I got 99 problems, and
Imus ain’t one
Don Imus. Duke Lacrosse. Jesse Jackson. Al Sharpton. New Jersey Governor John Corzine. Rutgers Basketball. And yes, Jay-Z, AKA Shawn Carter, AKA President, Island/Def Jam Records.
Through a mess of media hype, racial tension and general idiocy, the above characters have been tied together inextricably. Because of an idiotic comment from an over-the-hill irrelevant shock jock, the Rutgers womens basketball team has had its NCAA championship run trivialized, so-called leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have had their comments regarding Duke Lacrosse rape allegations magnified, the Governor of New Jersey almost died and hip-hop artists like Jay-Z have fallen under increasing scrutiny for their use of the terms that ultimately cost Imus his job late last week.
Let’s backtrack. After the Rutgers Scarlet Knights lost to Tennessee in the NCAA women’s championship game April 3, 66-year-old shock jock radio host Don Imus referred to the members of the Rutgers team as “nappy-headed hos” in an on-air broadcast of his nationally-syndicated “Imus in the Morning” radio program.
The comment was rightfully met with near universal disgust, and outrage mounted in the black media community, with the National Association of Black Journalists and outspoken Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson calling for Imus’ immediate firing.
Initially, Imus issued an on-air apology, and traveled to several other programs like the Today Show and Sharpton’s radio program to apologize on-air again and again. From my point of view, the apologies sounded sincere, but that’s really beside the point.
Despite the apology, Jackson, Sharpton and their allies continued the push for Imus’ ousting, and eventually they were successful, as both CBS and NBC dropped Imus from their networks.
I don’t care what Imus says, but he should’ve been fired. Not because he said “ho”, but because the sponsors of his show dropped their advertising, which ultimately pays Imus’s salary. This was simply the last straw in a career filled with numerous slanderous and despicable statements. He had his run, and its over.
The Rutgers basketball team shouldn’t care what Imus said. They probably never listened to his show. They never respected him in the first place. He had nothing to do with their championship run or their program. They should’ve disregarded his statement at the pathetic attempt at sensationalism that it obviously was.
What about Jay-Z and his 99 problems? He said “ho”. Shouldn’t we be outraged at him as well? Let’s look at the rhyme - if you break it down, Jay is basically saying that the word “ho” is only as derogatory as the way one utilizes it. Not “ho” as in the sense of a female, but “ho” as in the sense of anyone who’s dumb enough to worry about the offensive connotations of one-syllable words.
Basically - it’s not the word - it who’s saying it, and who it’s directed at that really determines the content. A lesson Imus (who says he didn’t get the word from hip-hop) should’ve learned. A lesson we should all keep in mind the next time some blowhard gets in front of a camera and demands manufactured outrage, calls for a rush to judgment, or irresponsibly insults a group of innocent college students - whether they’re black women from the Bronx or white boys from Durham.
And Jay-Z - well, there’s probably a good reason he won a Grammy for saying the same word that got Imus fired. It’s not who’s saying it, it’s how it’s said and who it’s directed at.
Go online to the Off the Record blog at www.lakestevensjournal.com to follow links to the quotes and facts reverenced in this column. Kevin Hulten is the former Managing Editor of the Lake Stevens Journal and works in Olympia.