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I-Mess

April 11, 2007

I suppose you might call it a mild version of Post-traumatic stress
disorder. When I first heard of Don Imus’ verbal buck n’ shuffle about the
Rutgers University women’s hoops, I didn’t flinch. I was not struck with a
notion of outrage nor a need to write MSNBC. Perhaps it’s just racism
fatigue settling in, which would be sad, since that would mean I’ve come to
accept I live in a world filled with jackasses and that there’s naught to be
done about it. That’s putting a nice spin on it, because the truth is I
didn’t give a f***. I care much more about Shimajiro these days. Imus (and
the “bald-headed geek”) has been doing this kind of thing for years, and
I’m quite finished being hacked off at him. I was, in fact, more surprised
to see that 1) he apologized and 2) that he was actually punished for his
gaffe. I expected him to give us the middle finger and
move on. The man’s show is only useful during the election cycles, other
than that it’s just dreadful, so who cares?

There have, however, been several interesting issues that have come up in
the wake of this. So, if I may have the attention of the class . . .

The Rise of the Child’s Defense – You all remember Michael Richards, don’t
you? He hasn’t yet fallen totally into the dustbin of history since his
career ending (was it already over) racist rant at a night club, right? Some
people wanted to defend Richards by pointing out that Black people use the
n-word, too! Why oh why can’t he? For the moment, let’s ignore the etymology
and the complexities that surround the word. Even if we don’t know this red
herring reasoning is a logical fallacy we do know that using the “he did it
why can’t I” defense didn’t work in elementary school, because the sisters
at St. Vincent De Paul were always ready with the “two wrongs don’t make a
right” come backer.

The people using the defense assume of course that a Black person caught in
the same situation wouldn’t face some kind of public condemnation. Let’s
suppose Chris Rock was on the ESPN post-game show at the championship and
decided to make a little joke about the Rutgers team using I-mess’ infamous
phrase. His scrawny little ass may not have made it out of the gym alive.
Even if he managed to sneak away unscathed, he’d still have to go home and
look his African American wife in the eye. There’s no double standard. However, since there would be no White people involved in the controversy I don’t think many of you lot would care.

Hip-Hop Scapegoating – Some people seem to blame rap music for Imus’
troubles. Some believe that I-mess is actually the victim of those scary rap
guys with their outlandish slang, because the I-man just loves hip-hop so
much, he was just trying to be down. Sure. Actually, this defense by
diversion was to be expected. Lately, hip-hop culture has become the catch
all villain in the US. I fully expect there to be a report on rap music’s
link to Al Qaeda. Some people will take any opportunity to take a swing at
rap music, fine. Even if the criticisms leveled are valid, they have
absolutely nothing to do with I-mess and what he had to say. That I-mess and his
producer attempted to use the vernacular of African-American youth or what
they might imagine to be rap slang is irrelevant. They would have simply
found another way to “be funny.”

Some think that until “we” (I’m guessing you’re talking about the coloreds)
attempt to stop rappers from using terms like “hoes,” we should lay off
people like Richards and I-mess (and Opie and Anthony and whomever). There’s a
cottage industry building around criticizing hip-hop,* and it ain’t
spearheaded by Bill O’Reilly. If the people bringing up this argument actually cared about rap music, they’d already know who C. Delores Tucker was, and wouldn’t have made this silly argument in the first place.

Also, Mr. Bush, neither Black people nor rap music invented the phrase
“nappy-headed.” Nor “hoes.” As Rachel points out, the image of women of color as “hoes” came way before hip-hop, kids. The only thing rap popularized about this is an abbreviation of the word, “whore.” You all tell me who came up with “dragon ladies,” “hot blooded Latinas,” and jezebel stereotypes.

More similar than different – I’m kind of baffled by the appeal of the “shock jock.” Even stand-ups who can make this kind of comedy work are only palatable in small doses. Who wants to listen to it every day? Is it that we all have a secret desire to spew racial invectives at the drop of a hat?

The people using rap music as an example of why I-mess should not be held accountable for his “jokes” haven’t been arguing that rappers should also be allowed to say whatever they want. That’s the logical conclusion of their argument, however. If it’s okay for rappers, it should be okay for Imus. So if it’s okay for Imus, it’s okay for rappers, right?

They aren’t saying that, however it would make sense if they did. Part of the appeal of so called gangsta rap (the subgenre is dead. Please stop using the term, thanks) is its shock value. The conventional explanation of the popularity of rap music among suburban white kids is that they found it rebellious, even liberating, to indulge in the raw expressions within some of the music. It’s just as likely shock jock fans get the same kind of charge from people who can express “forbidden” thoughts with impunity. These guys can often say things on the radio that may well get the average guy a smack in the grill.

So basically, angry white guys, should all your favorite shock jocks be fired in one fell swoop of sanity, you’ll always have Young Jeezy.

Candace Parker is a (straight) hottie!! – One thing that’s funny about this situation
is out of all the people tossing off comments about this situation, few saw the actual
game in question. That’s to be expected as well, because we don’t watch
women’s sports all that much. I give you my view of the game in regards to
ESPN’s coverage. It was a Lady Vols love fest. I believe at some point I
heard ESPN announcer Mike Patrick say, “Oh my god, look at how Candace
Parker is tying her shoes! Can you believe it?! Incredible!!” I know one
reason why ESPN might want to shade positive coverage of UT; the team is the
best known and supported in women’s college basketball. They’re winners, with a charming, stern coach and rabid fan support.

They’re also to my knowledge the only team with two former players who have been asked to pose for Playboy (both refused, natch).

ESPN spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on Parker’s relationship with former Duke player Sheldon Williams. I don’t recall having ever seen this during a collegiate men’s game, just interviews with moms and dads and the grandma who raised the kid by working 8 jobs and whatnot. Announcers don’t seem to be interested in which cheerleader Johnny Bigman is dating.

All this to say that I-mess and McGuirk were reacting to the fake drama presented by ESPN; masculine/feminine, potentially gay vs. definitely straight, dark and light. This is what people feel they need to do to get men to watch women’s sports, selling the sizzle rather than the steak. That’s a reality that some athletes are comfortable with, especially in the struggle to make women’s pro sports viable. I don’t think I’m above all that stuff, and neither should ESPN as they beat the drums of war against I-mess.

CBS’ love affair with UF’s Joakim Noah does deserve mention, though. They did give him a lot of face time even though his performance was shite. He (and his flowing mane) was the idoru of this year’s championship. They didn’t linger too long on him, however, because that might be, you know, gay.

*being one who bites the hand that feeds him, don’t think the hipster-irony of that cover passed me by unoticed. I suppose sometimes to illustrate the thing you are arguing against you have to present that thing vividly, but Liz, what was wrong with putting the author’s picture on the cover or somefin? Or Paris Hilton?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. bridgett permalink
    April 12, 2007 6:39 pm

    Well…to push that a little further, what might the allure of rap music be for young white guys? They get to sing along with Young Jeezy and say vile things about black women — no loss of racial privilege and no need to reflect whether that makes them a bigot. Those “raw expressions” aren’t anything that their Grandpa wouldn’t have used. (I know this isn’t your analysis. I just think that the idea that suburban white kids somehow never heard the word “nigger” until they listened to NWA is stupid and ahistoric.)

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