes a responsibility not to abuse that right, in this case not to harm another’s reputation. A law suit brought against Imus him by ladies on the basketball team would not be unreasonable. Just as a class law suit against defametory rappers and music companies by African-American women is one way to address that abusive art form.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Good point sidewalker. Slander and defamation of character are legitimate legal complaints.

  • plnelson

    I disagree with Malkin and her interpretation of Snoop; rappers are in a different category. If that stuff offends you, don’t buy it, don’t listen to it.

    How is that different from Imus?

    Anyway, as the New York Times pointed out today, the South Park TV show routinely uses offensive racial, sexual, ethnic, and gender comments and remarks just as bad as anything Imus says, but they still have sponsers and airtime.

  • Potter

    plnelsonHow is that different from Imus? The rappers are akin to your pierced nudes. In other words you are free to create whatever you wish. Noone has to record it, give it airtime, put it in their gallery, buy it or listen to it. What you are objecting to when you object to rap or some rap and shows like South Park is it’s dissemination, it’s support by the broadcast media and sponsors.

    What’s interesting about this argument is that those who usually espouse a free-market philosophy are objecting to the free-market. The response against Imus came up from the bottom; folks were about to organize shaming campaigns and boycotts that would cut into the reputations and profits of various companies.

  • Potter

    I think Catherine Crier has it right. Though she is focussing on right-wing bigots of which there are plenty, she says that the revolt has to come from the bottom- the marketplace. It’s up to us:

    http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/04/14/catherine-crier-calls-out-right-wing-bigots/

    The NYTimes today published not only Frank Rich’s mea culpa about having been on the Imus show several times, but one other at least ( Tanenhaus “Playing Along with Imus”). I think he’s wrong about hip-hop lyrics. Those who appeared on the Imus show are feeling somewhat guilty for supporting him. It was business as usual but probably no more. Rich calls for a real discussion on race and class. I am glad he brought up the fact that one of the most vocal hypocrites on this Issue is Al Sharpton who has yet to apologize for his shameful role in the Tawana Brawley Case and a list of shady financial doings.

    This is from Sam Tanenhaus:

    Today, in the harsh light of Mr. Imus’s disgrace, it is hard to explain why none of this bothered me very much. But the truth is I tuned it out. One reason, I think, is that my position seemed paradoxical. I was pleased to have been admitted into Mr. Imus’s club — alongside famous columnists and TV pundits and celebrated authors.

    But I also had been summoned into the exotic precinct of mass, or mob, culture, with its populism and prejudices, its bracing vulgarity, its base humor. And in America at least, all these characteristics are inseparable from broad popularity, the warts of our pluralism.

    Those who stand outside it can seem undemocratic…….

    Those of us who benefited from his attention can only feel saddened now, not only because we are indebted to him, but because we too played a part in the performance he carried too far.

    Playing Along with Imus

  • plnelson

    What’s interesting about this argument is that those who usually espouse a free-market philosophy are objecting to the free-market.

    No you’re just reading it wrong.

    I don’t object at all to his being fired.

    What I’m objecting to is the sanctimonious hypocrisy of his critics.

    Imus was fired for one reason, and one reason only – commercial interests pulled out which eliminated his show’s profitability. And that’s exactly as it should be – I have long advocated that the market should have the final say in things. If people don’t like SUV’s polluting the air and warming the atmosphere they can vote with their feet or wallets and not buy them.

    My objection to Imus’ critics is that they DON’T acknowledge the primacy of the market. They’re trying to make his comments out to be some great moral outrage that should not be tolerated, when they’re happy to tolerate it just fine if it makes them money.

    You can bet that if prominent rappers or the producers of South Park started seeing their income decline as a result of a concerted, successful boycott, they’d be sqealing like stuck pigs and complaining that people were trying to “censor” them.

    My summary: capitalism good, hypocrisy bad.

  • rc21

    Lumiere, You avoided my question about Rosie. O. It does not matter if she has her own show or not. Sheis a major player on a network show. She is given a forum by the network to express not only hateful but dishonest speech directed at a distinct group of people. The network or B. Walters could fire her at any time if they so chose.

    Why no outrage?

  • rc21

    pln, as to your art, it matters not who complains. If some group of moralists want to complain and put forth the opinion that your art is disrespectful to women than under the current atmosphere of intolerance I would say they have a case in regards to having your art censored.

    Understand I am quite against this.( I actually would not mind seeing your art.)but if we are going to go down this road of censoring things we find offensive, I’m afraid there may be a group out there that you are offending.

    This is what is meant by the slippery slope theory. I think you may even have alluded to this in one of your previous posts.

  • Potter

    I don’t know if his critics are hypocrites if they really felt that he should still be on-air. We agree about the market then. But I would go a step further and say that the networks have a perhaps primary responsibility to the people as well as to their bottom line. As it is it seems it’s to the bottom line primarily- which is not even completely okay for the sponsors. In other words- as was said on the ROS “Detroit’s Big Three and the EPA” show- demand gets created.

    There is not no responsibility on anyone’s part.

  • rc21

    I’m sorry I have to disagree with those who say the market drove out Imus. It was not the market or a groundswell of public opinion. It was the media led by Al Sharpton and the group of black journalists who called for his fireing.

    There was nothing in the news for 2 days following Imuses comments. Then the media and Sharpton got hold of it and proceeded to turn this into a front page story day after day. As they so often like to do. They decided Imus had to go, not the public.

    Imus had already apoligized and the apology had been accepted. but the media wanted to keep the story going and that is exactly what they did.

    So yes ultimately it was the markets that led to the network sacking Imus. But it was the media and their constant non stop reporting of a minor incident that actually caused the plug to be pulled.

  • Potter

    Mine above was to PLN.

    RC21- you still don’t get it. I don’t know how else it could be said. This is not about censorship. If PLN’s art is taken to be disrespectful to women- any gallery still is free to hang it and/or he can place it on his website. No harm done; no one is forced.

    That is not the same as the disseminating on the public airwaves. There is an issue of responsiblity. And by extension the mass production and advertising of SUV’s in the face of climate change and fighting wars for oil also cannot be left strictly to the marketplace. I disagree with PLN about that.

  • Potter

    RC21- Do you remember what happened to Howard Dean- the scream? That’s today’s media. If you are going to risk- that’s what may happen. Al Sharpton did not turn it into a front page story all by himself.

  • Potter

    PLN I have long advocated that the market should have the final say in things.

    No. Not in all things.

  • Lumière

    rc21 Says: You avoided my question about Rosie. O.

    ok I had to Google to find out what show you are watching:

    The View, a position where some of her opinions and views have generated widespread media coverage.

    Bingo!

    First, she makes the show self referential – if there is no news, she is the news!

    Second, not only is she judgmental, but the viewers get to be judgmental too. Let me guess: she says something stupid and the others jump down her throat, right? See, that is a complete moral thought for the viewer – no controversy.

    That is why she is on air – she is a producer’s dream. She generates ratings and sponsors love it. And it is the right format for her – to have others correcting her.

    You’re comparison is out of context – Imus’s speech was mean spirited and not relevant to anything specific.

  • Lumière

    Sh be Your -

    how many times has that been done?

    usually it is verso: your instead of you are

  • herbert browne

    (from plnelson) ..”But we are all part of the culture and the language belongs to all of us. No one “owns” vernacular language or its uses. As a writer and poet I’m especially interested in the way words emerge out of the surrounding culture and are free to be used by anyone, in any way that seems useful..”-

    And if you published a poem, you’d expect to have copywrite protection of your intellectual property, no doubt… It’s fascinating to compare cultural attitudes, & norms, to discover how people deal with these issues. For example, most indigenous N. Americans didn’t recognize “land ownership” (although claims to “priority access” to certain resources was recognized). In my region, the stories told by members of the various tribes (& clans within those tribes) were considered to be the property of those clans- and permission had to be sought, in order for ‘others’ to tell them. This is the case to this day, among those who honor the cultural traditions of these peoples. Cultural imperialism is nothing new, of course… and the irony of those who feel no need to acknowledge past practices on some levels howl at the “piracy” of the entrepeneurial possessors of duplicating equipment who make copies of comics, software, CDs & DVDs, etc. The “treasure hunt” of those engaged in patenting fragments of genetic material, and the ‘copycat’ manufacture of certain classes of chemicals & drugs are also subjects likely to engender raised brows & wrinkled foreheads among some folks.

    (from rc21) ..”There was nothing in the news for 2 days following Imuses comments. Then the media and Sharpton got hold of it and proceeded to turn this into a front page story day after day. As they so often like to do. They decided Imus had to go, not the public..”-

    Waiiiit a minute- “the media” was part of this FROM THE START- BECAUSE IMUS IS “THE MEDIA”, TOO. So, if it’s “The Media” vs “The Media”, guess who wins?.. and who loses? When Imus has talked about people who aren’t part of the Media, he wins- every time- because HE’S THE MEDIA, AND THEY AIN’T. How many times has That happened? I could care less whether he keeps his job or not… like plnelson, I’d never listened to him- and only knew the name, without any references. (That’s the trouble with Good media, like the one I pay for- NPR. It’s so engaging that I don’t bother going Outside, into Commercial-Land, to see what I’m missing… beside those great commercial messages, I mean…) ^..^

  • Lumière

    Snoop’s ownership of cultural references is antithetical – he can only make money from his culture if it is liquefied in the marketplace.e.g. clothes music etc.

    Snoop is a talented person but to parse the meaning behind his words is…eh

    But hey, I’m game.

    What he is saying is that the misogynic rap references are about a power dynamic that exists in the hood.

    From that POV Imus’s comments make no sense at all. In fact, the power dynamic POV highlights the base nature of his comments and why people are so upset.

  • Potter

    Regarding Imus- The New Yorker magazine is linking an article from their archives by Ken Auletta : The Don and as the title implies, Imus comes off as a real bully with quite a concession going. And that was 1998.

  • herbert browne

    (from Lumiere) ..”Snoop’s ownership of cultural references is antithetical – he can only make money from his culture if it is liquefied in the marketplace..”-

    But isn’t it also prosthetic?.. ie he uses the idiom as a crutch? (OK… just having fun with “Caesar’s english”- because it’s raining, & I don’t wanna go outside, yet…) ^..^

  • Lumière

    “fo’ shizzle, ma nizzle,”

    …… just having fun with Snoopy talk

  • rahbuhbuh

    Imus has been a shock jock for so long now, this is an old story. It cannot be his only public offense. He and his grouch bitter program are getting old and worn and would be off the air soon anyway. However, I appreciated his honesty in being a bigoted curmudgeon. The same way I appreciate but don’t agree with all aspects of Rock, Maher, Miller, Carlin, Stern, Stewart, etc… The listener knows where to stand amidst them. The advertisers shouldn’t be and probably aren’t surprised by Imus’s words. Perhaps, this is good and Imus will end up on premium airwaves like the other personalities where the listeners who want to hear him will find him. He and many mass media generalist opinion shows don’t fit into today’s varied on-demand and iPod sectional media.

    the language of hip hop side: try to talk to Mr. Lif or Akrobatik, two local MCs whose music reacts to the negativity of chart topping rap, and owe their carreers to people like Curtis Blow. They don’t sell well, but are respected for their talent and words. Or, bring in someone from undergoundhiphop.com, http://www.undergroundhiphop.com/contact/#directions

  • rahbuhbuh

    Also, I remember reading the Globe last week and being annoyed at the front page placement of this article: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/04/11/obamas_silence_on_imus_alarms_some_blacks/

    It is not front page news that Obama did not immediately issue a press release reacting to Sharpton’s take on Imus’s comments. An interesting question, how will will the Imus fiasco push or pull Obama’s public stance on race issues, but the article’s stance is baiting and pointing blame of (misplaced) negligence on the first call of “fire.” Perhaps Obama was busy on a presidential campaign, honing opinions on legistlative issues of hiring and firing in regards to speech, not whether a shock jock stays in his chair because Pepsi is scared.

