April 17, 2007

Imus controversy fails to delve below the surface of racial

It seems that the recent trend of white celebrities saying racist things and ruining their careers has continued unabated.

The most recent example is Don Imus, a so-called “shock jock” on CBS and MSNBC, who recently referred to an all-girls college basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” In doing so, he subjected himself to a series of fines and reprimands, a sequence of apologies and gestures that now almost seem ritualistic.

Imus has followed the exact same path as Michael Richards: that of an irrelevant, has-been celebrity who makes news by being racist. Michael Richards attacked African-Americans with a heinous slur and was forced to personally apologize to Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson—two self-appointed spokespersons for black America who really only attempt to boost their own relevance rather than actually address the problems of race.

Like Richards, Imus has not been edgy, funny, or relevant in more thana decade, and this writer had been assuming that Imus had retired before he made his unfortunate comments. Now he too has gone through the rituals, apologizing on his show and to Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, and other respectable journalists, and of course has undergone the obligatory sensitivity meetings with Sharpton and Jackson. And finally, he was fired, another martyr for the cause of better word choice for white celebrities.

Now that this tired ritual has been repeated, the same half-hearted gestures made, the media will pack their bags and go home, and race will not enter the dialogue of mainstream America again until another white celebrity says something stupid. This is a shameful way to address a pressing problem that continues to dog our country.

While the media are eagerly waiting to report on the next major white celebrity to slip up, real statistics regarding race in America continue to go unreported.

Today, a black child born in America is far more likely to attend an underperforming school, be born to an underaged parent, be raised by a single parent or guardian, and is actually more likely to go to jail than to go to college. The United States currently has just one black governor and one black senator, a single black Supreme Court justice, and just a few black mayors governing cities with populations of more than 500,000.

Moreover, you are far less likely to find a grocery store selling fresh produce on the South Side of Chicago, which is composed mostly of wards that are nearly 90 percent black, than you would on the North Side, which, on the other hand, is composed mostly of wards that are nearly 90 percent white—a fact that reinforces the obesity epidemic among poor and minority children. While Mayor Daley publicly condemns the remarks of Don Imus, the bulk of Chicago’s black population lives in sweltering poverty without proper investment in schools, jobs, and healthcare.

The divide between whites and blacks on paper has shrunk dramatically when it comes to civil and political rights since the end of Jim Crow laws, but minorities-—particularly blacks-—remain socially and economically oppressed, and therefore continue to be essentially powerless in our society. These sobering statistics should be enough to create a feeling of moral outrage in our population, to spur our political leaders to some concrete action to solve these problems, and to generate the same levels of media coverage and condemnation as the ignorant remarks of one idiotic white man.