The firing of radio shock jock Don Imus is the sad conclusion of one of the greatest media overreactions I have ever seen. Consider the brief, ignorant, racist phrase ("nappy-headed hos") by Imus. Weigh that against his 30+ years as an on-air radio host with no past history of racial tirades and his charitable contributions to society. Is this a person to make an example of?
In a world where nearly every hiphop album, indie to mainstream, includes the word "ho," and sex crimes and murders are reported on your morning, evening and nightly news, media chooses to crucify a declining, elderly shock jock who tried to sound hip by repeating a phrase he doesn't know the full meaning of.
Don't blame a slow news cycle. Don't blame the lazy producer who didn't bleep him out. Blame a media ecosystem that has decided that race should be elevated above all else.
So, who are the real losers of the Don Imus fiasco?
The Tennessee women's basketball program.
After defeating Rutgers to win the NCAA women's national championship, Tennessee's achievement has been overshadowed by the hype surrounding Imus, and Rutgers has been all over the news since. Heck, Rutgers -- not Tennessee -- even made an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
In a few years, ask someone who won the women's basketball national championship in 2007 and that person will probably say, "Rutgers." It's a damn shame because those champion Tennessee players worked their entire lives to get to this point, probably the greatest acheivement of their athletic careers, but the media is more interested in condemning the two-second phrase Imus uttered instead of praising the players who won one of the most coveted titles in all of women's sports.
Let's talk about judging a person's character by actions instead of words. Imus maintains a ranch near Santa Fe where children who have cancer or serious blood disorders, or who have lost siblings to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, can spend a week in the summer and briefly escape their distress and enjoy a cowboy lifestyle — at no cost to their families.
According to the AP, the Imus Ranch, which features a re-creation of the main street of a 19th-century Western town, a swimming pool, an indoor horse-riding arena, an outdoor rodeo arena, and barns, "hosted 90 children from March 2005 through February 2006 and spent $2.5 million — or about $28,000 a child — according to its most recent federal tax filings. That's at least 10 times what the Make-A-Wish or similar camps spend on kids."
"There's not an African-American parent on the planet who has sent their child to the Imus Ranch who didn't trust me and trust my wife," Imus said on his show. "And when these kids die, we don't just go to the white kid's funeral."
Nearly half of children who stay at the ranch are from minority groups and 10 percent are black, according to the AP. The future of Imus Ranch is now threatened as Imus no longer has the income to support the ranch and corporations may decide to withdraw their support.
It's proof that race relations in America are so improved that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson now run into each other getting to a pulpit over a trivial phrase by a has-been radio host. We've come too far to hype such a minor incident and continue to elevate racism above all the other bigotries that threaten this society's progress.
Further, let's be able to forgive those who regret and move on to focus on the greater problems (war, poverty, healthcare, etc.) that afflict us.