Yo, Imus

I am a Nappy Headed Ho. I do not play basketball. I do not go to
Rutgers. I am no longer a college student. I do not live in
New Jersey even. But I am a Black woman. And judging from the words that you are so sorry that have slipped from your lips on air last week, that is what you see when you see me.

He is not the only one.

Don Imus is the latest to be caught spewing racism and sexism in the name of a joke. That is not news. His producer started spewing first when he called the women, hardcore hos. Imus corrected him by adding “that’s some nappy headed hos there.”

He says he wasn’t thinking. And that is the news. We are living in a time when for too many people Ho has become a synonym for Black women. Imus is not the first — Hip Hop took care of that. Imus is just an illustration of what happens when a mindset that thinks it is OK to use Ho, Bitch, and Nigga, as terms of endearment in everyday conversation, or against the backdrop of a catchy bounce your head beat, goes mainstream. At this point, as a society, it has seeped into to many of our minds and consciousness and now permeates our thinking. Imus is just one of many.

That is why journalists, authors, politicians will continue to stop by Imus’ studio. John McCain, a frequent Imus guest, has already said he is “a great believer in redemption,” in hopes of giving himself a Not-Racist-Despite-Association pass for future visits. Evan Thomas, a big gun Newsweek writer, sat down with Imus on Monday. “He should not have said what he said, obviously,” Thomas told the New York Times. “I am going on the show, though. I think if I didn’t, it would be posturing. I have been going on the show for quite some time and he occasionally goes over the line.”  I’m sure if Imus had used the N-word Newsweek would have at least waited a week before sending in one of their biggest names as a guest. But unfortunately Ho in describing Black women isn’t seen as that bad an offense and that is because we hear it too often

In my heart I think Imus is a racist. It is strong language – the truth usually is. Like many of us I was raised in a turn the other cheek home where you give others the benefit of the doubt. The journalist in me likes arguments based on facts and evidence and racism is a crime of passion – you feel it in your heart – so can be hard to document. But, honestly, I am tired of Black folks making excuses for those who disrespect us. So I do not hesitate to call Imus a racist. And because of that I am glad there is outrage. I am glad that newspaper columns are being written. I am glad that boycotts are being called for. I am even glad that Al Sharpton is making a fuss because no one does it better. Imus should be made to feel repercussions.

But I am wondering where was the outrage when Ho first started slipping from rappers lips on BET, the radio, on their latest album track? Where was the outrage when it slipped from their lips yesterday? Where was the outrage when Ho slips from the lips from the knuckleheads on the corners? Where was the outrage when Ho slips from the lips from our young folks around the way? Every time we hear this word slip too easily from lips, Black women – everywhere — are being disrespected. And repercussions should always be felt. Some of us fool ourselves into thinking they are not talking about us. They are. That is the thing with hateful language – once it is hurled it hits all. So thanks to Imus, for a morning last week we were all Nappy Headed Hos.

Truth is, I am waiting for the day when someone who is hurling racist and sexist insults – because this will happen again on another day – will have to actually think about how to express such hatred because the words wouldn’t be those that we already use everyday.



Filed under musings, politics, rant, society, that's so ghetto

27 responses to “Yo, Imus

  1. You are right, it will happen another day, and because we don’t hold enough power in our hands, the same way he’s only getting a two-week suspension this time, he’ll only get a two-week suspension the next time. He’ll still get paid. He’ll still be interviewed about this drama, and he’ll come back rested. Ready to spew some more of his icy language.

  2. Tony

    From one of my favorite indie writers/bloggers, Hadji Williams:

    Now, was it bad? Yeah. We devalue black women as a society; i don’t care what anyone says. That’s just a nasty little fact of american society. And please, don’t talk to me about Oprah or Halle or Tyra or Condi or [insert favorite singer here]. With few exceptions, we treat black women like crap in language, in deed in status in opportunity, in relative context and comparison to women of other ethnic groups, or whatever set of data, dynamics you choose to go by. Don Imus’ comments were just the latest reminder of that.

