Sunday, April 08, 2007

I-mus have put my foot in my mouth!

Okay, I've worked in tv production and entertainment a long time and have never heard of an Imus in the Morning, noon, nor night until last Saturday. Imus, what kind of name is that anyway? What's its origin? I must what? Think before I speak, maybe? So when the executive producer of the documentary,My Nappy ROOTs , called me, the Associate Producer, highly upset at the comments made by this veteran broadcaster, Don Imus, and his producer, Bernard McGurk, I was mildly surprised; only mildly because as an African-American in this country you expect hidden racisms to eventually reveal themselves. Truly, what shocks you most of the time is not what is said, but who said it and the circumstances surrounding the occurrence. For instance, Seinfeld's Michael Richards. Now, that was definitely a surprise! And upon doing some research, I find that Imus is known for his shock-jock style of commentating. Still, ain't nothing funny or cute about this last comment.

As it goes, during his morning radio show, Imus and producer, McGurk, were shooting the breeze about the girls championship basketball game between Rutgers and Tennessee. Sadly, as seasoned media professionals neither had anything intelligent to say about the game nor the teams' sportsmanship in handling the loss. And nor was there any mention of either of Rutger's agility, defense, or ball handling skills. No, these men talked instead about the women's physical attributes, or lack there of, in their opinion.

And to further add insult to injury, McGurk incorrectly made a comparison between the Rutgers team and a scene from Spike Lee's movie, Do The Right Thing. The scene is actually in Spike's film, School Daze, when "Jigaboos" and "Wannabe's" are satirized in a musical skit.

Now, for any non-Black person reading this, let me school you quickly. The "Jigaboos" were dark-skinned women with natural, "nappy", or kinky hair and the "wannabe's" were very fair-skinned women with long, straight, most often wavy hair. They earned their name because they desired to appear White. Both terms are a throwback to African-American history and considered "fighting words." Frankly, to call a Black woman a "jigaboo" is just as insulting as calling her a "nigger". Yes, I said the "N" word, and no I'm not going to censor it. And while I'm on the topic of words, "nappy" hair is not anything to be ashamed of. It merely means tightly curled or coiled hair. Since the arrival of the first chattel slaves in America, the term has been hurled at Africans now Americans to make us feel ashamed of our hair and it's natural texture. But take a look around. "Nappy" hair is "in" and even marketable these days. Presently, many of the Black men and women in entertainment are sporting "nappy" hairstyles; everything from cornrows, afros, to Bob Marly's lustrous locks is helping to sell more than just Afro Sheen these days. Yet, comments made by Imus and McGurk attempt to take us back to questioning our true beauty and identity. Which makes our documentary, My Nappy Roots, even more relevant today.

So Blogger watchdogs, I'm going to try to keep this civilized, however, if I slip up please forgive. Tell the Google Ad wizards I was unmercilessly attacked by a show of ignorance and racism that only Helen Keller wouldn't respond to. And though my vision isn't perfect, I hear just fine. That said, I promise not to wallow in anger too long. Here goes:

First of all, how dare these two White men talk amongst themselves on national tv and radio as if they were sitting in the big house overlooking female slaves on the front lawn. They speak about the Black woman's unattractiveness: her swollen lips, broad nose, full hips, tribal markings, and hair that rejects their small-toothed combs, while secretly craving to sexually experience all that they publicly criticized. Then at the stroke of midnight, are quite surprised to find the other creeping into the slave quarters to steal another Black child's virginity. That's not what was said on Imus' show, but considering he spoke nothing about the women as athletes you have to wonder what led him to make the comments he did.

It appears these so called respected broadcasters have conveniently forgotten America's great past or shame. But then again, I don't think they forgot; they just didn't care. Listen to how easily they conversed about women they knew nothing about. Roll the videotape again! They talked as if their words had no meaning, no painful history attached. In my opinion, Imus & McGurk were not only speaking their minds, but was also what was in their hearts. Funny, how the degrading comments of 1 well-known and so-called respected White broadcaster about a group of Black women participating in a championship sporting event doesn't merit the same national outcry of a millisecond of one Black woman's breast on national tv during a different championship sporting event. So, will MSNBC lose any advertising dollars for having no 10-second delay? Or will the FCC fine all the stations that broadcasted the morning show with costly fees? This is a CBS owned show, right? According to current reports, Imus got a mere 2-week suspension, or vacation, to think about his actions. Surprising? Not really. Insulting people of color, especially Black people, in this country is punishable by nothing. It's in the fiber of America's DNA. All Imus has to do is stick to the script: make a public apology, talk to so-called Black leaders—which unless he's holding a séance should be difficult to do since real Black leaders were murdered decades ago—appear remorseful, and if he has to, go to a Black church or hire a Black temp as his receptionist; just show everybody that all the white and red sheets in his house are strictly used for bedding and nothing else as he cries, "I'm not a racist." Then in a couple of months, the whole thing will be old news and life will go on as planned. Well I'm no prophet, but things are playing out exactly how I've written them.

Still I'm curious, just where the hell did Imus get a phrase like "nappy headed hoes" from anyway? BET? It's probably not a phrase that's a part of his every day vernacular. In fact, he stated in his defense before Rev. Al Sharpton it's a phrase Black men use to degrade Black women all the time. If he truly believed that then why did he feel so comfortable in repeating it? Again, too much BET and straight to DVD 'hood' movies are not a good thing. Obviously, Imus needs to broaden his scope of African-American culture.

And which one of McGurk's Black friends took him to see 2 Spike Lee movies without telling him the significance of the most pivotal scenes? Maybe he went alone or possibly he was too distracted by "Jungle Fever" to really appreciate the messages in either film. Or maybe, both these men have grown a little too comfortable in their sense of White privilege. That sense of "no matter what I do or say it’s okay cause I can afford the best White lawyers to defend me in front of a White judge and mostly White jury." It's that feeling of being untouchable by those who live beneath them, have less money than them, and thus less power than them. Of course, they'll never confess to such a thought because it comes natural to them, like breathing. They don't have to think about it, they just do it.

And lastly, why is Imus the only one making grand apologies for the comments made. Nowhere have I read that the faceless producer, Bernard McGurk is making amends for his stupidity. Two men made the comments, but only one is taking the brunt of the punishment, so it appears. This IS a CBS owned show, right? Guess it's best to sacrifice the one whose name is on the marquee for sake of the others involved, right? Where have I seen that done before? Truly, it's interesting how the FCC and CBS can be so forgiving. Evidently, Imus' and McGurksbrain malfunction hasn't cost them any large sums of money or potentially multi-million dollar contracts yet. Again, my vision may not be perfect, but I'm no Hellen Keller either.

But to attempt some fairness in this blog. Here's Imus' apologetic response.

So do I accept the apology? Yes. Will I be rallying to his defense. Hell to the naw! Would I like to see him fired? Hell to the Yes!

1 comment:

RDJ said...

You make a very good point about McGurk. As a regular Imus watcher, I can testify that McGurk is, more often than not, the most blantantly racist and homophobic voice on the program. (Not being familiar with the show, you've probably never seen his impression of Ray Nagin, a regular feature since Katrina. It's about what you'd expect.) For someone who's never seen Imus, your comments were very insightful.