Everyone is up in arms about Don Imus' inflamatory remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team, made last week. CNN is reporting that Imus is losing sponsers, and he's already been suspended from his show for 2 weeks. There is talk that he'll lose his show altogether. I'm not that familar with his work, but he does have a history of making racially insensitive remarks, and if he does get taken off the air for this, it may show that there are material consequences for shooting your mouth off like this. Much like Rush Limbaugh resigned from ESPN after ridiculously claiming Donavon McNab didn't deserve all the media attention he was recieving, it may be time for Imus to step down.
I think the outrage surrounding Imus right now is appropriate, but he doesn't have the political clout that many other talking heads do, many of whom have said equally or more offensive things in the recent past. Here are some examples.
On his Feb 12th 2007 radio show, Glenn Beck (who also has a regular show on CNN) said that Obama, "is colorless...he might as well be white." The transcript is chock full of ignorance and is so violently anti-historical it is truely astounding. It's as though Beck is oblivious to America's complicated racial past. He talks about how "whites" don't see Obama as "black," and therefore, in Beck's eyes, Obama is "colorless." Seriously? And Beck repeatedly asks "can I even say that?" as though he knows someone will take offense, but he has no idea why.
Another Beck gem.
An elected official being asked to prove he's not working with our enemies. This story didn't get the attention it deserved. And it's on CNN. It's a major show.
And of course, "comedian" Rush Limbaugh again.
Good ol' Rush mocking Michael J. Fox and his advocating stem cell research. This story got a little bit of play, but no where near as much as the Imus stuff. Also, yes, Rush resigned from ESPN, because he said something stupid that got a lot of attention. But he also says a lot of stupid stuff that doesn't get a lot of attention, but should, because like it or not, he exists more or less in mainstream society.
These are three recent examples of amazing insensitivity and ignorance regarding Black and racially Mixed people, Muslims, and the disabled. It's a good thing that Imus' remarks stirred the kind of controversy that they did, but Limbaugh and Beck speak, either officially or unofficially, for an entire movement. They pull mainstream discourse to the right, and are far more damaging and relevant than Don Imus. If we saw the concentrated anger directed at Imus now directed at the bigotry of the right-wing machine, then we might be able to truely reshape the national discourse. Until that happens, we'll see things like this for some time in the future.