    Now were DI’s comments worse than Billy Packer’s homosexual rip at Charlie Rose the other week? Yeah. Worse than Michael Ray Richardson bass ackwards complentionary threat of his jewish lawyers’ skill? I’d say yeah. How ’bout Tim Hardaway’s anti-gay spit parade? eh… maybe, maybe not. (Let’s just say that hypocrites, pundits, opportunists alike are pitching in for a special special year-end award for my fellow Chi-towner.) But getting back to Imus:

    This “ho’s” bit isn’t even the most offensive comment that he’s said this year.

    Imus is a pioneer in passing off bigoted racially ignorant language as entertainment on the radio. As any New Yorker will tell you, Howard Stern owes much of his early success to his ability to rip off Imus’ early hate-mongering antics.

    But should he be fired for calling black women “ho’s”? Why? We do it all the time. We get some irrelevant has-been like Imus? We hail Stern as a genius because he has a black female side-kick for doing the same thing. We give all manner of folks passes for similar language whenever it suits our odd peculiars, particulars and assorted pecadillos.

    the idea that black women are so second class that they can be insulted at the drop of a hat in word, in song, in image by any and all comers for profit or whim and actually be blamed for it themselves is offensive enough; it’s more offensive that black women are so disposable and so replacable that acknowledging their disappearances, abuse, death, represents little more than a slow news day or “proof” of white liberal inclusiveness.

    but more than anything else, these random acts of phony outrage as substiutes for real solutions to this problem are the most offensive of all.

  3. (Snark intentional) So you want us black folks to be as accountable for our words and actions towards each other as we expect white folks to be, (HORROR !!!) To do that would make us seem less victimhood (is that a word ?)worthy and more able to function in this society.

  4. It’s great that your blog is taking off. I hope your readings went well. Next stop, Oprah?

  5. denmark98

    “In my heart I think Imus is a racist.”…what a ridiculous comment! In my heart I think everyone is a racist, everyone has said and/or done something that could be consider conversial towards another race. That is not racism…you use the word to lightly. Bono once said: ” What you thought was freedom is just greed “

  6. You’re right. It’s much easier to be outraged at radical hate speech than the everyday ignorance which is so commonplace that it’s become unnoticed.

  7. Pingback: An Imus Aside « A Step Apart

  8. Ms. Daniels,

    I amjalfway through your book (I got it while I was on vacation last week), and am enjoying it.

    Regarding Imus… I blogged about him at my place yersterday :


    If you get the chance to read it, I would appreciate your thoughts.



  9. I just saw you on C-Span BookTV. Good Q-n-A. The one woman who said she had to dumb-down her conversation at home reminded me of something.

    I grew up in Detroit and my girlfriend studied Linguisitics. She told me about black corporate execs doing what she called linguistic code-switching all the time. In other words, in the hallways and the boardrooms, these black execs would speak with a 50,000 word vocabulary to white peers. Then, literally, take three steps down the hallway, turn the corner, and jive, “What up, bro?” to a black co-worker and continue a casual conversation as if they were standing on the corner in the hood. Very curious.

    I don’t agree with you about Imus, only because I have listened to his show occasionally for a number of years. If Imus is racist because he made insulting comments about blacks, then what do we call him for insulting people of his own race more often than that over the course of his career in broadcasting? I know the echo-chamber doesn’t want to distract from the racist message, but Imus is an equal opportunity insulter. It’s hypocrisy by omission to say he only insulted minorities.

  10. Conundrum

    Imus is a racist, there is no doubt in my mind about that confirmed fact. I would watch Imus only when an interesting political figure was featured after the interview was over i could not stomach some of the vile and vicious humor directed at so many different groups by him and his cronies.

    I would always turn the dial, because I know what he was about. Whenever he would hold his broadcast at some off set location for special occasions it reminded me of the howard stern show in the overt racist contents spewed.

    The reason Imus needed to be removed was because he would blur the line between comedy and a serious political journalist. If we allow Imus to continue it sends a message that some of his guests who are very well informed individuals who take care in understanding what shows they will allow themselves to be booked on somehow were co-signing his rhetoric.

    In a society which is diverse and continues to grow in it’s diversity we cannot allow this kind of rhetoric and pattern of behavior to continue if it will allow a platform for Imus to degrade upstanding young citizens while projecting an image of power and influence.

  11. Robin

    I too saw your Q&A on Cspan today and like the young sister that spoke up for Youth and the hip hop community was very worried. Worried because what I saw was a lot of what most affluent, educated black folk like to do.