  • plnelson

    And if you published a poem, you’d expect to have copywrite protection of your intellectual property, no doubt…

    Doubtful. There’s no money to be made in poetry so the pleasure I get in combining words in a certain novel way is when they take flight and land in some unexpected place used in some unexpected manner or for some new purpose.

  • plnelson

    Imus will end up on premium airwaves like the other personalities where the listeners who want to hear him will find him.

    The WSJ suggested he’ll end up on satellite radio once the Sirius/XM merger issue is settled by the feds. WSJ said it won’t be before then b/c they won’t want to do anything controversial while their merger hearings are going on.

    As I said before, I don’t even know who Don Imus is – I’ve never seen/heard (was he radio or TV?) . My only dog in this fight is the blazing hypocrisy of all the people who acted shocked by this when they either knew all about him or they’ve said just as bad or worse things themselves.

  • rahbuhbuh

    plnelson: he’s been in radio since the 70s, and then was put on TV when cable suddenly decided it was entertainment to watch disc jockeys speak into microphones. Stern got his own TV show around the same time. Both were dull as paint to watch. Stern’s had more sparkles, but still it was drying paint.

    I don’t know if all of these were quoted properly, but they do sound like him:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_imus#Other_controversies

  • valkyrie607

    Yo.

    I got my Digable Planets on the speakers right now–I’m chillin, just reachin,’ kid… refutin time and space…

    I gotta say, are we comparing Mr. Imus to ALL of hip hop? That doesn’t seem fair at all. You could take ALL radio hosts and maybe compare them to ALL of hip hop. There’s a comparable amount of ideological diversity. Or maybe you could compare Mr. Imus to Snoop. Or Mims. Or whoever.

    I want to stand up for hip hop and say that, despite the deplorable examples of the genre you hear on the radio, the examples of rappers who do NOT call women bitches or hos, or go on endlessly about they rims and they gatts, are numerous. Here are a few examples.

    Digable Planets (I know they’re oldschool, but I love them so much. The first hip hop group I fell in love with)

    Common

    Saul Williams

    Mr. Lif and Akrobatik (the Perceptionists)

    Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and DJ Hi-Tek (Black Star)

    Lyrics Born

    Gift of Gab, Lateef the Truth Speaka (Blackalicious)

    2na Fish (Jurassic 5)

    Crown City Rockers

    Zion I and Tha Grouch

    Guru (Gangstarr)

    Then there’s the female artists, who seem to get no media coverage at all these days.

    MC Lyte

    Salt n Pepa

    Eve

    Lauryn Hill

    Sarah Jones

    Early hip hop artists definitely had their moments with bitches and whatnot. I mean, Eric B and Rakim, NWA, Public Enemy, and those guys were offensive sometimes, but there was a purpose to their lyrics. They were overtly political–something that Mims is most definitely NOT. Mims is barely coherent. (“This is why I’m hot. This is why I’m hot. I’m hot cuz I’m fly. You ain’t cuz you not.” Kids, can you say tautology?) The crap on the radio they call hip hop is like a weird form of nostalgia for the early 70s, when brothers really WERE getting shot at every day. It’s not the case anymore, but it’s so dramatic, and it sells so damn well, so… we get 50 Cent on the radio instead of Talib Kweli rapping about “Black Girl Pain.” I like what Talib has to say about these jokers: “I call these cats Reynolds cuz they plastic rap.”

    Keep in mind also that blues, reggae, rock and roll, and jazz all have their misogyny too. Some of it’s really awful. We could go on and on. Oh, well, if you care about THIS, why aren’t you upset about THIS, and THIS, and this, etc…

    So I’m just asking all y’all to be a little more nuanced when you talk about hip hop.

    Also, I would suggest Ta-nehisi Coates for the show, if you can get him. He’s kind of a big shot, works for Time magazine now. He’s got some very intelligent things to say about hip hop. (He’s where I got that bit about the weird nostalgia in hip hop from.) Also Tricia Rose. Both smart, good writers, etc., who know a lot about hip hop. Of course, it would be great to have an actual hip hop artist on the show, so I second the suggestion to get Mr. Lif or Akrobatik. I love those guys.

  • valkyrie607

    BTW, I think Snoop’s comment about rappers such as himself not being comparable to Imus, because Imus is talking about NICE girls, whereas Snoop is talking about the lazy bitches who want to sleep with him because he has money, is complete bullcrap. Both Imus and Snoop have an audience of millions. The women they are dissing do not. They both have the right to spout their idiocy, and try to make money doing it, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen. And I don’t. Imus is white, Snoop is black, but they’re both male, and they both have a huge power differential between them and the women they’re talking about. They’re both trying to make money portraying women (who have little to no media voice) in a negative light. The difference here is that somehow, the Rutgers women caught the attention of others with media influence.

  • herbert browne

    (from valkyrie607) ..”The difference here is that somehow, the Rutgers women caught the attention of others with media influence..”- Right- and, after reading a hundred or so comments from the Wall St. Journal (on their “vote- for/against Imus” comment page), what comes out is that Imus’ “demographic” is there- in Spades- & what you get is a steady stream of “Sharpton & Jackson got no right..” etc. My gosh- nothing about the women at all (but maybe from the occasional woman commenter). It’s all “Tawana Brawley” this and “Hymietown” that. I’m sure Imus must be gratified by the ‘support’…

    I liked your pitch to the range of hip hop, valkyrie… and would add the Blues Scholars to the mix of socio-political commenters who aren’t talking trash… & can be pretty good…

    Q: did Imus ever put women on his show? At least the rappers seem to incorporate a fair number into THEIR productions (I know, I know… so does Miller beer & GM &… everyone selling something to Men- probably including the WSJ)… ^..^

  • Lumière

    valkyrie607 Says: want to sleep with him because he has money, is complete bullcrap

    the rap started long b4 Snoop had money: just asking all y’all to be a little more nuanced

    lol

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    I’ve posted most of this comment at The Reading Experience, but I post it here as well because it’s exactly what I think on the matter and would rather not retool it:

    The problem, as ever, is not the convenient dilemma it is made out to be; the question is not, “How to deal with a powerful bigot?” The question is, “From where does his power flow?” Not merely his power to popularize books….the power, as well, to shock and to wound. Why should any Gay/black/woman/Jew care what Imus thinks or thought? If his outbursts are so outrageous; absurd; unconnected to reality (and they are, of course), how can they possibly *hurt* anyone?

    Imagine I have a teenage sister who’s movie-star beautiful, with a measured IQ of 160. Classmates decide (randomly? out of jealousy?) to insult her…call her a “monkey”…call her “shit for brains”. Do I react with rage and petition the principal to expel the offenders, or do I (along with sister, family and friends)laugh at the cartoonish improbability of their remarks?

    Reacting in a protective rage would imply that I secretly feared that the slander had some truth to it, no? Being ethically wrong, or, factually incorrect, deserve two very different kinds of corrective responses, yes? If, as Richard Feynmann would put it, someone (is so ignorant on a topic that he/she) “isn’t even wrong,” why respond at all?

    Another parable: a man with spatulate fingers, wearing a hat, walks into a store, whereupon the clerk calls him a “spatulate-fingered hat-wearer”. The hat-wearing man is slightly confused but far from wounded. He suspects that the clerk is unhinged, possibly, but doesn’t feel denigrated by the comment. He leaves the store without suffering the slightest blow to his self-esteem.

    Well, interestingly, the first definition of “nigger” in the Random House Collegiate dictionary is, “a black person”. Not an “evil” or “stupid” or “mendacious” black person…simply a black person. Hurling this epithet in order to denigrate a black person, the attempt, therefore, is to denigrate the black person as being a *black person*…as though that condition, in and of itself, were cause for shame. Think about that.

    For the sake of argument, say that at least one of the women Imus described as a “nappy-headed ho” actually has, in fact, “nappy” hair. We can very well see why Imus considered the description an insult, of course…but why? What is the *implication* of this consensus? Is there something wrong with “nappy” hair? Does the force of that particular “jibe” flow directly from our own feelings about hair of that description, or the people who have it?

    Further: would anyone express outrage if Martha Stewart (or fill in the blank with your own favorite powerful white lady) had been called a “ho”? No, of course not, because, regarding our casual presumptions about Martha Stewart (and despite how negative those presumptions might get), “ho” does not enter into the equation. The slander would be so improbable we’d laugh at it. In summation: why isn’t the “ho” slander comically improbable, in our minds, as applied to (young) black women?

    My own concern is that anything like a “close reading” of the substantial subtexts of this “event” will be skirted in favour of the same old inch-deep PC tut-tut-tutting.

    My point is that Imus’s bigotry draws power from the belief system he shares with all of us.

  • rc21

    I think the fact that we are now being told in schools and the media that almost everyone is a member of some victimized group has made fake outrage a popular response to any comment that remotely seems to be insensitive.

    When I heard some of the Rutgers women complain about how Imuses comments had perminately scarred them, Two things came to mind. First I’m sure they were coached to say this and secondly if indeed women can be scarred by such comments,than I’m afraid women probably should not be allowed to be in positions that hold lot’s of power. Something I had never considered before.

  • Lumière

    Steven Augustine Says: My point is that Imus’s bigotry draws power from the belief system he shares with all of us.

    Bingo ! Imus’ power as proxy

    The power dynamic of the 1st & 2nd laws of thermodynamics.

    The Japanese have a saying: the nail that sticks up gets hammered

    (Btw, I don’t listen to any of the talking heads collectively known as the freak show.)

  • Lumière

    Good morning rc21

    I think those girls had an obligation to go on TV and stand up for their right to be successful without fear of being victimized.

    Were they scarred?

    They are 19 -20 year-old kids – why wouldn’t they be scarred?

    To deny that they could be scarred, is a misunderstanding of the magnitude of the power dynamic.

  • rc21

    Hi Lumiere, They have a right to say what ever they want. I’m a stickler for the firs amndt. It is just my opinion, that these women were coached. I work with college kids and I work with athletes. They are usually much tougher mentaly than the general population.

    Anyways I don’t know for a fact, but if I had to bet money I know which side I would go with. As I said victimization has become a cottage industry.

  • herbert browne

    (from Steve Augustine) ..”My point is that Imus’s bigotry draws power from the belief system he shares with all of us..”-

    By your lights, then, we are a nation of crypto-racists… permeating most of our “socio-economic food chain”… a point well-taken.

    (from rc21) ..”Anyways I don’t know for a fact, but if I had to bet money I know which side I would go with. As I said victimization has become a cottage industry..”-

    Nice… times are better for lawyers, I guess. When I was a year and a half old, my mom & I “witnessed” (no- I don’t remember it at all) a murder of a black man in Tampa, Florida, by a white business owner there… who was found guilty, and subsequently fined $25. I doubt if the victim’s family could have hired a lawyer. Why take a chance on getting shot, yourself, for that kind of money? ^..^

  • valkyrie607

    Thanks, Herbert Brown. Here’s a wonderful tidbit for everyone: a link to the myspace page for Zion I and the Grouch. The song “Make You Fly” is about the feminine divine. I don’t mean that metaphorically. They actually use the words “divine feminine.”

    Lumiere, it’s okay if you don’t want to be nuanced about hip hop. I understand, nuance can be challenging for some people.

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=91886649

    Or just try: http://www.myspace.com/zioniandthegrouch

    Rc21 writes:

    When I heard some of the Rutgers women complain about how Imuses comments had perminately scarred them, Two things came to mind. First I’m sure they were coached to say this and secondly if indeed women can be scarred by such comments,than I’m afraid women probably should not be allowed to be in positions that hold lot’s of power. Something I had never considered before.

    It strikes me as strange that now that the Rutgers womens basketball team is now a stand-in for all womankind. Though I share some interests with those young women, I don’t think it’s just that I should be barred from taking a position of power, because (in one man’s opinion) they aren’t tough enough to handle positions that hold lots of power. This is a sexist equation.

