A Michael Hoffman Essay

April 12, 2007

Don Imus, Trash-Talk and the Decline of Civility in America

By Michael Hoffman

My daughter studies piano and classical Latin, is an honor student and co-cpatain of her high school basketball team. She has many role models, among them the college women's NCAA championship teams. 

Don Imus said that the black women on the championship Rutgers basketball team were nappy-headed.

But those women did not design the texture of their hair, God did. Imus said they are whores ("ho's"). To utter that slander, when they are in fact scholar-athletes, is like something out of the Talmud.

False witness against the German people is a deadly sin; how can false witness against black women at Rutgers, who are trying their best to contribute to our society, be anything less grave?

Of course Imus has the absolute constitutional right to speak his mind. But I have no problem with sponsors and networks who speak theirs by no longer supporting or employing him; that too is their constitutional right.

His accusation against the university women is being described as a "racial" slur. The media are omitting the fact that his accusation was also a sexual slur, an imputation of moral turpitude. I notice that Imus does not accuse scantily-clad cheerleaders and half-time dancers of being "ho's," only the women athletes in the modestly long uniforms. It seems that he has no problem with women who shimmy and shake for him half-dressed. His problem seems to be with women who pursue a higher education, while excelling at a difficult and demanding collegiate sport, modestly attired.

Mr. Imus has talked trash, and trash-talk is a symptom of the incivility and decaying standards in dress and deportment which we see on display in America today. From George Bush's pride in his slovenly speech and unbecoming swagger, to the I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-came-to-the-mall-in-my-pajamas fashion statement, which some Americans favor for all occasions, our nation appears to have lost its sense of shame and self-respect.

The attempt to make Imus' attack on the Rutgers women a black/white-divide issue, reveals a hidden agenda. Imus' false witness is so unjust and despicable that fifty years ago Americans North and South, black and white would have, in unison, decried and repudiated it as nausea worthy of either a drunk or a bum. But in our 21st century, Imus is an underground hit, slyly commended by the outlaw
kulchur as just the sort of shock-o-rama titillation that drives up ratings, thanks to the enthusiasm of American kids-gone-wild on the devolutionary road from angels to beasts.

This case is not without its contradictions. Some of the sick behavior can be found in black male "gangsta" circles where the slur Imus wielded is a not uncommon epithet. This too needs to be addressed. Moreover, the exploitation of the controversy by Al Sharpton does no one any credit, but then it was Imus who chose to go running to Sharpton. Furthermore, to be credible, it is incumbent on American society, including the television networks, to combat reverse discrimination and hatred of poor and working class whites. In Miami on April 10, during the Imus controversy, NBA basketball star Adam Morrison, who is white, was repeatedly racially harassed and called "white trash" throughout the game. Yet it was Morrison who was the one who was fined, for having, in exasperation, responded with an obscene gesture. Nothing happened to the racial heckler, nor did the heckler's anti-white bigotry become an issue in the press.
To be effective, to unite us, justice must be blind.

But the fact that there are bigots among other races in no way diminishes the offense against the Rutgers team. Imus should know better; with his prominent position comes responsibility.
And let's be real. Any black talk-show host who called a sports team comprised of Judaic girls "shikses" or "zonah," would be out of a job faster than you can spell A-D-L.

With all the temptations that assail young people of any color nowadays, the Rutgers ladies have set an academic and athletic example that requires courage and asceticism, dignity and self-respect, precisely the qualities fathers like this writer pray their daughters will evince in these strange and challenging times. The popularity of Don Imus is in exact proportion to the degree to which Americans have lost their dignity and perhaps to some extent, even their souls; hence, the need to mock those who have not. 

Copyright 2007

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