    Blame the youth the poor the uneducated solely for the problems that permeate our people.
    Let me first say that I can fully relate to my college educated friends most of which have graduate degrees and can navigate my hood as well.

    Contrary to what the older woman told the young lady who felt she had to “dumb down” I am proud that I can navigate both.

    No one points fingers at young white kids for speaking valley or surfer or skater or any vernacular that they chose to use.

    Another point I would like to make is why aren’t we going after the Record labels and radio Stations who promote this type of format.

    The powers that be pushed for deregulation of media outlets for a reason not just to make more money to set and control the message.

    Fifty, Jay Z, Kanye none of those artists own a radio station or major record label. So why is all the hating (hatin) reserved for the artist alone?

    I expected more from your discussion on Cspan and from here beside pontificatory rhetoric of blaming rappers, youth and the poor only for the state that we are in as a people.

    (For the record I did not finish college although I hope to one day. I am a single mother who strives to raise responsible adults. I remember what good hip hop used to be. I’m in my thirties. I grew up in the hood and instead of lamenting on what people there aren’t doing, I am trying to make sure that I am doing something positive.)

  12. Saw your site a number of days back and found it interesting. Not the Imus stuff, frankly I don’t care for him or his rantings or all this buzz about him on the net. Found a piece I thought you might be interested in at You Tube. Here it is:

    My site deals with things Puerto Rican so we share a similar struggle and a somewhat similar background. Good luck with your book and your site.

  13. Excellent commentary…

    I will be mentioning your book on my blog…

    I also sent an e-mail…. but I figure you get 500 e-mails a day.

  14. T

    Go to any elementary school or high school and you will hear black students calling each other worst than the words Imus used. I wish that the black leadership would speak out against crime and self-hate that is really robbing our communities instead of chasing headlines.

    I think the comments were terrible, but I am not naive to think that black people never use those same words to demean each other every day.

  15. Mustafa Muhannad

    What has been missed by so many in this Imus situation is that the underlying element was both Imus’ and his co-hosts reflection that these women were some how less fem than the Tennessee team. They were commenting that they were darker and not as “cute” as the lighter team.
    The reference was made to Spike Lee’s movie School Dayze. They were even called Jigaboos while the Tenn team were the Wannabees. That is why they were descrided as rough with tatoos and such not because they were black but they were dark skined black women and not as “pretty” as the lighter skinned others.

  16. “If Imus is racist because he made insulting comments about blacks, then what do we call him for insulting people of his own race more often than that over the course of his career in broadcasting?”

    A jackass…..

  17. I came to the blog after my fiance sent me a link about the new book.
    I have to say, though, that I am disappointed in a fellow journalist sister blaming what ails black folks on black folks with no historical context. At the top of this post you say that Imus wasn’t the first to equate “nappy headed ho” with black woman, hip hop took care of that.
    Hip hop artists weren’t the first to equate the two, white people were. Rappers’ insistence on degrading black women is just proof that they took massa’s lessons to heart. This didn’t start with hip hop.
    And I have not read the book, but I am very leery of anyone who uses the term ghetto so loosely. A sister-friend of mine, who claims she has a “ghetto streak” in her, told me she was going to stop throwing the term around because all it does it legitamize white people’s view of black people — all bling and no brains, all flash and no cash.
    I myself have tried very hard to stop using the term to describe any appearances or actions I deem inappropriate or downright wrong, especially in the presence of white people. Because, like nappy headed ho = black woman, so ghetto = black people.
    I’m concerned that the book just further equates whatever questionable morality, poor financial understanding, and ridiculous behavior people associate with the term “ghetto” will black people, period. Not a certain kind of black people or black people who engage in the behaviors you lament about, but black people anywhere and everywhere doing anything.
    Yes, the nation is suffering from some crisis of values and our materialistic, over-consuming society isn’t helping, but, like most things, that didn’t start with us. So how can you say it’s really bad now that everyone is acting ghetto? That’s the same as saying it’s really bad now because everyone is acting like black people.
    God forbid.


