Thursday, April 12, 2007

on imus

I am confident that world could probably continue turning without me venturing my opinion about the Imus emission. You know, the racial one. All the other ones weren’t, apparently, offensive enough to arouse a sense of “community decency,” but when there is political capital at stake, the flames of moral outrage roar as from gasoline dumped on a campfire. And are about as useful.

That is just one of a long list of very unfortunate observations one can make about it. And not the chief one.

The chief one is that the remarks were despicable. It really doesn’t matter to me whether Mr. Imus is a racist – what goes on in his heart is his business. I'm not sure his unfortunate remarks are an indicator of racism any more than they would be coming, as they so often to, from the mouths of black americans. I think in both cases, given what the words have come to mean, it's more like bad manners. But there’s no excuse for bad manners, for megaphoning insults about anyone of any color. And doing so in such a racially charged time and place is beyond irresponsible. It’s got to be close to stupid.

Even as a ratings stunt, it’s inexcusable – as most things that are done for ratings are.

Another despicable thing is that there is a double standard, and everyone knows it. Double standards are unfair, obviously, and are a form of entrapment. And, usually, the irresponsible and stupid are easy catches. But the innocent get ensnared too, sometimes.

I had a long and heated talk with a close friend about this double standard. And I found myself convincing myself (if not my friend) that, while there is no excuse for a double standard, and while the past is past, insulting a black american is a particularly grievous thing to do, considering the suffering that is built into the history of black americans.

I am not saying that anyone alive today is responsible the for suffering of anyone who lived 150 years ago, or that anyone alive in america today suffered like slaves did. But I am saying that slavery is the unfortunate truth of the black experience here and it is just too fresh a wound to tamper with.

People who exploit the wound for political gain, however, ought to be thrown out right alongside Imus. They should have gone out first. It's one thing when the playground loudmouth says the wrong thing. But there is something really sinister at work when the teachers use his fault to elevate themselves.

Everyone's wounds are too fresh to tamper with. We ought cut one another way more slack than we do. We are all, despite our outward demeanor, far more sensitive than we probably even realize ourselves.

We ought go out of our way to treat others with dignity -- especially those whose lineage is owed a greater debt of dignity.


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