    Furthermore, your callousness seems over the top. Is this your version of tough love? Why do you judge these people for feeling hurt? For talking about feeling hurt? I expect they would be coached–I would hope their coaches, teachers, and parents wouldn’t send them out to talk to the national media without giving them some pointers first. What’s really bothering you about this, Rc21?

  • valkyrie607

    Geez… I didn’t even mention the Roots.

  • rc21

    valkyrie, There are several things that bother me about this whole situation. I posted some of my thoughts earlier. With respect to the women issue this is my problem. There was nothing and I mean nothing heard from the coach or players from Rutgers for several days. It was not until this became a big media issue that all of the sudden these incredibly strong successfull women came out and began speaking about how damaged and hurt they were.

    I’m glad you agree that you think they were coached in their speeches.Why this does not concern you is your problem not mine, I would expect when people talk about being permently scarred they would speak from the heart and be honest,not regurgitate the thoughts that some other entity has fed them. I guess we just differ on our standards of ethical behaviour.

    As to women being allowed to have positions of power. I was being somewhat sarcastic. I work for a woman and she is one of the best leaders I have worked for. I work with over 40 young women every year. and I would never ever teach them to let some callous remarks by a shock jock have any influence on how they act or think.

    Yes I teach my kids that there are all types of people out there and they have all types of opinions on every subject you can imagine. Don’t expect everyone to like you or agree with everything you do or say. This is America land of the free(Remember that quote) So don’t act like a whiney little baby when someone offers an opinion that you don’t like. Grow up act like an adult and stop complaining about peoples words. They are words and words only.

    I would prefer to have leaders that understand this. I would detest a leader man or woman that looks for any chance to play the victimization card. It shows me they are either oppertunists or so fragile mentally that they should not have a leadership role.

    These are just a few of my problems with the imus fiasco.

  • valkyrie607

    Rc21, you find so many reasons to doubt the sincerity of the students. None of them really make sense. I think you’re just uncomfortable hearing these young women speak their mind. I think you’re uncomfortable seeing the normal power roles reversed, seeing an old white man take the fall instead of the media dismissing the young black women as hysterical or race-baiting.

    I know you’re going to be upset about this, but I wouldn’t call you out in such a way if I didn’t really believe it. Let me break it down for you.

    There was nothing and I mean nothing heard from the coach or players from Rutgers for several days. It was not until this became a big media issue that all of the sudden these incredibly strong successfull women came out and began speaking about how damaged and hurt they were.

    So… since they took a few days to think about what to do, about whether to respond publicly, and how, they are less believable? Only if you have suspicions about their motives anyway.

    I’m glad you agree that you think they were coached in their speeches.Why this does not concern you is your problem not mine, I would expect when people talk about being permently scarred they would speak from the heart and be honest,not regurgitate the thoughts that some other entity has fed them. I guess we just differ on our standards of ethical behaviour.

    Okay, when I speak of “coaching,” I mean folks giving the young women advice on how to express THEIR feelings and THEIR concerns to the national media. If I were about to talk to a few dozen reporters and a bunch of TV cameras, I would sure as hell want somebody giving me tips on how best to get MY point across.

    But to you, “coaching” means they’re “regurgitating the thoughts of some other entity.” Care to name this entity?

    As to women being allowed to have positions of power. I was being somewhat sarcastic. I work for a woman and she is one of the best leaders I have worked for.

    I’m not convinced I should take comfort in the fact that you were being somewhat sarcastic. Are women only somewhat unfit for positions of power then? Your mention of your boss is somewhat akin to the proverbial remark that begins, “I have plenty of black friends, but…” You have cognitive dissonance happening here. Who was debating whether women should hold positions of power? It’s not an issue. Or it wasn’t until you brought it up. First of all, I don’t agree that the Rutgers women were revealing weakness. Second of all, even if they were, it’s not BECAUSE they’re women–it’s because they are who they are.

    I work with over 40 young women every year. and I would never ever teach them to let some callous remarks by a shock jock have any influence on how they act or think.

    Yes I teach my kids that there are all types of people out there and they have all types of opinions on every subject you can imagine. Don’t expect everyone to like you or agree with everything you do or say. This is America land of the free(Remember that quote) So don’t act like a whiney little baby when someone offers an opinion that you don’t like. Grow up act like an adult and stop complaining about peoples words. They are words and words only.

    And now, you’re attacking these other young women–perfect strangers to you–because they’re not acting in ways you approve of. You’ve defined what it means to be strong, and you’ve moved the Rutgers women out of that category. You’re calling them names, even–whiny little babies. In effect, you’re encouraging them to just take the abuse. Way to go, teach.

    I would prefer to have leaders that understand this. I would detest a leader man or woman that looks for any chance to play the victimization card. It shows me they are either oppertunists or so fragile mentally that they should not have a leadership role.

    Well, in that case, I suggest that when Essence Carson runs for office, you shouldn’t vote for her. But don’t extrapolate from her to every other woman. That is the very definition of sexism. It’s telling to me that the one possibility which would portray the team in a more flattering light–the scenario in which they are bravely standing up for their dignity and respect, despite the opprobrium they may face–is the one possibility you dismiss out of hand. Why is that? You just don’t believe that language can be that powerful? Language has power. It defines our reality. If it didn’t, politicians wouldn’t have talking points.

    Tell me, what good does it do when respectable people shut their traps when they are insulted by a stranger on the radio, on the TV, to fifty million listeners? Who does it benefit for them to put their chin up, be stoic, just keep going, rise above it all? It benefits Imus, his unconscious demons, and racism in general. If I hear someone crack a “nigger” joke, I don’t just stand by. I speak up. It’s not easy. People make me out to be a spoilsport, with no sense of humor. That is the perennial stereotype of a feminist, after all: no sense of humor. Can’t take a joke. But it’s worth it to me, because this humor (like your quasi-sarcasm) isn’t funny. And I get to hear less of it, in the end. People understand that there’s at least one person they know who won’t tolerate bullshit.

    If the Rutgers women had followed your advice, Don Imus would still have no inkling of what it means to be held personally responsible for his words. And the rest of us would be robbed of the opportunity to witness the poise and dignity of these young women.

  • rc21

    Nice speech. Yes you are pretty much what I see wrong with many but not all of todays young people. You and others like you look for sexism,racism any ism you can find,or invent. Anything that will show your moral superiority,at the expense of others.

    First put your “I’m uncomfortable with seeing normal power roles reversed crap away” In the first place I don’t see males being in power as neccessarilly normal.

    I brought up my boss being a woman simply to point out that I have and will continue to work with women and enjoy it. Wheather your convinced or not I really don’t care.

    If you think I’m going to surrender to your trying to turn me into a sexist mean spirited male,it aint going to happen. Go play that game with someone else. If you want to discuss the issue without trying to demonize me than we can continue.

    As to the coaching of the Rutgers women I stick by my point. These women just played for the national championship, they have been on national tv many times. They have played in front of crowds numbering over 15 tousand people. They have given numerous interviews to various media types. If they were really emotionally scarred and just had to speak out I don’t think they would need advice as to how to act in front of a camera. Be that as it is, we have differing opinions on this issue, and we will probably never know the truth.

    As to the Rutgers women: You use the word attack. Where did I say I was attacking. Once again you look to try and put me on the defensive by saying I’m attacking Its a game liberals play, don’t debate issues just demonize your opponent. The word I would use is criticize. There is a difference, as subtle as it may be. I stand by my criticisms. I believe a stronger person would not let Imuses words damage them especially when they understood that Imus is a shock jock who does this type of stuff on a routine basis. He apoligized and most of the nation knows he meant no personal offense. People have to understand the context of Imuses words.

    Reread my post did I specifically call the Rutgers women whiney little babies? No I did not ,but yes I think that if you let someone who makes an insensitive joke about you cause you to become scarred for life it sure is indicative to me of a person who is unable to take any type of criticism or negativity in their life.Certainly not someone I would want as a leader. As a matter of fact I would not even want to be associated with a person who is unable to deal with criticism.

    I don’t even understand your next point. Where do I extrapolate my comments about The Rutgers women into other women. I already explained to you my comment about women who can’t deal with being offended as not being suited for positions of power as being sarcastic. Oh I get it by ignoring what I said you get to throw the sexism comment in there. Nice try. I wish you would really try reading what I posted instead of just looking for opportunities to toss out slogans that will make me feel guilty. I have no guilt.

    Yes as you say language is powerfull. Just as powerfull is how you respond.

    You ask what good does it do when respectable people shut their traps when they are insulted by a stranger on a radio show? Who does it benefit for them to put their chin up be stoic,rise above it all.

    I don’t know ,but it worked pretty damned well for Ghandi and King and they were dealing with issues that were just a bit more serious than being called a nappy headed ho.

    Finally your last point; I’m not sure what the stereotype of a femminist is. I did not know all feminists acted the same way. I will have to agree that you certainly sound like a person lacking in humor or the ability to tolerate any one who has an opinion that does not coincide with your own You must live in a very sheltered and closed world.

    Myself I love people who disagree with me and offer opinions up that I find the opposite of my own. It makes life much more interesting and enjoyable.

    I feel sorry for you. You seem incapable of enjoying the company and conversation of people who may offer up something that may contrast with your coception of how the world should behave.

    When you say you won’t tolerate bull shit,what I see is a idealouge with a hermetically sealed world view who says agree with me or get lost.

  • rc21

    One more thing . It may suprise you but I prefer the company of a strong opininonated woman much more so than a woman who thinks it is her role to be subserviant. I value independence and strength. I abhor people who look for reasons to become victims.

  • Bobo

    I think we have an excellent opportunity for empirical study on this issue.

    The Question: “How does it feel to be personally insulted on a radio show by a total stranger?”

    Our Test Subjects: Valkyrie607 and rc21

    Method: “So how does it feel, guys?”

    Hypothesis: “Well, it pretty much sucks. I guess words do have some power after all. But is it really worth it?”

    Results: Valkyrie607: ” ______________”, rc21: “_______________”.

  • Bobo

    ** Researcher’s Comments on this Study **

    If the participants haven’t seen the South Park about Micheal Richards and “That Nigger Guy”, I recommend it highly.

    There is a very insightful point made at the end of the episode, which, while not directly relevant to our study, helps to shed light on the general context of said study.

    – Stan to ‘Token Black Kid’: “Now I get it. Now I get why I can’t say Nigger!”

    – Token to Stan: “Why is that?”

    – Stan to Token: “It’s because I don’t get it! I’ll never get it. Because I’m not black! I get it: I don’t get it!”

  • valkyrie607

    Okay. Well. I was wrong. That’s cool. I figured you’d say as much. I can see how I opened myself up to being seen as humorless. That’s all right too. Actually I think I’m wicked funny. I’m also super geeky, so it’s a toss-up as to which side wins out. If you like strong opinionated women then we should get along just fine. I don’t think you’re mean-spirited at all. I think it’s debatable whether you’re sexist. That’s why I’m bringing it up.

    And I don’t live a sheltered or closed life, so you don’t have to feel sorry for me.

    I’m most intrigued by this: “I don’t see males being in power as neccessarilly normal.”

    What do you mean by this?

  • rc21

    Good post Bobo, I like it. As one of the few conservitives who regularly posts on this forum I get slamed quite often. I may not like it but it’s a free country. We all have a right to our opinions. If my feelings really get hurt I guess I can pick up my ball and go home. Some probably have done this.

    As to your second post. All I can say is this. If anyone thinks certain people should not be permited to say certain words because they may offend someone. Then they don’t get what it is to be an American.

    It really is quite that simple.

  • rc21

    Valkyrie607 Sorry to come down hard on you. I usually try and take these debates a little less personal. If you are a strong woman than I’m sure we would get along. We don’t have to agree on everything.

    You asked what I mean by not neccessarilly seeing males in power as normal.

    What I mean is this. I try and take each person on his merits be they positive or negetive. I don’t think power and leadership are exclusive to the male. nor should they be. despite my ill faited attempt at sarcasm that you found humourlous. Women can pretty much do anything a man can do if they set their mind to it.