  18. Rob

    I saw the Hue-Man bookstore segment on Book TV today, and it sounds as if you’ve managed to summarize everything I’ve witnessed over the last 10+ years that I’ve worked in corrections and education. I think you will join Ayaan Hirsi Ali as one of the most relevant authors of this decade. It’s good to hear someone stand up and have the guts to speak the truth. Thank you.

  19. Deborah

    As a white female that grew up as a minority in Richmond, VA, I have to say that the insinuation that the words “ho” and “bitch” are an insult to only black women is an enormous oversight. I grew up in a “Ghetto” american environment, a neighborhood filled with government subsidized housing, or ‘projects’, which produced many white “Ghetto” americans. I can tell you from experience that the words “bitch” and “ho” are both an insult to ALL females, not only those of african american descent.

    Furthermore, I am disgusted by societies double-standards. Why is it ok for some people to say something and if someone else says the exact same thing, we want them punished for it. Why is it that I see white people calling each other ‘crackas’ and black people calling each other ‘niggas’ but if the roles were reversed, it would be racism. Why do we choose a word with such a negative connotation as a term of endearment? And why do we not only tolerate it, but embrace it as a form of comedic entertainment and musical artistry?

    And to further broaden the gap, white americans look past racism and discrimination against our own race for fear that we will undo all that has been accomplished and be called racists. We allow groups that discriminate against other groups as long as they are not white, ie, ‘Miss Black America’, ‘National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’, minority scholarships. Would this be tolerated if there were a ‘Miss White America’ or scholarships that were only for hispanics?

    My boyfriend and I had a conversation one day about my childhood and what it was like growing up as a minority. He had never heard the familiar saying that ‘white people smell like wet dogs when it rains’, although I’d heard it hundreds of times. A few days later, we were watching a very popular show on tv, ‘Scrubs’, when a black co-star was ‘killed’ off the show and in her tribute, one of the white co-stars remembered ‘Laverne, you always told me that white people smelled like wet dogs when it rains and you were right’.

    Why do we allow such a racist comment in public media? Would the same comment have made it onto public television had it been redirected at another race? Why is it ok to be racist as long as you are part of the race?

    No discrimintion and no racisim means none at all, it doesn’t mean that the roles should be allowed to be reversed or there should ever be exceptions.

    Looking back at my childhood, I feel like I was a sacrificial lamb. I feel I was allowed to be degraded and insulted for the administration and faculty’s fear of being called a racist for disciplining those of african american descent. I suffered many, many years of being told I was priveledged because I was white while I constantly trudged uphill through all the humiliation to prove that I earned everything on my own merit.

    Are we truly working towards abolishing racism and discrimination or are we only enabling vengeance against innocents when we choose to ignore all aspects of the issue and make the argument one sided?

    People are people, we all bleed red. If everyone truly wants equal opportunity and to eliminate racism and discrimination, then do unto others as you would do to yourself, regardless of the color of their skin.

  20. Virgil

    I would like to know this, why when white people see punk rockers and metal bands biting heads off of bats they don’t fear their race is in some type of crisis but when black see gangsta rap they fear what white people will think about them? Well whites do not have to worry about definig themselves because they know what it means to be white. Blacks do not have a set image of what it means to be black. Their are many cultures withing the black community and sadly gansta rap seems to be dominating. Unlike many people who I deem as “the self-proclaimed Black Elite” I don’t blame the inner city youths. These Black Elites who go to college and can claim they “been to the other side” fell they need to teach black manners-which they learned from Euro-Americans. I blame the businesses who promote this stuff. If the top recordlabes, radio stations, and tv stations decided to stop investing in ganster rap and put thier money into rappers like common, they people of common’s style will be the new hot thing and 50 would go down the drain. If I spend billions of dollars to convince you that it is cool to have chian then that is what you will strive for. Rappers come from being poor so they are going to do what they got to do ti get money, we have to go after the business to end gangster rap

    For the record I am a 19 year old man in college. I would like to state I see many Black Elites who try to turn on the poor urban communities, but lets not forget that the people who struggled and died in the 60’s all came from the poorest black communities so you can not just try to label these people as “ghetto: (what ever this term means in the 21st century). You still have a debt to these communities for the people that died and allowed you to get where you are today.

  21. Yo! Imus? No, forget that, Yo! Mrs. Daniels, still on a book tour? Not feelin’ the blog atmosphere? Hope to see another entry soon!

