Don Imus, Rap Star
Gosh, do I love the media. I especially love American media, where just about anything can make headlines, even when there's no real story. This week, the big non-story concerns that antique announcer of the American airwaves, Don Imus, and his faux pas remarks concerning a black female college basketball team.
Okay, let's be fair. The story isn't just about the basketball team. Or the women players. Or the fact that they're black. The story is about an old white guy using racially-charged humor. As the record will show, I've never been a big Imus fan. In the days they went head to head, I was always a Howard Stern guy. Imus always creeped me out. But that's another story.
This week, the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of the world did what they always do whenever any kind of black/white issue hits the streets: climbed on the publicity bandwagon and called for the immediate firing or a complete boycott of the offender. It doesn't matter how grave or supercilious the offense, in the very same country where "forgiveness" and "rehab" are as commonplace as corner gas stations for good-looking white females, white male radio announcers are apparently exempt.
But there's something in this story that everyone in the media seems to be missing. Imus's crime isn't so much what he said as how he said it. If Imus were smart, he would never have uttered those incriminating words.
He would have sung them.
See, in America, you can't really say anything you want. Oh, sure, they teach you all about the First Amendment and freedom of speech in grade school. You can joke about stuff and express your opinion at any time, any place, as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others. Of course, the Founding Fathers never imagined things like pervasive media blitzes, political correctness or the recording industry. They never thought up the concept of racially-motivated boycotts or brilliant attorneys securing murder acquittals with courtroom jingoisms like, "if it fits you must acquit."
The fact is that in America, you really can't say anything you want. But you sure can sing just about anything or anyone you want -- even if it's not true. Take a few lines from rap's unofficial poet laureate, Dr. Dre. This song is called Bitch Niggaz:
Straight off the streets of chaos and no pity
The aggravated, makin these punk muhfuckers hate it
Compton is the city Im from
Caint never leave the crib without a murder wea-pon
Huh, I caint live my life on broke no mo
And most of these fools aint shit but cutthroats
They smile in a nigga face - and for what?
They got the game fucked up, and want my thang fucked up
I done learned a lot, seen a whole lot
The top notch nigga, Im fiendin for that spot
Now peep game on what six-deuce told me
Read those lyrics again. See anything really funny there? Any attempt at humor? In fact, is there anything there that stirs your soul and motivates you to become a better human being? I thought not. Yet nobody calls for a boycott of Dr. Dre's music. Nobody pickets outside Snoop Dogg's record company, demanding his contract be terminated.
For those of you too white to know, Dr. Dre is a major rap star. A black guy. A sweet guy. I know, because my kids have gone trick or treating by his mansion in his gated community near where I live. It's a really nice place. But it ain't Compton. And there are few, if any, black homies living near his crib. Dr. Dre made sure of that, moving his family deep into the white suburbs, far away from the hoods of which he sings. Dr. Dre sings about all kinds of Afro-American life, often referring to women as ho's and bitches. He thinks perpetuating negative stereotypes of black criminality is really, really cool.
Why is that? And how does it happen that an old white guy's wrong-headed attempt at being cool and funny lands him with a two week suspension, along with a call for termination?
I'll tell you why: it's because Don Imus said it. If he were really as smart as he pretends to be, Imus would have sung it.
By now it could have been #1 on the charts.