I Can't Say Nothing
So I've stayed away from the whole Imus thing . . . until now.
I don't want to get too into it. I've had a couple of discussions with my husband about it. I've been listening to NPR and the evening news; I've heard the "experts" and the friends; I've heard about how the Imus Ranch charity will suffer and therefore so will the children with cancer - I think I've heard it all by now.
But all I want to say, at least to Imus, is that no matter what the intention - it wasn't funny; it wasn't a joke. And it's not because it wasn't politically correct or because the public has become too sensitive and we don't know how to take a joke anymore.
It was racist. It was sexist. He was a public figure on the public airwaves and while he has every right to say what he wants to say, the public also has a right to react to it. Free speech has its consequences. Yet, this isn't really about free speech for me. The greatest impact this whole "controversy" has had on me has been with regard to my disappointment with the society we live in in 2007.
My first disappointment came when I realized that there was even a discussion as to whether what Imus said was "OK" or not; whether since it was said in humor - Just stop right there. Of course it wasn't OK! These women were playing an athletic competition; they were representing Rutgers with pride and dignity; They were respectful and should have received the same respect in return. Yet, Imus did not make a joke - he tried to reduce these women to nothing more than sub-human, sex objects.
Which led to my second disappointment. People were outraged - as they should have been - and some people were defending him saying that it was just a joke and "why can't people take a joke anymore?" It just really took the wind out of me when I had to face the fact that things really haven't gotten all that much better for women and minorities in the U.S. if there was a debate going on as to whether or not such derogatory speech was humorous.
Seriously, why is it that there are still so many people out there who think it's OK to use derogatory terms to describe other people? How is that humorous? Because I really don't see the humor in making fun of people because of their gender or their ethnicity or their sexual preference or even the way they happen to wear their hair for that matter. Why is it funny to make fun of other people at all? Shouldn't we be a little more civilized than that?
I love a good laugh as much as anyone, but not at the expense of hurting someone else. That to me just isn't funny. Whether they're in the public eye and "asking for it" or they're your next door neighbor - I wouldn't like it if someone was making fun of me, so I try not to do it to others.
Making jokes at the expense of others, so that you can feel like you're part of the "in" group or so that you can feel like you're somehow "better" or smarter or whatever - I guess I was just hoping that that sort of thing was on the decline. I mean, why do people have to do it? Whether it's through supposed humor or music lyrics or in conversations they have at the dinner table? Why do they feel compelled to make such negative generalizations and use terms that are only meant to demean and oppress other human beings? Aren't the majority of us just trying to survive this crazy, mixed up world; to take care of ourselves and our families?
And it's not just the issue of speech that upsets me. While women and minorities have been legally given the right to vote, it's disheartening to know that they're not always given an easy route to exercise that right. While African Americans are no longer enslaved on the cotton fields of the South, they certainly do not experience social or econmoic equality, equal protection under the law or the same access to opportunity afforded to those of lighter skin tones. African American and Latina women are probably discriminated against most often because they have two strikes against them in their ethnicity and their gender. Gee, look who Imus' comment was aimed at.
I don't believe in coincidences.
We certainly can't fire every person who is racist or sexist, but we can make an example of those who publicly show their hatred. We must declare as a society that we will not tolerate such behavior. We need to make that declaration together, beyond gender and culture lines; to say that we will not allow racism, sexism, discrimination of any kind, etc. in our society because it is simply wrong and should not be tolerated.
Because it just isn't funny.