  22. Stephanie

    As a white woman I am not sure I am in a position to comment (what the hell do I know about being black!) but I am in the midst of reading Ms. Daniels’ fine book and I do want to make a few points.

    First, Virgil is dead on about why do trashy blacks reflect on all blacks when trashy whites do not reflect on all whites? It is definitely unfair. I must admit that occasionally I do it too. You are walking down the street and see some young men shuffling and dancing, not to mention using atrocious English, not mention often saying rude things to you as you pass, and your little white devil inside starts to say “uh-huh, just typical.” But I often stand back and hold myself accountable for those thoughts and think “wait a minute – is this every black person you know?” Certainly not. In fact it is hardly ANY of the black people you know. So why does that awful little devil pop up? Even to a super-liberal who was born in the sixties and has always lived and worked in an extremely mixed environment in a huge international city. I think there is a certain media-conditioning and it’s a shame.

    I can imagine, however, a certain frustration some blacks must have over the ghetto/rap image. Watch an old Hollywood movie. Remember those awful pop-eyed, sho-nuff-boss stereotypes that a couple of generations have worked SERIOUSLY HARD to erase. Now imagine an older person who lived through the battles and the Civil Rights movement having to see these youngins glorifying the same old stereotypes – in a new package.

  23. Hal D: (Snark intentional) So you want us black folks to be as accountable for our words and actions towards each other as we expect white folks to be, (HORROR !!!)

    That doesn’t make sense to me.

    The consensus seems to be that members of each ethnic group are entitled to take some liberties with of members of their own ethnic group.

    Likewise, members of a gender group or sexual-orientation are entitled to take some liberties amongst themselves.

    I think it is a pretty horrible idea that members of an ethnic or gender group should be expected to communicate amongst themselves exactly as they communicate to members of other ethnicities or genders.

    What are you striving for here, cultural uniformity?

    One other thing I noticed:

    Cora Daniels said:
    Yo, Imus, I am a Nappy Headed Ho.

    Don Imus was fired for using that description of others. It was proper that he should have been fired, in my opinion.

    Don Imus made three transgressions in one statement.

    He used insensitive language as a white person describing people of another ethnicity, as a male describing females, and as one individual attempting to define the identities of other individuals.

    Cora is not being criticized for labeling herself (ironically or not) because she is black, a woman, and describing herself. No foul.

    If she described Oprah as she just described herself, there might be a problem.

  24. I would ad two more transgressions to the list of Don Imus’ offenses with his “nappy headed hos” comment.

    A powerful individual being insensitive to people with less power.

    An elder being insensitive to the youth.

    Wealthy, famous, white, male, elder uses offensive language to describe (presumably) working-class, not famous, “ethnic”, female, youth.

    That’s not comparable to young ethnic friends and acquaintances using insensitive language amongst themselves.

  25. M.Diaz

    Is racism really what’s going on here? I mean, I don’t think the word “ho” slipped out …….it’s basically part of “todays” vocabulary (for some). And yes, this wil happen again where a person will say these type of words and a cause a controversy among womens; in the way that some people today will not take it in a wrong way anmd others will. If rappers today can rap about a “ho” and still get fame, money,etc. then why is it taken wrong when it’s a common person that may be interviewed or whatever? Then in the other hand….i do feel the people that take it offensively….but why not when listening to a songs lyric? Why are rappers expressing about their black womens in that way? Because no one really did give a damn to do anything about it…..so now we’re stuck with these controversial problems.

  26. So, has anyone listened to the Tom Joyner show… i won’t even say lately I’ll say EVER! One of the shows I’d love to listen to at work, but can’t because I’m ashamed about all the generalizations they make about white people DAILY, but get no flack over.

    I agree D.I. was wrong, but doesn’t anyone think there’s a double standard with this whole, rasicm, sexism mess?

    Just asking… please con’t attack me. LoL

    scream at me
    rob “TexIz”

  27. Lori

    It’s not language that would come naturally to an older white man. He’s being sarcastic to make a point. He’s showing the people who use this language all the time what they seem like to those of us who don’t use words like that. I wonder if any of them will think twice before they use those terms again. Could there possibly have been some kind of point behind it all? Naw, he’s white so it just must be hatin’ on folks.

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