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.