    Maybe it is because I am surrounded by women who are goal oriented and strong. I see leadership qualities in many of these people.

    Sometimes I think women can be their own worst enemies. This is what I mean by people playing the victim card. It may buy short term gain but in the long run I don’t see it as a positive. Look at black America. The culture of victimization they have emersed themselves in is killing them both literaly and figureatively

    This is a fundemental disagreement between liberals and conservitives.No need to go into it now.

    In closing you may think I’m sexist. I just think I see feminism in a different light than you do. I think in reality I may be the complete opposite of a sexist. It is really to broad a subject to go into on a message board.

    My spelling in this post is bad I know but I’m in a hurry, I must run. Once again sorry for the trouble.

  • valkyrie607

    Rc21 sez: Women can pretty much do anything a man can do if they set their mind to it.

    Yes, but… can men do pretty much anything a woman can do? If they put their minds to it? Hmm…

    A little riff on language:

    When you say “can” do you mean in the sense “to be capable of” or “to be allowed to?”

    Given what you’ve said so far, I suspect in your case it’s the former. But that ambiguity still exists. And given the history of women’s struggle to move beyond what they’re allowed to do, onto doing what they are capable of doing, sensitivity to the language is, I reckon, a smart thing.

    Note, too that the standard is still a male standard. What women can do is being held up to what men can do. Not the other way around.

    This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, Rc21! No, no, not at all! We all have these subtle inequalities embedded in our language. It’s nothing to fuss over, but it is worth some thoughtful contemplation.

  • rc21

    Valkyrie607, I’m back Ok I will try and answer your question.

    First men are unable to have children ,so no men can not do everything women can do.

    First one of the things that I think has us looking at things a bit differently is this. I don’t allow or disallow women to do anything.

    As I said I think they are capable of pretty much anything men are capable of. It is up to the woman to pursue fields and areas of interests that some would say are domminated by men. I’m all for this and would like to see more of it.

    I don’t believe in a male standard and a female standard. There should be one standard.

    If you remember the women in the military thread. I supported women going into combat,but I do not support women having to meet a lesser standard in qualifying for this job. Why? because women can if pushed reach a level of strength and endurance that the men have to reach on their fitness test. So why tell a women she is naturallly weaker so we will dumb down the test for you in order to give you a passing grade.

    Instead I believe this should be the proper way to approach the situation. Tell the women this. Biologically women tend to not have as much strength as men so what we are going to do is push you harder, make you lift more make you run more until you catch up, and when you do you will pass the test.

    This can and has been done it just takes a little more work I have done this with women in athletics and have seen tremendous improvements.

    So as I said if we don’t put limits and don’t make excuses we can acomplish goals. I know this probably may not jibe with your take on things.

    I’m not a woman so I’m sure we may see things in a different light. But let me ask you this. If women have been oppressed all these years and held down and discriminated against. Than A. Who allowed it to happen?What role did women play in this and B. Even if this has happened what good does it do to dwell on past inequalities? Does demonizing men and patriarchy, really further the cause of women? Maybe, maybe not I really don’t have an answer.

    My basic philosophy is this and it has evolved over many years( I used to be as far left as you could get) We are all utimately responsible for our own decisions, We live in the freeist nation in the world. We have the ability to make choices and pursue them. Every decision good or bad has really come down to me. Sure I could blame someone or some group for things that did not go right in my life,but really when I sit down at the end of the day I know ultimately it was my choice good or bad as to which way my life has gone. I have to accept personal responsibility for my decisions. This evolutuion in thinking has led me more towards the conservitive end of the political spectrum. We may want the same things, I just think there is a different/better way to achieve them.

    Anyway thanks for not thinking I’m a bad person and I hope I answered your question.

    P.S. Check the Violence thread.

  • plnelson

    The Question: “How does it feel to be personally insulted on a radio show by a total stranger?”

    Getting insulted in public goes with the territory, provided you agreed to be IN that territory.

    Chris once hung up on me on the old “Connection” show because I called his guest (on a program about a museum show in Boston) an “art snob”.

    And another time James Fallows referred to ME as “Nelson the Bad” in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly!

    But in both cases I tacitly agreed to the confrontation by my public calling or public writing. The Rutgers women were the victims of a drive-by insult – they never asked for any of this stuff.

  • nikolrb

    A thought: Most people recognize sexual harrasement is not just when the harasser “meant” to harass but the harassee feels harassed. In this sense, one is responsible for how the words they put into the world are received, not just intended. Would this perspective help us move beyond a list of “ok” words and “not ok” words, which seems limiting of honest creativity and alot like censorship, and towards a more dynamic responsibilty for what we do and say?

    I do think the current culture of popular music is troubling, but we also need to ask how we got here and who is truly qualified to change it if we decide that is what needs doing. My impression is if you aren’t a creator or a consumer (directly or indirectly for both) of this media, it isn’t very effective to try and change it from the outside.

  • http://www.marcmcelroy.com Marc McElroy

    I hate to be in the position of defending Don Imus, and really I don’t, but watching 3 hours of Fox news is more offensive to me then his obviously deprived attempts at humor. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me?” The real offensive behavior I see now is coming from the Whitehouse. How many racist slips are worth one murder of an innocent person in Iraq? Where is the outrage over the murders of tens of thousands of people in Iraq?. If this much public outrage and media attention went into firing someone other then Imus, we could make the world a better place.

  • http://www.citytowninfo.com avecfrites

    I have the legal right to approach strangers in the street and say “You are one of the ugliest people I’ve ever seen, and I hope you have a miserable life”, but it’s a better world if I choose not to do so.

    Imus’ defenders talk about his right to say what he wants, about censorship, about political correctness, etc., but what about old-fashioned notions of right and wrong? What Imus said was wrong, not because it was inaccurate or because it offended his sponsors, but because it harmed people without good reason. The targets of his attack are not politicians or themselves saying controversial things. The things he said are just not the sort of thing a good person says. They’re not the kind of thing a grown-up says.

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    “The real offensive behavior I see now is coming from the Whitehouse. How many racist slips are worth one murder of an innocent person in Iraq? Where is the outrage over the murders of tens of thousands of people in Iraq?. If this much public outrage and media attention went into firing someone other then Imus, we could make the world a better place.”

    This is so true that very few people will think seriously about it. You are right but “right” doesn’t stand a chance against what feels good. It feels good to fire Imus and it feels rather less good to face a broader reality that implicates America in a devastatingly stupid atrocity.

    “What Imus said was wrong, not because it was inaccurate or because it offended his sponsors, but because it harmed people without good reason.”

    The question remains as to how what an ignorant clown says can “harm” (rather than revolt or irritate) *anyone*. What Imus said may not indeed be the kind of thing a “grown-up” says, but I wonder if PC sensitivities haven’t, meanwhile, infantilized the “victims”? Along with everyone else.

  • plnelson

    I hate to be in the position of defending Don Imus, and really I don’t, but watching 3 hours of Fox news is more offensive to me then his obviously deprived attempts at humor.

    Since I’ve never seen or heard Fox news or Imus, I can’t confirm or deny what you say, but I would note one flaw in your thesis:

    Fox news is profitable; Imus was fired because we wasn’t (since the advertisers pulled out) . This isn’t about who’s more offensive than whom, it’s about who’s more profitable than whom (which is fine with me because I’m a capitalist).

  • plnelson

    What Imus said was wrong, not because it was inaccurate or because it offended his sponsors, but because it harmed people without good reason. The targets of his attack are not politicians or themselves saying controversial things. The things he said are just not the sort of thing a good person says. They’re not the kind of thing a grown-up says.

    This may be true but what’s your point?

  • rahbuhbuh

    I haven’t read this yet, but Newsweek’s cover story on Imus, racism, language, power, etc…

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18110453/site/newsweek/

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    Reading the above-cited Newsweek piece, I came across, yet again, the trope about Imus’s show being a “mix of the high-minded and the profane” and I had to laugh. Is America so solidly lowbrow now that politics is considered a “high-minded” or *intellectual* subject? “Politics” (especially as handled by mainstream media) is nothing but gossip, deal-making, and substance-free sound-bite based rhetoric…it’s just “Sports” without the beautiful bodies.

    There’s a deeper discussion to be had about the Imus event but it won’t happen; firing him provided not only “closure” for the emotional response to his slur but also shut the door on the possibility of actually learning something from it. Not to mention Imus’s vast and brooding constituency and how this merely confirms a heroically-beleaguered sense of themselves. Which is never a good thing.

  • valkyrie607

    Well, heck. Maybe we can move past talking about Imus and try a little of this:

    An article in the LA Times about the scapegoating of hip hop artists. Finally! Someone’s speaking my language. It’s true: old white folks complaining about the racism and sexism in hip hop are way behind the times. The conversation has been going on within hip hop culture for years now.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-zirin23apr23,0,3088270.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

    Rc21 wants to know what good does it do to dwell on past inequalities.

    I’m so glad he asked.

    (This is a small aside to note that there can be subtle differences between “dwelling on” and “exploring” past inequalities. I shall leave that discussion aside for a moment and just treat the question as “exploring,” rather than “dwelling on,” to avoid those negative connotations.)

    Let’s take the issue of school segregation and bussing kids to integrate school systems. People have all kinds of opinions about this, but how many folks know that the Federal Government, via the Federal Housing Authority, and the major banks of this country collaborated to create the racial segregation now seen in most urban areas, through the practice of redlining? This is different from pointing to individuals and asking whether this person is a racist. It’s pointing to institutions which have, in the past, perpetrated racist policies, and asking the question: where are they now? Redlining affected the lives of millions of people over the decades before the practice was declared unconstitutional. For whites, it amounted to a form of affirmative action. For blacks, it created the conditions of plummeting property values typical of inner cities in the 60′s-70′s. The federal government has changed its policies since then, but only in response to political agitation and lawsuits. Banks have changed their policies since then–redlining is now illegal. Without this knowledge, the idea of the federal government bearing some responsibility for ameliorating inner-city segregation sounds ridiculous. With this knowledge, well, the idea is at least debatable.

    Also, you said something about young people these days “looking everywhere for racism, sexism, or any ism at all…”

    My experience as a white woman is that sexism will occasionally crop up, no matter whether or not I’m looking for it. From talking to the black folks I know, I understand that racism appears quite frequently, no matter whether or not they’re looking for it. Saying that folks “look for” racism and sexism reveals one thing, mainly: you’re not the target of either. In the immortal words of South Park: “You don’t get it!” It’s true. You don’t. It’s not your fault, either, although you could get it, if you chose to. The point is, you don’t have to. You can choose to think about racism and sexism. That’s your privilege. For many of us, the decision about whether or not to think about racism or sexism today isn’t a voluntary one. I have been forced to think about what people will think of me, as a woman, in the construction field. Particularly what they assume about my sexuality. It’s not pleasant; I would never go out looking for this.

    My dear sweetheart has been forced on many occasions to consider what people will assume about his personality based on the simple fact that he’s a tall, well-built black man, had to disprove those assumptions–prove that he’s not a dumb jock who just loves football or whatever, prove that he’s an intelligent, thoughtful person who has interesting things to say. For me, ever since I started dating this wonderful fellow, a year ago, thinking about racism has become a lot less optional.

    Incidentally, the Supreme Court decision declaring state laws against miscegenation unconstitutional only came down in 1967. (The perfectly apt title of the decision: “Loving v. Virginia.”) A generation ago, in a lot of places in the U.S., my boyfriend and I would be risking our lives just to see each other. The awareness of how much things have changed makes the love we share especially precious to me.

    So much for dwelling on the past.

  • nother

    Keep dwelling valkyrie607…past present or future. I’ve been sitting back, drinking a beer and soak’n your perspective on this thread. I wanted to jump in a couple of times, but you were pretty much covering it all.

    There is an interesting post show conversation going on over here You are fairly new to the community, so it would be great to get your fresh perspective.

  • nother

    Growing up, a lot people (my older cousins especially) would call me “big head.” It would go something like, “how was school today bighead,” or “can you hand me that soda, bighead.”

