Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Don Imus, Aging Hipster or Racist?

Don Imus is back in the news again with charges of racism leveled against him. This is what he said on the radio:

Wolf: "Defensive back Adam 'Pacman' Jones, recently signed by the Cowboys. Here's a guy suspended all of 2007 following a shooting in a Vegas night club."
Imus: "Well, stuff happens. You're in a night club, for God's sake. What do you thinks gonna happen in a night club? People are drinking and doing drugs, there are women there, and people have guns. So, there, go ahead."
Wolf: "He's also been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005."
Imus: "What color is he?"
Wolf: "He's African-American."
Imus: "Well, there you go. Now we know."

The attack on Imus is wrong on several levels. Since Imus's crack about "nappy headed hoes" last year, Imus went on Al Sharpton's radio show and apologized profusely. He apologized to the the girls basketball team at Rutgers personally. Last fall, Imus got a new radio show on WABC in New York. Imus hired a new staff, including many black people in high paying jobs, for the production of his radio show. On his new show, Imus talked about issues concerning blacks in a typical liberal fashion, portraying blacks as victims in a racist society. He has talked about how police racially profile blacks for harassment and arrest. In other words, Don Imus went out of his way to appease the black activists that he knew were listening to his every word, waiting for a chance to pounce on him for racism. Imus has been walking on eggshells since the Rutgers incident in an effort to appease Al Sharpton and other race-baiters.

The comment Imus made was clearly an attempt at sarcasm, in order to illustrate that Pacman Jones was being harassed and profiled by police because he was black. Of course I don't believe that the police profiled Pacman Jones. Pacman has an extensive criminal history for drugs and violence leading back to his high school and college years in addition to his six arrests since he has been in the NFL. He has been arrested for brawls in strip clubs and violence against women. Don Imus was trying to portray Pacman as a victim of police profiling and also to appease the likes of Al Sharpton.

The greater problem is that Pacman Jones is embraced by so many fans who celebrate the gangster culture that he demonstrates in his personal life. Just like the gangster culture has taken over hip-hop music and the clothing industry, the gangster culture has now become mainstream in professional sports. Many professional athletes have multiple children with different women. They are lauded as "players". They sport hip-hop hair styles and wear gangster like clothing. Look at clothing that men are wearing these days. They are either wearing a sports outfit, often with the name and number of athletes who act like low-lifes off the field, or they are dressing like hip-hop gang-bangers, or they wear a black tee-shirt that displays a negative image and the unsavory name of a band. All three groups are proving to be negative role models.

The celebration of evil in our society is being hastened by the media, arts, sports and clothing industry who are catering to the lowest common denominator in our society. Don Imus is part of the problem. Not because he is a racist, but because he embraces the gangster culture. Imus was trying to be cool, and "hip-hop like" when he used the phrase "nappy headed hoes" to describe girls on the Rutgers basketball team over a year ago. Unfortunately, it is hard for a sixty-eight year old white man in a cowboy hat, to pull this off and still be believable. Had these remarks come from a younger man with baggy pants and tattoos on his neck, notice would not have been taken. In this recent incident, Imus embraces and sympathizes with a criminal football hero who he falsely depicts as a victim of unfair police racial profiling. In both instances (Rutgers' girls and Pacman), Imus was embracing today's twisted popular culture and it was misunderstood as racism.

After the first incident, Sharpton staged token protests against record labels that promote rap and hip-hop music that contain lyrics that encourage drugs, violence and demeaning of women. If Al Sharpton and his ilk truly want to help the downtrodden, they would condemn Pacman Jones and the fans that worship him for his extracurricular activities. They call it "street cred", and it helps celebrities gain popularity. Instead of being rewarded for "street cred", these "bad-boy celebrities" should be condemned and run out of the business. Perhaps that would send a positive message, but that is not likely to happen because the sports industry, entertainment industry and clothing industry, use these misguided celebrities as "cash cows" ready to be milked. There should be rage against what Don Imus said, but the rage is misdirected. Imus should be condemned for coming to the defense of the criminal celebrity, Pacman Jones.

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