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VIEWS: Don Imus and the Case of the 'Nappy Headed Hos'
by Jasmyne A. Cannick
2007-05-01

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I was just as surprised by the comments of MSNBC commentator Don Imus when referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as anyone else.

I mean, it doesn't get much worse than being referred to as a 'nappy-headed ho' on national television.

The team, which includes eight black women, had lost the day before in the NCAA women's championship game. Imus was speaking with producer Bernard McGuirk about the game when the exchange began on the show, which is broadcast to millions of people on more than 70 stations and the MSNBC television network.

And while I am joining the chorus of Blacks calling for the immediate firing of Imus from MSNBC, I am also turning a critical eye on us.

On any given day of week, million of Blacks condone the use of the word 'ho' being used to refer to the Black woman.

Rappers commonly refer to the women in their songs and videos as hos and bitches. In fact, it's celebrated in rap music.

The reality is that what Imus said was despicable and downright deplorable and, yes, he should be fired for it.

But the door was opened a long time ago for the degrading of Black women, and it was opened by us.

When Black men began to make a living, and a good one at that, off of calling us hos, bitches and other derogatory terms, sooner or later it was going to become OK for others to do it.

And I am not blaming us for Imus' racism and stupidity, but I am pointing out the fact that many Blacks, including Black women, support rap artists who degrade them and in fact refer to themselves as 'hos' and 'bitches' much in the way that a large number of Blacks refer to themselves as 'nigga.'

So, at the end of the day, while we can and should demand for Imus to be fired, we should also be turning to ourselves and re-examining why in 2007, people still think it's ok to degrade and disrespect us.

I mean, if 50 Cent can call you a ho and you bounce your hips to it, then what's to say some white male television commentator can't do the same?

What's the difference?

Exactly.

It's kind of hard to demand respect from others, when you can't even get it from your own.

And as would be expected, because it's an attack on Black women, cooler heads must prevail and the network must review the Imus situation.

All the while, you and I both know that had Imus replaced the word nappy with frizzy, not only would he be out of a job and probably in protective custody, but the MSNBC building would probably be burnt to a crisp. And if he had replaced the word hos with dykes or 'carpet munchers,' you better believe there would be no reviewing the matter coming out of MSNBC; he would've been fired the same day. Only when it comes to Black people does it require this careful thought process about what the appropriate punishment should be.

At the end of the day, if we're going to call for Imus to be fired—and we should—we should also turn attention to the rappers that also call Black women hos and turn a profit off of it.

I don't know what's worse—being called a ho by some white man or being called a ho by a Black man.

Jasmyne A. Cannick is a commentator/critic who addresses social, cultural and racial issues, and is based in Los Angeles. She can be reached via her Web site at www.jasmynecannick.com .


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