    My mom, bless her heart, comforted me by telling me that they were just jealous because, “a big head means a big brain.”

    So, as I got older I took to pointing out my big head on my own, taking the sting out of the insult. Just like when they would call me Garrett the carrot, or Garrett the ferret. I would tell people (still do) hey, my name rhymes with carrot.

    It’s a stretch, but I point this silliness out because I feel that it’s ok for black people to say the “n” word; they are taking possession of that insult. You see the same with lesbians who use the “d” word. They have managed to take words that reek with hurtful connotations from the oppressors, and turn them inside out; to the point that they are terms of endearment among the oppressed.

  • nother

    It bugs me when people make a big deal about Imus being “fired.” They say, oh man the punishment was so harsh, why do you have to fire the man.

    Gimme a break! The guy at the local CVS gets “fired.” The guy at the factory with two kids and a mortgage gets “fired.” What happened to Don Imus was, he will go from making 20 million a year to 10 million. He will end up on satellite radio and go home every night to his obnoxious ranch and cry about it into his obnoxious cowboy hat.

  • nother

    Considering that the topic is called “race class and language,” I hope we can move away from the I (for idiot) man somewhat, and talk a little about Ebonics, or ,a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English”>African American Vernacular English as it is more commonly called.

    “Despite the clear linguistic evidence, the American public and policymakers remain divided over whether to even recognize AAVE as a legitimate dialect of English, perhaps due to unfounded beliefs that AAVE is a degradation of English.” -wikipedia

    As a nation, we have to decide if AAVE is a legitimate unique dialect. The linguist, like Geoff Nunberg says it is. If you agree that is, then it stands to reason that certain words will have a different meaning in the context of that dialect.

    This will work against the “absolutists” as Nunberg calls them, who say the same standards that applied to Imus, should apply to everyone else.

  • nother
  • Bobo

    rc21: You keep getting really fired up about ‘being American’ and ‘free speech’. I can totally appreciate this, but I would like to point out that this is ROS. They don’t call it OPEN source for nothing. There’s no moderator on this thread, and no one is restricting your free speech. I think a lot of the comments which you have responded strongly to were merely –requesting– that certain language not be used. That said, I do agree with many of your sentiments on certain topics, and I value your perspective as one of the few conservatives here. I think in many respects I could be considered a conservative as well. So I hope you stick with it and keep promoting discussion.

    Valkyrie607: I LOVED your most recent post. You wonderfully articulated most of the things I have been trying to say in this thread, so thanks. I had a real ‘gut response’ to the part about you and your “sweetheart”. So here’s a couple of thoughts that came to mind.

    Coming from the liberal North-East, I hadn’t had much experience with overtly public racism, until a while ago when I was in Jackson, MS. I was walking down the street, in the middle of the day, in the downtown area, with a few friends of mine. Two of my friends, a black man and a white woman, were dating. The fact that they were an ‘interracial couple’ had honestly not crossed my mind until that day. A truck with four guys in it pulled up to us and slowed down. One guy leaned out the window and said, “Hey, Nigger! You best get out of town fast, boy. And you stay the fuck away from our women.” It’s easy to write this off as ‘just some yahoo’, but that’s not how it felt for any of us at the time. I’ve never really been able to analyze this event, or to assess how widespread this sentiment is, and I can’t quote a stat on how many people in Jackson shared this asshole’s feelings. But that’s because I’m honestly too embarrassed by the incident to have though much about it since then. Instead of thinking about it as much as I should have, whenever it comes to mind, I simply brush it back out and assess it as ‘bad’. I think that’s how many white people deal with race questions in general. “That’s bad, so now I don’t have to think about it.”

    To shift the conversation only slightly… I lived in India for a while, and I ended up spending a lot of time trying to break down stereotypes of white people. The prevailing view on white people in India is that we are a bunch of sexually promiscuous, drug addicted, morally degenerate, pseudo-Buddhist, overprivileged louts. Unfortunately the stereotype holds true for many of the white tourists who go to India. So if an Indian actually decides to date a white person, well, it’s more-than-a-little frowned upon.

    I dated an Indian woman for quite a while, and we had to make sure that when we were in public we showed no signs of our relationship. Sometimes we would slip up and hold hands or something. The looks of derision we got from everyone around us were like nothing I’ve ever felt. Sometimes it wouldn’t even require public affection on our part for a shopkeeper or cab driver to give me a dirty look and to look at my girlfriend as though saying, “are you in trouble? Is this evil white man trying to corrupt you? Do you need me to help?” It was a constant feeling of awkward embarrassment.

    On the topic of racial language as it applied to me in India… The major slur for white people in the area I lived in was “lal gand,” which means “red ass.” It was seen as quite derogatory, and was often used in conjunction with a few curses. I learned quickly to apply the term to myself when I was dealing with people. It was kind of a cross between self-deprecating humor and a sort of ‘reclamation’ of the slur. It certainly had the effect of breaking down barriers, of showing that I was ‘one of the gang,’ but it also kind of hurt sometimes. I also began to hate most white tourists in the same way most Indians did. I turned it into a game sometimes to shout “Lal Gand!” at any white people I saw. My Indian acquaintances thought it was hilarious, and I did too. But there was also a venom behind the words when I shouted them like that. I wanted to embarrass and hurt those white people… because they were foreign, because they were dumb, because they were the reason I had to work so hard to gain the respect of any Indians I interacted with.

    I’m not sure exactly how all of this fits into the current discussion, but these stories have been nagging at me as I read the recent updates. So please, feel free to interpret them as you will. I don’t think I’ve interpreted them yet, so any opinions would be more than welcome.

  • rc21

    I thought this thread was going to die but I see it is still moving forward.

    A few comments. Nother my friend, I don’t think the guy at the cvs store got fired for doing his job.

    pln, I understand your point about capitalism, and the free market being responsible for the Imus fireing. As a fellow capitalist it is hard to argue the point and I agree if Imus had not lost sponsors he would still be working.

    Bobo and others. This whole episode is so disturbing because it is not about Imus it is about the our freedom of speech rights slowly being chipped away at.

    I do not disagree that Imus is an idiot and his words were offensive to some. I also agree NBC had a right to fire him. What I find offensive is how many people were so quick to call for his fireing because he expressed an opinion that hurt peoples feelings.

    Americans who really love the constitution and freedom should have jumped to Imuses defense.To say as some have that Imus has the right to free speech,and then in the next breath cheer on his fireing for using his free speech is disingenuous.

    The Imus fireing is just a small battle that is being waged by some to enact hate speech laws.They actually exist in the form of sentancing for hate crimes. (Something I believe is unconstitutional). The easier it is to fire,demonize, or attack someone for using words that we find offensive. The easier it is to seperate such speech from the first ammndt,and make such speech ilegal.

    Lets look at what attorney Gloria Allred said after Michael Richards tirade at a comic club.

    “This is not free speech this is hate speech”

    This coming from an attorny who you would think knew that the first amndt does not differentiate between the two.

    This is the underlying theme and motive behind the Imus fireing and other such incidendts that we are seeing more frequently. They happen on a smaller scale almost every day.

    How long do you think it will be before some politician introduces legislation that will ban the use of certain words (racial,sexual, epitaths,etc.)

    So even though it may make us all feel good that we support the fireing of a man we find to be mean spirited and racist/sexist. We have also taken a baby step in the process of silencing our own thoughts and speech,and the sad thing is we are not even aware of it.

    Remember you can have freedom from being offended or you can have freedom of speech,but you cannot have both.

  • rc21

    Valkyrie607. In reading your response I’m not sure if you noticed that all the misdeeds and discrimination that you eluded to have all been rectified. So incredible progress has been made. When I talked about dwelling on past slights this is what I was alluding to. Discrimination is illegal, Thank god.

    My original statement was geared towards the individual more than say a whole group of people.

    You know very little about me so assumptions can be dangerous.

    As I stated earlier and as other old timers on this forum may know I deal in a university setting and part of my job is helping poor mostly minority kids gain admission to school. This job does not pay much but I get to make life long friendships with great kids. I also served in the military for many years. There is no more integrated part of our society than the military. You eat, sleep, work, fight, party, and share every concievable thought with your fellow service members. Color becomes a non factor. I also live and work in one of the most diverse cities in the state.

    So valkyrie607 I do think about racism and I do get it. Just not the way that you want me to get it. There are many ways to look at problems and there are many solutions. Your way is not the only way. Please keep this in mind

  • valkyrie607

    What??? My way is not the only way?

    Well forget it then.

  • valkyrie607

    Seriously, though…

    Bobo, Nother: thanks!

    Bobo, I found your story about India extremely interesting. I spent some time in northern India and never encountered (that I know of) the epithet “lal gand.” “Bahin chorh,” yes, but not that. Being in India was wild. If white people are promiscuous, white women are doubly so. Especially white, blond women. I too began to hate the white tourists, especially the girls, biking around town in their shorts and tank tops while I walked the street in my salwar kumeez, flanked by several male friends to head off the gropers. There were billboards for pornos all over the place and they all had blond women in them, and they had titles like “The Unfaithful Wife” or “The Bad Girl.” In English as well as Hindi. My friend Anne, whose hair is blonder than mine, like white-blond, got groped even when surrounded by friends.

    In India, I learned something important about gender inequality: it stems from women’s power. In the narrative about gender relations that was recounted to me by my host sisters there, the power of a woman’s sexuality is so strong, so uncontrollable, that men are simply helpless in the face of it. Therefore it is the woman’s responsibility to control for the man’s response. She must dress modestly. She must keep her eyes cast down. She must travel with male relatives in order to fend off any attacks (although if a five-year-old nephew will do the trick, one wonders what role the male relative is really playing). And should the woman let any of these or any of her uncountable sexual responsibilities slip, then whatever happens after is her fault. After all, men are simply overcome, powerless in the face of their lust.

    What that has to do with language I don’t know, although I did note that the heroes in the filmis often tossed around English slang words, jarringly, like the word “dude” in the middle of a stream of Hindi. I guess it showed how worldly and hip they were. Good Indian women, I suppose, wouldn’t do that.

    Nother, that wikipedia entry is interesting. I knew from previous readings that back dilaects obey their own consistent grammar rules. What surprised me is how many of those usages I use myself in everyday life. “Where you at?” “She crazy.” “I ain’t seen him in a minute” Black language is beautiful and poetic–as James Baldwin notes in The Fire Next Time. At least, I find it so. That’s part of the pleasure I derive from listening to hip hop.

    It’d be interesting to talk about the requirements that white folks make on black with regards to language. In order to get a professional job, and keep it, you have to “speak professionally”–read “talk white.” Even when you’re on the phone with your girlfriend, or in the bar having a drink with your colleagues. You gotta adopt the dialect of the ruling class if you want to be part of it. Makes sense. Wouldn’t it grate, though, to be told that your accent is the opposite of professional, regardless of how well you knew your stuff? Hey, it’s the power of language.

    Black kids who make fun of their peers who don’t “talk black,” there’s another interesting angle. White folks often read this as another example of black people being stupid–everyone knows you can’t talk black if you want a real job! Why wouldn’t you want a real job? The black folks are caught between, in the meantime: learning white dialect implies some agreement with the system that has kept your people down, in slavery and poverty, for generations. But you need to work. And you know that all white people aren’t devils.

  • Bobo

    Valkyrie607: Here’s a bit of a connection between the dialect conversation and the India conversation. I have a friend from America who’s now earning quite good money working for an India Call Center. His job is to show up every day and teach dozens of Indians to speak with an American accent. He doesn’t have any teaching credentials or experience. He basically just gets paid to talk at them.

    I visited north India on a couple of occasions, but my home-base was Maharastra. It’s just close enough to Goa to pick up the German/Israeli/Australian club kids. I always had fun listening to rickshaw drivers insult them to their faces, always with a smile, while the club kid would just stand there nodding with incomprehension.

