Saturday, April 14, 2007


By Cody Lyon

Don Imus crossed a line when he belched out hurtful, sexist and racist comments that hurt a lot of innocent people. But, truth be told, this cantankerous old school shock jock is a symptom, of much deeper lying infections that still plague the United States, racism and sexism.

But does the removal of Imus from his pulpit attack the source of these infections, or does it simply place a band aid on one of its symptoms, inappropriate or vile language?

If Imus has truly realized the gravity of his sins, and seen the lights of redemption, could he not serve the greater good, by going back to his flock, talking his talk and serving as a catalyst of change among his listeners using his potentially new found sensitivity and enlightened ways, to educate his listeners that what he said was wrong and that he is truly sorry for the pain he caused.

Obviously, Imus made a very serious mistake and he should not be allowed to get away with it, but, if he came out of the uproar with a more enlightened attitude, and was returned to the airwaves, is there not a strong possibility that he might influence folks in his audience to perhaps do a little soul searching of their own?

True soul searching is challenging, but isn’t that what we as a nation need to be doing more often when it comes to our attitudes about race and gender?

In a way, the Imus incident and the ensuing media hysteria takes a portion of the discussion about race further away from a group of people who actually need to be talking and perhaps challenged. Instead, the firing of Imus has led to truckloads of hyperbole providing media outlets a colorful lightning rod that is more about Imus and rhetoric than the sins of racism. Some are saying the finger will now point at what many call the prevalence of misogynistic lyrics by hip hop artists while others raise more fingers at the Ann Coulter's of the world. The problem is that it's always easier to point a finger at the attention mongering character of the day, diverting attention from the deeper issue. What we seem to forget and hardly ever fully address, is that these high paid opinionaters speak words they think that their audiences will approve of, in fact, they and the people who pay them probably subscribe to the theory that they speak words their audience want to hear.

The fact that the Don Imus's, Ann Coulters, artists who objectify women along with numerous other high paid figures and gadflys of entertainment, politics and media play upon the inappropriate assumption that Americans will accept, laugh at or subscribe to such antics says a lot. But, by simply decapitating one of them verses "calling them out" and encouraging "reform", the real problems don't go away, instead they go elsewhere, perhaps less visible but still there.

Don Imus commanded a large, loyal daily audience, but by firing him, a potential forum of the often prickly and uncomfortable discussion of race in America has been lost. It could be said that the Imus firing pushes an opportunity for greater awareness further into the underground of denial and hypocrisy. Sure, on the surface, there may appear to be increased discourse on race flowing over the nations airwaves, as the cable news networks, and other outlets showcase shrill pundits who argue and scream over what is appropriate to say on the air or in public. But, there are much deeper, more important issues still raising their heads up from the putrid smells of racism. Many of these issues impact people's lives every day. Hopefully, in the future, more energy will be expended on public debates that seek solutions to real problems like inequities in economic opportunity and the system of insufficient funding of urban public education systems, among others . Most of these inequities are the direct result of a legacy of racism and the injustice it has wreaked. And while reading that same page, one doesn't have to dig to deep to find plenty of examples that illustrate the legacies of sexism and homophobia within our society and culture. Both these society sins manifest themselves in laws, policy and attitudes about marriage throughout the country.

One thing is certain, America has a long road to travel when it comes to dismantling a hard wired system, in this case a system polluted with the poison that is indeed racism, need we say New Orleans?