Excuse My Whiteyness

A Brit provides a perceptive, funny, white bloke analysis of Imusgate.

Alan Davieson writes in the London Times:

Don Imus, the line-crossing talk-radio host who broadcast daily across America from his New York studio, has been fired for referring to a team of black women basketball players as “nappy-headed ho’s”. Imus, a former Marine with a gruff demeanour, had an unsentimental show or, as they might say in America, it featured “guy talk” (any Briton, by the way, who uses “guy” or “guys” deserves a glossectomy).

There was some banter and unsubtle opinions were aired. It was not out of control but it also wasn’t a sanitised PC affair. He’s quite amusing and articulate in a resolutely uncomplicated way and had a huge listenership generating vast advertising revenue. Consequently, he attracted significant political figures as guests, pretty much anyone bar the President, who, of course, is rarely free to speak in public unscripted lest he describe Condi Rice as “that Secretary of State ho” in a momentary lapse.

Nappy-head, it turns out (excuse my whiteyness), means a black person who has allowed their hair to grow naturally into a tightly curled afro. It’s a term that can be used self-referentially with pride or disparagingly about others. Being a racial thing, its power is in the mouth of the speaker. Or is it in the ear of the listener? It’s complicated, so, in the interests of a quiet life, don’t use it unless you are very confident or, in fact, a nappy-head.

Imus apologised, offered no excuses, was roundly vilified and endured the measured, disproportionate wrath of Al Sharpton when guesting on the black activist/pentecostal minister’s radio show to defend himself. What they said, Imus and his sports reporter buddy, about the basketball game, was quite funny. The two teams were physically different. It was college basketball and Rutgers were playing Tennessee. The Rutgers girls looked more intimidating, they were inked up (tattoos . . .) and were altogether more menacing-looking even in defeat. These white radio boys were sniggering about that.

Basically, had it been a football match and it had all kicked off in the tunnel after the game, you’d have backed the Rutgers girls. The banter in the studio started trying to incorporate some black street language to describe the game to comic effect. It wasn’t very clever but then it’s morning talk radio.

To get to the top in college basketball you have to be good, in a general sense, not just at basketball, and you have to make sacrifices. At least that’s what college basketball folk and their families say. The girls were upset and in their robust defence they have been referred to as fine “representatives of God”. What fun you could have with that on the air if you were allowed to. God has sent down a team of 6ft tall Amazonian tattooed basketball players to represent Him. No doubt the devil sent Don Imus.

This happens when things get Blown Up Out Of All Proportion. There are enough people with a keen ear for a lapse that anyone broadcasting anywhere ought to speak thoughtfully. If only because you may not know how much offence you’ve caused until the outcry afterwards. Imus didn’t say: “If I’ve offended anyone I apologise.” He knew he’d caused offence.

He also did not say that the language and lyrics of black American rap artists leave his kind of remark not just in the shade but on the dark side of the moon.

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