    But the Indians have plenty of derogatory terms for different ethnicities on the subcontinent as well. Is there a difference between racial slurs which Indians direct at white people and those they direct at ‘southies’, Parsis, or Sikhs? This is a question I’ve pondered a lot. Is it fair to describe whites living in India as an oppressed minority, with all the moral high-ground which comes with such a label? Many of the superficial signs of oppression are there. What do you think?

  • valkyrie607

    Rc21, you get a special post just for you. I really am glad you are here, part of this forum. I respect your perspective and your opinion. The work you do with those students sounds awesomely fun and quite fulfilling. Obviously, you think about stuff, racism, sexism, etc., otherwise you wouldn’t bother with this forum. Heck–you might even “get it!”

    But, see, I don’t know. I don’t know you. To me, you’re a bunch of words on a screen. You might be married to a black man, with a whole rainbow of adopted and foster children who help you serve soup to Vietnamese lesbian paraplegics every Tuesday. That wouldn’t necessarily stop you from typing some sexist/racist things every once in a while. Look, me calling you out about the language you use is NOT the same thing as me calling you a big, fat racist. Frankly, I don’t really care for the topic “Is RC21 a Big, Fat Racist?” It’s pointless. I’m interested in the language.

    From my perspective, I haven’t been making wild assumptions about you. (If I have, my apologies.) I’ve been talking about the language you use, and how that language reflects some of the very deeply embedded prejudices of our culture.

    We seem to be talking at cross purposes. I tell you that the words you use sound racist to me. Um, to take the latest example, your assertion that “all the misdeeds and discrimination that you eluded(sic) to have all been rectified.” This is clearly false. At least, it’s clear to me. From there, I wonder: why would he think such a thing? I mean, structural inequalities from the days of redlining are still with us. And interracial couples, while they no longer risk murder or arrest, still face some prejudice. Then, if the pattern holds true, you respond with a story about stuff you do in your life which is supposed to show that you couldn’t possibly be racist. Granted. Your work, your experience, your state of mind–they are yours. You are the ultimate authority on those things. But the question remains: why, given your experiences, etc., would you think that these problems are all fixed? Is it ignorance? Denial? Something else?

    Ah. It’s a moot point. You have your reasons, and they may even be very good ones. Here’s what I want to say, though: insisting that these problems are all fixed is a form of denial. It’s a form of denial that only white people can afford. That means white privilege. Denying that racism is a problem is a great way to avoid dealing with the problems racism presents. It doesn’t do anybody any favors, unless you’re counting the status quo.

    What’s that you say? You don’t deny that racism is a problem? Well, okay then. Let’s assume that you don’t. But what do you think about my idea? You know, the idea that denying racism is a potent form of white privilege that serves to support the inequalities created by centuries of white supremacist policies, rather than subverting them. That idea.

  • valkyrie607

    Bobo, I think that given the recent history of India’s colonization by white folks, the racial epithets about them would be somewhat in a different category. Some lingering resentment towards the foreigners who ruled not so long ago?… Muslims, too, have this history, plus the whole partition thing, so there’s that added dimensions. Someone pointed out that the only reason “nappy-headed hos” got people so upset was the history of people REALLY thinking that way–really thinking that all black women are “rough,” unrefined, and sexually promiscuous. So any epithet that has the power to wound MUST have the force of history behind it. Ya think?

    Are white folks in India an oppressed minority? I dunno, it’s a good question. They certainly face heaps of misconceptions and prejudice there. But the critical difference, in my mind, is the history behind them. White folks face prejudice, yes, but they’re also the ex-colonizers. Unlike blacks in America, they don’t have a history of being at the mercy of Indians, being enslaved, cut off from economic resources, whatever. Speaking English with a good accent certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting a job there. So, similarities and important differences as well.

    Maybe we need to question the idea of being an oppressed minority automatically giving you the moral high ground. This is why I love James Baldwin, he deals so elegantly with this topic. Basically, he says that being an oppressed minority does NOT grant you the moral high ground. It’s just history, that’s all! But, he goes on to say, if you are in an oppressed minority, pretty much the only way to deal with it is by assuming the high moral ground. It’s terribly unfair, but there it is. There’s no way to make up for all the awful things that happen to the past, so you MUST forgive, or risk losing your sanity, your humanity, risk succumbing to bitterness.

    “To accept one’s past–one’s history–is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressure of life like clay in a season of drought.”

    –James Baldwin

    and yes, I did just finish The Fire Next Time.

  • herbert browne

    (from Bobo) ..” Is it fair to describe whites living in India as an oppressed minority, with all the moral high-ground which comes with such a label? Many of the superficial signs of oppression are there. What do you think?”-

    I think it’s hilarious. Do “the whites” Have to be there? Are they part of an identifiable, grafted- on community that depends upon the Indian culture for their sustenance & survival? Are they “at home”?

    Funny thing is, the Indians ARE white, aren’t they? Or are all those “Indo-European ” languages simply a product of a language wandering off, without a body? hmmm… ^..^

  • rc21

    Valkyrie607, In response. My post was talking about legally rectified. Discrimination is illegal. That is what I meant. I understand individual racism still exists. Please don’t try and read more into the statement,by doing so you are allowing me to be portrayed as a racist because You now assume I deny that racism still exists on some levels in todays society.

    One reason it is so hard to have any debate on race is because people try and put others on the defensive by insinuating that they are racist,because they don’t share the the same opinions.

    I could just as easily try and label you a racist. You seem to have lumped all whites into a single catagory. Priveleged seems to be a word you use quite often. You certainly have no problem generalizing.

    I’m not sure I want to keep this conversation going. It appears to me that you have some air of moral superiority that allows you the infinite wisdom to declare who is and who is not a racist. Once you have made this decleration all debate ends. My opinions and thoughts no longer matter because they are the thoughts of a racist. When you accuse me of using racist language this is what you are doing.

    Also you say you are more interested in language. Especially the language I use. Well I am more interested in action. So I need not prove myself to you.Don’t get got up in words look at a persons deeds,and work,therein lies the truth.

    I will finish with this. In my multicultural little world Racism does not exist I treat all the people I know as people. Not black, white, hispanic,asian, And these people do the same. Do we tease,make fun of and joke around? Yes, This is a sighn of love and affection. People who care about each other are not afraid to let their guard down and have some fun. This is one of the things that brings people togeather and puts everyone on an equal footing.

    Racism still exists whites, blacks, asians,hispanics, all have groups and individuals who are racist, but to deny tremendous progress has not been

    made is to deny reality.

    Just because you are white,doesnt mean you are subject to some sort of white priviledge that sets you apart from others.

    If you are surrounded by racism I suggest you find some new friends, Or if you would like I can introduce you to people down my way.You will be treated fair,but you wont get any of that special priviledge you talk about.

    My guess is our opinons on what we would like to see happen in race relations are not to far apart. Our solutions may be. That does not make me a racist. By the way you really never asked me for any of my thoughts or solutions to the race problems we have in America. Have a nice day.

  • valkyrie607

    So um…

    What do you think about the idea that the denial of the existence of racism is a potent form of white privilege that serves to perpetuate the inequalities created by centuries of white supremacist policies?

  • rc21

    If the latter part of your question is based on the premise that the first part is a factual statement,than you are going to first have to show me a substantial part of our population that denies racism still exists to some extent in this country.

    Other than some crazy KKK types and some small groups of neo nazis, all of which have basically been ostracized from society. I think most of America acknowledges that we still have some forms of racism to deal with. So I guess I really don’t see your question as being relevent to the coversation.

    If what you really wanted to ask me is ”Do I feel that past policies by our government have had an overall negative effect on the wellbeing of African Americans” than my answer would be yes Blacks have unduly suffered over the centuries because of racist and unjust laws and public policy.

  • valkyrie607

    What’s your definition of white privilege?

    How about racism?

  • rc21

    Racism is a belief in the superiority of a particular race.

    To me white priviledge is the belief that because you are caucasion you are entiteled to certain things that others are not.

  • valkyrie607

    Yep. I suspected, from what you wrote about white privilege, that we were using vastly different meanins of the phrase. Here’s my definition of white privilege: because of the color of my skin, I’ve got certain advantages. My grandparents were able to move out of the city into the suburbs. My grandparent and parents were able to get college educations. I’m not the target of racial profiling or racial stereotyping, such as practiced by Imus against the Rutgers women. My accent is the same accent as that of the ruling class. Etc.

    I don’t go around with my hair shirt on because of this. It’s just a fact of life.

    I would add to your definition of racism. I would say that racism can be not only a belief, but a set of policies or customs that have the effect of enforcing the superiority of a particular race.

    For example, take an individual slave owner. He may be a perfectly nice guy–never beats his slaves, treats them humanely, doesn’t separate their families, teaches them to read, maybe even sets them free eventually. You could persuasively argue that this fine gentleman is not a racist. However, he is participating, nonetheless, in a racist system: slavery.

  • valkyrie607

    meanins = meanings

  • rc21

    There are no slave owners in the US. Slavery ended aproximately 150 years ago.

    Your example of the friendly slave owner however does not work re read my definition If he felt that by simply being of a different race he was superior than he is still a racist.

    You claim white priviledge allowed your grand parents to move out of the city into the suburbs. This may be true. I don’t see the point. Many people prefer to live in the city regardless of race. I also know many minorities who live in the suburbs. Was it minority priviledge that allowed this?

    Your not the target of racial profiling or racial stereotyping. How do you know? I think everyone is subject to some form of stereotyping.

    Your parents and grand parents were able to get college educations. None of my grand parents were able to get college educations, My mother was also not granted the chance at a college education. Did some one forget to tell them about white priviledge?My father got his chance only after serving his country in ww2 but he had to quit in order to support his family.

    By the way I know several college educated blacks and minorities. How do you suppose they were able to get their degrees and my folks were not. Maybe they stole the white priviledge my folks were supposed to get.

    Your accent is the same accent as the ruling class. What is that supposed to mean. I don’t quite follow. Bush has a Texas drawl .Ted Kennedy the most famous leader of the left has a distinct New England accent. Hillary Clinton apparently has the accent of what ever group she is pandering to.

    . Leading presidential canidate Barack Obama who is of mixed race seems to me to have no distinquishable accent at all. Maybe a linguistc expert can detect something.

    As to your adding on to my definition of racism, that is fine. I would call what you are alluding to institutional racism.

  • Bobo

    One Major privilege which members of ANY majority have is the privilege of not thinking about where they lie in the majority/minority space. Majority doesn’t necessarily refer to numerical majority, it refers more to power. So for instance, a man doesn’t have to think about his gender as often as a woman. This is because if a society’s institutions are tailored to the needs of the ruling group (majority), everyone else is naturally awkward in the society.

    This is just kind of the way it works. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I don’t think we could really stop acting this way. But I think it’s very important for us to recognize, rc21 (I’m making an assumption here, please forgive me if I’m wrong), that as white males we don’t have to think about our race or gender as much as a black woman would. We fit better into this society because people more like us built this society for themselves. Being color-blind is, in fact, an example of white privilege.

  • valkyrie607

    RC21 sez:

    “You claim white priviledge allowed your grand parents to move out of the city into the suburbs. This may be true. I don’t see the point. Many people prefer to live in the city regardless of race. I also know many minorities who live in the suburbs. Was it minority priviledge that allowed this?

    Apropos of nothing, do you know what redlining was?

  • valkyrie607

    Thanks Bobo, that is a significant piece of what I’m getting at.

  • rc21

    Bobo, Your point has merit,but in essence what I think you are saying is that as white males our view points and opinions on issues of race and gender carry less weight because we are white and male. I reject this theory in total.

    I look at it this way: Our country was founded on certain principles. Our creator(whom ever that may be) endowed all of us with certain rights and freedoms. We know that certain groups were not allowed to have the full rights as others but the mechinisms of the constitution were put in place so that as society and culture evolved eventually all people were allowed to feel the full benifit of this great document and this great nation. It took awhile, and in some cases there is still some work to be done but tremendous progress has been made.

    I believe our society is now at the point where anyone can fit in.

