Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Monday was the four year anniversary of Don Imus saying something racist


First off, congrats to the Texas A&M women's basketball team for beating Notre Dame last night to win the NCAA title.

I'm kicking myself because I forgot to post something about this on Monday. After all, what kind of self-respecting blog about sports and racism forgets to commemorate one of the highest-profile racist (and sexist) remarks concerning athletes in recent history on its fourth anniversary?

I'm talking, of course, about Don Imus and his notorious "Nappy Headed Hos" remark:



On the morning after Rutgers' loss to Tennessee in the 2007 NCAA Womens' Basketball Championship, shock jock Don Imus and his interlocutors took to the airwaves and clearly crossed a line with their bigoted remarks.

Almost as absurd as the remarks was the firestorm it set off. Racial Spokesmen (TM) Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton crawled out from whatever damp log they reside in for the better part of the year to spearhead the "movement" calling for Imus's head. Now, I'm not saying Imus didn't deserve to be reprimanded or even cancelled by MSNBC and CBS (as he was). He clearly did. But the entire controversy revealed as much about Jackson and Sharpton as it did about Imus.



Sharpton and Jackson have made their living by serving as "Black Voices"--the de-facto leaders of the "black community"--who claim to speak for a politically mute black population. This arrangement is a vestige of the Jim Crow era, when black political participation was tightly constrained. With traditional avenues for political expression unavailable, "black leaders" like Booker T. Washington emerged as spokesmen for an undifferentiated set of "black interests" in dealings with whites of wealth and power. Fortunately, blacks won the right to political self-expression thanks to something called "the Civil Rights movement."

One would think that this new political terrain would invalidate and render obsolete the Bookerite "Racial Spokesman" who claims to speak on behalf of a corporate racial interest. But no, every few years Sharpton, Jackson, and their ilk rally and foment outrage around racial controversies in order to reassert their relevance to black people under the presumption that they speak for the entire black population. Often you will hear them betraying this presumption with statements that begin with "black people want..." But this is a black population that is comprised of myriad different interests and voices. More importantly, since the defeat of Jim Crow, it is a black population that can express itself politically on the basis of these interests. It is a population that has the right to elect its leadership democratically. And the last time I checked, neither Jessie Jackson nor Al Sharpton got their positions as Racial Spokesmen by being elected to them.

So, happy birthday Don Imus's racist comment.

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