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Thank God I don’t work for a wire. At least we here at the City Paper don’t feel the need to vanilla-up racial slurs. Posties are bad enough, but take a look at this graf, yanked from a Reuters story that moved today:
Imus made the comments last Wednesday after the Rutgers team lost the national collegiate championship game to Tennessee. “Hos” is slang for whores and “nappy-headed” is a derogatory term for the hair of many black people, which can turn kinky and fuzzy if left unaltered by hair products.
For a more thoughtful, less hilarious approach, check out the NYT op-ed by D.C.’s own Gwen Ifill, who found out five years after the fact Imus had called her, a White House correspondent for the gray lady, the “cleaning lady” covering the president.
I haven’t talked about this much. I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.
It is about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game had to be the biggest moment of their lives, and the outcome the biggest disappointment. They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know—-black women in particular—-develop to guard themselves against casual insult.
Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus’s program? That’s for them to defend, and others to argue about. I certainly don’t know any black journalists who will. To his credit, Mr. Imus told the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday he realizes that, this time, he went way too far.
Yes, he did. Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It’s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.
So here’s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.
Way to take the high road…and a jab at the journos who still shill on Imus (are you out there, Tim Russert?)