    People generally have the same wants and needs regardless of race or sex. So even though the white male may have founded and framed our society he did so in a way that gave humans, not white males the best chance of freedom and success.

    Maybe I’m just an optimist. I think through hard work and personal responsibilty anything is possible in this great nation. I have seen it happen so often, but remember we may all be created equal but we are not all guaranteed of an equal outcome when taking lifes journey.

  • rc21

    Valkyrie607. Yes I am aware of redlining. I believe it became illegal around 1968.

  • valkyrie607

    Rc21 Sez:

    “Leading presidential canidate Barack Obama who is of mixed race seems to me to have no distinquishable accent at all.”

    This is where you’re wrong, my friend. Barack Obama has a distinctly midwestern, white accent. This is exactly what I was talking about. He doesn’t sound black, and this makes him a more viable candidate.

  • valkyrie607

    I wasn’t asking whether you’re aware of redlining. I’m asking what your understanding of it is. How did it start? What effects did it have on American society? Etc., etc.

  • valkyrie607

    Here’s something from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which, as I mentioned, I just finished reading.

    “For the horrors of the American Negro’s life there has been almost no language. The privacy of his experience, which is only beginning to be recognized in language, and which is denied or ignored in official and popular speech–hence the Negro idiom–lends credibility to any system that tries to clarify it. And, in fact, the truth about the black man, as a historical entity and as a human being, has been hidden from him, deliberately and cruelly; the power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.”

  • rc21

    I believe and correct me if I’m wrong because I do not claim to be an expert on this. That redlining is a policy of denying financial services to specific neighborhoods generally poor white,ethnic or black . different colors for different areas green,red etc. I think HOLC instituted this policy and around 1934 the FHA adopted it.

    Basically banks and lenders thought these were high risk areas and felt it better to lend to more affluent parts of society. The influence this had was to make it harder for minorities and poor whites to get loans. This practice was deemed ilegal in 1968. It has been awhile since I did alot of reading on this subject I hope this response passes muster with you.

    Now on to Barack I’m afraid Im going to disagree with you. Barack is half white and half black he sounds to me like he has no accent, but remember I am from mass, and I think anyone who speaks differently than bostonians has no accent. Either way don’t you think it is a bit presumptuious to say Barack doesn’t sound black. My work mate is black and his accent is very close to what I would call a non accent or you would call a midwestern accent. Should I tell him he does not sound black. Talk about stereotyping. and you accused me of saying things that sound racist.

    Blacks do not all sound the same. May I ask where you live? Because down in my neck of the woods we have black people who sound quite different from each other . We have Jamaican americans,Haitian americans, Kenyan americans Somalian americans etc. I could go on. They all have very seperate and distinct accents. So please explain to me so I can tell these people what a black accent is. I’m going to have to get them all on the same page. I wonder if they will be disapointed when I tell them they have been speaking with the wrong accent all of these years?

    To be honest with you who gives a s—t what kind of an accent someone has.

  • valkyrie607

    Geez, RC. Got a bee in your bonnet?

    This being the “race-class-language” thread, it’s my humble opinion that accents fit rather nicely into the subject matter.

  • Bobo

    rc21: “To be honest with you who gives a s—t what kind of an accent someone has.”

    Really? Because in my experience a lot of people give a lot of their proverbial excrement about accents. I grew up in a very redneck rural area. People who want jobs, or opportunities in general, outside of manual labor, are usually forced to change their native accent. When was the last time you met an accountant or a lawyer who spoke ‘like a hick’? I know quite a few people who have spent a lot of time and effort getting rid of their redneck accents. Why? Because the majority of Americans hear that accent and immediately think that the person is a racist, inbred, uneducated, mentally inferior piece of white-trash.

    “We have Jamaican americans,Haitian americans, Kenyan americans Somalian americans etc. I could go on.” A distinction should be made here between African Americans in general and African Americans who are the descendants of US American Slaves. I think most Americans can identify members of the second group by their accents. And most of the racist stereotypes in our country are directed at the second group.

  • valkyrie607

    And you say you have black people with different accents?!? My goodness, do tell! How exotic, darling!

    I live in Vermont, the second whitest state in the nation. (After Wyoming.) Burlington has a large number of African refugees, though, and probably 80% of the state’s African-American population. I’m quite curious why you want to know.

    Of course the accent thing is a stereotype.

    God, I so want to make fun of you right now… please forgive my sarcasm above, it’s just that… you’re being so obtuse.

    “Blacks do not all sound the same.” No! You’re kidding.

    You’re really sticking your head in the sand if you’re trying maintain that there really isn’t a black American accent. There is. Some folks, both white and black, hear that accent and think, oh, that person must be uneducated, lazy, whatever. Now, it is possible to acknowledge the reality that there are certain accents that, when we pick up the phone and listen, we say, “Ah, that person must be black,” or, “that person is probably white,” AND simultaneously refuse to buy into the useless stereotypes about those accents. Barack doesn’t have a STEREOTYPICALLY black accent. He has a midwestern accent. Obviously you can be any color and speak with a midwestern accent, but the fact remains that midwesterners are white, generally, and the midwestern accent is a STEREOTYPICALLY white accent.

    If Barack sounded like, say, Biggie Smalls, or Chuck D., well, my guess is that he wouldn’t have gotten elected Senator in the first place. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it

    I’m sort of baffled why you’re interested in this discussion. When I said, some of your words are sexist, you said, “I believe that actions speak louder than words.” Fair enough. I agree. Why are you wasting time bandying words about on the internet then? Then you ask, “Who gives a shit what accent someone has, anyway?” Sounds like a rhetorical question but I’ll answer it anyway. Who cares is folks like me who are interested in discussing the intersection of race, power, and language, right here on this thread which is supposed to be about just that.

    “Words, words, words, words, words.”

    –Shakespeare

    Peace out, yo.

  • Bobo

    Sorry, I just realized I should clarify my above post a little bit. What I said was: “I think most Americans can identify members of the second group by their accents.” I don’t mean that all members of the second group have a discernible accent. What I mean is simply that I don’t think many people confuse a Compton accent with a Kenyan one.

  • valkyrie607

    Correction:

    “I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it is.”

  • valkyrie607

    Of course, the guy from Compton COULD be white.

    It’s terribly unlikely, though. Compton is mostly black folks. And why is that? The answer has a lot to do with redlining! See? See? It all relates!

  • valkyrie607

    Of course, the guy from Compton COULD be white.

    It’s terribly unlikely, though. Compton is mostly black folks. And why is that? The answer has a lot to do with redlining! See? See? It all relates!

  • valkyrie607

    Of course, the guy from Compton COULD be white.

    It’s terribly unlikely, though. Compton is mostly black folks. And why is that? The answer has a lot to do with redlining! See? See? It all relates!

  • rc21

    To Valkyrie607 and BOBO Sorry to take offense to your comments about accents and dialects. What I really should have said is I don’t give a s–t about different accents. Obviously some people tend to read much more into the way a person speaks than I do.

    Valkyrie607 I asked where you were from because you seemed to be unaware of the many different forms of black speech. I guess being from Vermont your not exposed to the differences in black accents. No problem. I do accept your premise that there is a stereotypical american black accent. Just remember that there is a growing black population that does not adhere to the confines of this dialect, so that is why I was so suprised that you used the term black accent. Maybe we both let our selves get hung up on small details.

    BOBO have you ever talked to an american black from Boston? They have a different accent than blacks from other parts of the country. American blacks from the farming country of Alabama have a much different accent than blacks from Philly. You see I spent many years living and working with blacks from all parts of the country and when I first joined the service I to thought all blacks pretty much sounded the same. It was not until I began living with them that I noticed the differences. Is there a stereotypical Black American accent? I suppose so. Is there one black accent reserved for decendents of slaves. The answer is no, sorry to dissapoint you BOBO .

    Take the time to really know some black people and you will not be so quick to paint with such a broad brush.

    BOBO your points on southern whites are well taken. Of course once again being in the service tought me that southern whites with accents were just as intelligent as Northen and mid western whites. Unfortunately we still see eliteist snobs from the north who will criticize the white southern accent.

    Myself I really try not to make negative assumptions about people with different accents. Be they southern white,American black , Asian, I don’t care. The service tought me this. It was a lesson you cant learn from college books or by taking seminars in race relations.I can only speak for myself. If it is so very important to others than so be it.

    Valkyrie607 I may be interested in the discussion on race relations, I’m just not all that interested in the relevance of different accents that people have in regards to race relations.

    Dialects and accents are interesting topics to discuss but they seem at this point to take the discussion in a different direction,but you are right I guess it does fit the topic. It just seems that things get side tracked at times. My apologies.

    Maybe if we all tried to stop stereotyping all races and started looking at people as individuals we could make more progress. I can see from this discussion that this probably is not going to happen very soon.

    By the way valkyrie 607. Do you think the fact that Obama speaks with a midwestern accent might have something to do with the fact that his mother is white and from the midwest and his father who I believe is from Africa and does not have a black american accent . Also throw in the fact that Obama spent a fair amount of time outside of the US. I think if you add these things all up it is not suprising at all that Obama speaks as he does. This question is not meant as sarcastic or in a way to antagonize. I just think if you add it all up it makes sense for him to have a nondiscript accent. Your thoughts?

    In closing sorry to get a bee under my bonnet. When people have such different views on subjects I guess it is bound to happen. Maybe if you lived in the wonderfully diverse city of Lowell you would see what I meant by so many different types of people and accents. I have relatives in Vermont I find the state very beautifull but almost totally lacking in racial diversity. This is good for those who like to stay seperated. Many people from Mass, NY, and Conn have fled to the north for just that reason.

    I’m travelling to one of the grat nothern cities this weekend. Unfortunately their murder rate has risen so fast it is quickly becoming a place people are looking to avoid. Good by.

  • valkyrie607

    Since you’ve chided me in the past for making assumptions, I suppose I’ll do the same for you. I’m not FROM Vermont. I’ve lived here for the past three years. I’ve also lived in Philadelphia, Portland OR, India, New Zealand, and Europe. I grew up in a fairly white town in upstate New York. My neighbors in that little white upstate New York town were Dutch and happened to work for UNICEF, and during the summer they would return to their house next door to ours, often bringing with them guests from Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Quebec, or Switzerland. Although my little town was white, it wasn’t too far from NYC, and there was a SUNY there, so it wasn’t nearly as white as your average VT town. My boyfriend in 8th grade was African-American. So even if I had never left that little town, I still wouldn’t be as ignorant as you assumed I was.

    And even if I was as ignorant as you assumed, I still would have a pretty darn good point about Obama not sounding black, or, if you prefer the PC phraseology, not sounding like a descendant of West African slaves.

    It’s final paper time, smell ya later!

  • valkyrie607

    The paper’s coming along…

    So I saw this article on salon and it occurred to me that that thing with Alec Baldwin’s voice mail message to his daughter is another sign of the shifting of language in our culture. Something that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow 15 years ago is released to the public and becomes the source of public shame and controversy. It seems to me like big changes are happening.

    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/04/25/hotheads/index.html

    If you’re curious about the original message Baldwin left, just go to Youtube and search for “Alec Baldwin.”

  • valkyrie607

    What you say

    Dig it

    Every day of my life I bear witness to the power of words

    And what they do to the many and the few

    I’m speaking thoughts with the mind and the mouth open

    Keeping my people on point, plus I’m hopin

    That my word sound power will devour the fools

    For they know not the hour the Most High rules

    I got an aura created by words of praise

    Original G, watch I as I amaze

    All my pupils, when I speak I have scruples

    Treat my mind like a holy tabernacle

    No one can attack and steal my thoughts

    Therefore the words I say are the lessons I brought

    Into the cipher, words now possess value

    If you wanna know the real then let me tell you

    You’re responsible for what you say

    Because the words you speak can truly cause dismay

    So what you say

    –Pete Rock

    more underground hip hop to keep your mind blunted on reality

    peace

  • rahbuhbuh

    I’m beginning to wonder where everyone else went? Please don’t tell me that a semantic debate between two posters is preventing other people from offering an opinion on a broad and worthy topic? RC21 and valkyrie607 are interesting, but this is beginning to feel voyeuristic.

    Perhaps this will buck some new thoughts into the discussion.

    I finally found the “niggardly” instance from DC politics back in 1999: David Howard, head of the Office of Public Advocate, said he used the word “niggardly” in a Jan. 15 conversation about funding with two employees. “I used the word ‘niggardly’ in reference to my administration of a fund,” Howard said in a written statement yesterday. “Although the word, which is defined as miserly, does not have any racial connotations, I realize that staff members present were offended by the word.

    -he eventually resigned.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/daily/jan99/district27.htm

    Race in language, even misquoted, is still too charged. George Carlin’s speech about words cannot be “bad,” seemed applicable to too-PC 1999. Words are only bad when used in purpose to hurtful statements. His argument sounds like gun advocates’ “guns don’t kill people…” mantra. It comes back around to wrongfully demonizing specific words, like RC21 mentioned previously.

    —-

    Al Sharpton was interviewed on Bill Maher’s show, a thankfully uncensored open venue. Nothing which hasn’t been said here was stated, but the discussion about free speech to appeal to Imus’s sponsors to stop funding racist commentary is worth listening to if people want to grab the podcast.

  • Bobo

    Thanks for steering the conversation a bit, Rahbuhbuh.

    One thought which has been kicking around in my head for a while: is there / should there be a difference between freedom of speech for private individuals and freedom of speech for members of the press?

    I know that the word ‘censorship’ will immediately pop-up in any counter-argument on this point, but I would suggest reconsidering any absolute stance against censorship.

    Aside from Imus, let me present another example of racial or ethnic defamation which went out on the airwaves recently. Fox News, in a ‘special investigation’, reported (quite falsely) that Barack Obama had attended a Wahabist / Jihadi school when he was a child in Indonesia. Shortly after that, the president of Fox News made a joke which compared “Obama” to “Osama”.

    Now we can spend an entire day talking about how Fox News is full of proverbial excrement, but the fact remains that many Americans get their news from this organization. Dan Rather was crucified for his journalistic mistake. Yet the story directed against Barack Obama was not met with nearly as much scorn.

    The president of Fox News can say whatever he pleases, even in public. He is, after all, a citizen. However, when a false and racially charged story is put out over the airwaves, it concerns us all. I consider this story racist because it made the assumption that all Muslims are Jihadis. (Maybe racist isn’t the proper term, maybe sectarian.)

    In Britain, where slander and libel laws are much stricter than the US, Fox News would probably have been shut down a long time ago under a swarm of lawsuits. The question remains, to what extent should we govern the airwaves which supposedly belong to us? The FCC is supposed to play this role, but they spend their time worried about titties and Howard Stern. Should we, as the public, demand that ‘News’ organizations be held to a higher standard of free speech? Don’t we have a responsibility to ensure that blatant lies, racist defamations, and politically motivated slander don’t go out over our airwaves? If Fox News reported that Muslims all over the US were about to rise up and start killing infidels, would that cross the ‘shouting fire’ line? Where is that line, and is it more strict for broadcasters?

  • rc21

    BOBO, In trying to make your point I think you are weaving several issues togeather that ought to remain seperate.

    First; Fox news I vaugely recall the story, Correct me if I am wrong but did not FOX come out with a correction, and apology. With the Rather gate it was quite different. They ran with a story that they knew in all probability was either false or had serious questions regarding it’s truth. Their own experts even expressed concerns.

    Also Rather and the network only fessed up after overwhelming evidence was thrown in their face exposing the big lie.Even after this they somehow in a convoluted sense of reasoning stated that even though the facts were wrong the story still had merit. This is why Rather came under such fire.It was not the original lie it was the cover up and denial that caused the problem. A simple admission and apology would have ended it.

    Second: Ailes has a right to say what ever he likes in his private life. This is a non issue and should have no bearing on your argument, unless you are in favor of repealing the second amndt. I’m not sure why you brought up his private joke .

    Third;Although I agree with you on your concern that the press seems to get away with reporting news that is false and inaccurate. (try being a conservative and listening to all the MSM outlets that constantly lie about conservatives).

    We have to put free speech right at the fore front. If not, under your wishes 90% of all news outlets would be forced to shut down.

    Would your rules also apply to political parties that lie? A few years ago the Dems ran adds in black communities stateing if republicans are elected black churches will be burned.

    fourth: The reason Britain has different laws than the USA is because they do not have the same freedom of speech protections as we in the US have. If you are willing to give up your freedom of speech because you don’t like something FOX news said than I would suggest that you are taking your first amndt rights way to lightly.

    I’m offended by the lies and distortions I hear and read from the likes of the NY Times,Boston Globe,PBS,NPR,CNN, etc. The proper recourse is exposing lies and distortion, not censorship.

  • enhabit

    none other than richard pryor said that he felt that certain language should be dropped from the lexicon universally..like the “n” word. this from someone who made a career from such shock devices. his change of heart speaks volumes. cultural denegration has nowhere to go.

  • rahbuhbuh

    bobo: should there be a difference between freedom of speech for private individuals and freedom of speech for members of the press?

    no. let the press do as they wish and set their own standards, even FOX and NBC with their arguably slanted or sensationalist coverage. If one network or news organization’s speech is too colorful (as my grandmother would say), then let the listener/viewer change the channel. I prefer the multi-pronged approach to news coverage, let people have the option to hear stories from 10 sources and discern who’s being objective. Private spun news is better than properly sanctioned State-run news.

  • Bobo

    First of all: I don’t necessarily agree with state-censored media. However, it’s what we have right now (restrictions on sex, language, etc. The job of the FCC is to hand out fines to broadcasters who violate the state policy). It’s also what almost all of the rest of the world has. I”m simply suggesting that we reexamine what things we want to censor. Should we censor Janet’s bosom, or should we focus more on slander, racism, etc.? I’m not asking this rhetorically, I really don’t know where my opinion lies on this matter. But I do find it a worthwhile thing to consider.

    Rahbuhbuh: I agree that it would be wonderful if everyone could get ten different perspectives on the news every day. Personally, since I live in an area with no TV reception or cable, I check websites for my news. At least 5 times a day I check (in this order) Google News, CNN, BBC, FOX, Al Jazeera. I find that it gives me an excellent grasp of what’s going on in the world.

    However, for me to assume that everyone does/can/should do this is preposterous. If I only got my news from Democracy Now! I would probably be imbibing an equal amount of mis-truth as those who only get their news from FOX. Need an example: Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. All it took was a little bit of slander, and despite the best efforts of all the news networks to correct the error, enough people didn’t get the proverbial memo that it was still able to influence the election. When people miss out on the controversy, they generally believe the first thing they hear. That’s what’s so dangerous about slander.

  • rahbuhbuh

    Industry self regulating rating systems are good things, and shift much more fluidly with the public’s capacity for objectionable content. So much less red tape than the FCC. Rated “R” (or whatever) news sounds kind of silly, but for those viewers/readers who are willing themselves deaf and blind to scarier news it might not be a bad thing. Especially parents. Something like that would blatantly and honestly weed out the sensationalist news and people would be able to figure out which is “best” for them. Obviously we’re not there yet, but media is splintering so much…

    Bobo: people do get their news from varied sources, purposefully or not. coworkers who read the NYT share news at the lunch table, sisters emailing youtube videos, and friends discussing the BBC coverage over the phone. you choose your media like you choose your friends. if you hang out with people who make sexist jokes, then Imus might be for you. If not, then you probably didn’t give him your advertising dollars’ worth in the first place.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    I’m very late joining this thread and just read through the whole thing. My first somewhat reactionary thoughts:

    The Second Amendment, or loss thereof, is being used as a spector to frighten us away from discussing how to build a concensus toward social norms of civility. I’m not as concerned about what one has the legal right to do – I don’t want to put someone in jail for words – but whether we want, as a society, to push ourselves toward adopting norms that call for more civility. Yes, I can turn off the radio or not purchase offensive material. But as a member of a larger society, I will still be concerned with how the language and imagery used is forming the ideas and behaviors of my fellow citizens. Now, if I’m the only one that is concerned with the issue, then it’s just my concern. In our society of free speech, I can try to talk to as many people about it as I like and I may just bore people to death. If enough people are concerned with the issue, though, a critical mass may be formed that leads to adapting our norms. These adaptations can be forced upon the society as a whole in places where we all contribute – government and public air waves. This is not about restricting free speech. It’s about determining what our tax dollars support or don’t support. People are still free to speak whatever they wish, just not on my dime.

    There are reasons for slander and liable laws. You can damage the life of another with words. Careers are ruined and people land in prison based on the words of others. We have long since recognized that the First Amendment needed some limits applied if we are to have a chance at civility.

    On -isms: if you are the object of an -ism, it’s a relentlessy creepy thing that molds you. And it is not for those who are not subject to the -ism to proclaim whether or not it does or should. Humans are social creatures. We are designed to respond to social cues. Those who don’t are labeled with a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome or Narcissism. I would appreciate it if we would stop using the disingenuous argument that people who are strong enough just don’t respond to these things.

    Responses to bias are insidious. It can take years of self-reflection to realize how much of your character has been shaped by your response to an -ism. How long will it take for women to realize that they capitulated to the masculine as superior in order to gain some rights for themselves? I was quite literally trained in my MBA program – designed by women for women at a women’s college – that in order to succeed you must study and adopt the ways of men. Not one mention of supporting the idea that the ways of women could be equally valuable and that we might want to seek ways of increasing the valuation of women’s ways.

    I recommend reading Joan Walsh’s reflections on her experience as a female writer at Salon.com. She is both self-reflective and articulate about the impact that a bias has had on her. Something she touches on is that she and her female colleagues would refer to their need to ignore the attacks on them as “manning it up”. Also, in the comments, someone writes that women open themselves to attacks by writing like, um, women. If only they wrote like men did…… While I find this comment lacking in introspection, it also reflects a certain reality: while women now have legal rights, they are still up against a deeply imbedded cultural bias. One that they tend to adopt themselves as a matter of survival – and because they are social creature that respond and form their character based on social input. For me, the question is: 1) can we agree that it is uncivil to hold these biases?, and 2) if so, how would we work on it? What can actually affect change? 3) Can we even agree on what the definition of civiity is?

    On race versus class:; this is a tough one. I tend to think that classism will outlast racism. The dominant race is different in different places around the globe. As we “globalize” the wealthy white man from the US is more likely to feel an affinity for the wealthy black man in Nigeria, than for the poor white man. It’s about power. That said, racism has something that makes it easier to apply: immediate visual cue. It’s a lazy form of prejudice. What just came into my mind as I was typing was this question: “Is racism more virulent amongst those less educated? Is it likey to be the last stronghold of racism because race is, for the most part, the easiest thing to suss out?”

    Okay, these are my first random thoughts. Not thorough by any means, simple first response gut level comments. I’m sure any flaws in logic will be highlighted…..

  • rahbuhbuh

    in case people haven’t heard. Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam and current entreprenurial statesman of hip hop, called for hip hop to voluntarily ban “ho,” “bitch,” and “nigger/nigga”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6586787.stm

    again, attempting to erase three words will only cause three new words to take their place while keeping the same definition. attack the intent, not the language.

    Simmons: “It is important to re-emphasise that our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship… Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African-Americans and other people of colour, African-American women and to all women in lyrics and images.”

    well, too bad for them considering the major label system is failing because it cannot keep up with the consumers. Any of their future policies to deter hateful or careless lyrics won’t effect the rising numbers of independently distributed rappers. That said, there’s already a “conscious” hip hop movement so it seems annoying that Simmons (and the rest of the media) doesn’t point to any of them as a beacon for artists to follow. Perhaps they aren’t on his friends’ labels…

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  • Kindra Issacs

    Hmm i hope you do not get offended with this question, but how much does a blog like yours earn?

    • chris

      Not quite enough. Thanks for asking. CL