You Said It First! Who Said It First?

Ah, Don Imus.

I saw him on the Today show yesterday and wowzer, I have no idea how old he is, but the man looks like he's got one foot in the grave. No wonder he sticks to radio instead of TV. Don't you think he could use more than a two week vacation? I really think his bosses should do him a favor and make it a permanent vacation. It just seems like doing his show is taking way too much of a toll on what must have been, at one time, some spectacularly good looks.

Ok, I'll stop being sarcastic. Or, at least I'll try. It's just that with all the discussion about "The Don Imus Issue", I keep hearing a few things that have got me thinking beyond Don Imus.

First, I've heard a couple of folks share the idea that calling black women "nappy-headed hos" originated in the black community. We started it, rap music started it...and so folks can't be mad if Don Imus says it. It's a double standard!

Hmm. I don't know if black people and rap music really started the use of this terminology. Sure, it's internalized now, and some of us do use that language, but I don't think we started it.

I was commenting on someone else's blog that there are plenty of black people that dance at parties and bump in their rides to tunes like the currently popular Fat Joe and L'il Wayne song "Make it Rain". Yes, that song, like so many others, prominently features the word "hos" and features a video where guys are throwing money on black and Latina women who are busily gyrating like strippers. But if the Pussycat Dolls gyrate like strippers, they get a TV show and get called superstars. What???

Anyway, I digress.

YES, Snoop, 50 Cent, Jay-Z and all the rest quite frequently use the n-word, call folks bitches, and hos and regularly feature the aforementioned scantily clad black and Latina women in their videos. My question is, who's paying these rappers to make records like that?

Jay-Z may be head of Def Jam records but, hello, Def Jam is not black-owned. It's owned by Universal Music Group...which is owned by French-run conglomerate Vivendi. And who's the CEO of Vivendi? A guy named Jean-René Fourtou.

Now, imagine if Jean-René were to suddenly call up Jay-Z and say, "Look Jay, you're a really talented rapper, but you need to write rhymes that are not sexist or racist, or else I'm going to drop you from our label."

Can you imagine that? Yeah, I can't either. Reason being, 70% of rap records are bought by white people, primarily by the 18-24 male demograpic. Those young white males have a whole lot of disposable income, and so the records get made, because certainly, Jean-René probably has a place along the Seine to pay for.

I've heard some people say that black people don't complain about rappers so it's not fair that we complain about Imus. Um, that's just not true. The very same black people who've been upset about 50 Cent, Snoop and Jay-Z calling black women ho's are upset now. The problem is that mainstream media hasn't given those prior complaints any coverage.

Some of you all may not know about the infamous Nelly song "Tip Drill". If you don't, good for you that you were spared exposure to an incredibly lewd and lascivious song with an even more sexually explicit video. (Don't ask me how I saw inability to turn away from train-wrecks is another issue.)

Now, in this video, Nelly swipes a credit card between the shaking butt cheeks of a light-skinned black woman wearing only a barely-there thong. It was disgusting. Absolutely horrifyingly sexist and racist on so many levels. But, was the New York Times or the Washington Post calling for Nelly's firing from his record company? Nope. Instead, it was the black women of Spelman College that led the charge against the song and protested Nelly's potential participation in a leukemia fundraiser at the school.

I also didn't hear any record company executives complaining about Nelly. In fact, I didn't hear anyone in the mainstream media complaining at all. It was further proof that when it comes this stuff, it doesn't really matter if black people complain about being called bitches and hos because we aren't the ones buying the songs. So, who cares what we think! This is also why Imus is probably only going to get a two-week vacation instead of a permanent one...sure, it's a hot story now, but after all, and I could be wrong here, I don't think many black folks listen to Imus. Again, it's that white male demograpic/dollar that advertisers want and Imus draws them in.

I also find myself thinking how none of the aforementioned rappers feature nappy-haired women. Their videos deal almost exclusively with black women who wear weaves. So, nappy hair...yeah, I remember being 8 or 9 and one of my aunts was trying to brush my hair. She smacked me on the head with the brush and started complaining, "You have the nappiest hair of any mixed girl on earth! What is wrong with you?"

Sure, my aunt said the word waaay before Don Imus did, and she used it in a negative way, but the thing is, who invented the word? I'm sure African's back in the day didn't sit around and say, "Girl, your hair is sooo nappy! You need to get your relaxer touched up!"

I also find myself having a hard time believing that the first black people off of slave ships just decided to started calling each other nappy-headed ho's without hearing someone else calling them that first...someone who owned them and told them they weren't fully human. (Wonder who that could be?)

Generations later, someone taught my aunt, and every other black woman born in the Western Hemisphere, to think that our hair is unattractive in it's natural state. As much as some folks want to, thankfully, advocate for a return to "natural hair" in this country, and as much as there are books like Nappy Hair, it's still an insult in the black community to say that someone's hair is nappy.

So, is there a double standard? Maybe in some ways there is, but I think our issues are more complex than just simply saying, "Well, black people, you did it first so don't get mad!" We have to go beyond that surface level argument and be prepared to talk about why we do and say the things we do. If we don't know the root cause, we can never cure the disease.

And, like any good school teacher should tell kids that say, "He hit me first!", it doesn't matter who did it first, if you did it too, well then, you're both wrong.


Hitler once said that if you tell a big enough lie often enough, people will believe it.

One of the deeper issues is unquestionably the fact that black people were made to feel inferior for so long that some of them came to believe it was so.

Messing with anyone's perception of himself is one of the more despicable acts that one person can commit on another.

Your aunt must have been full of self-hatred to treat you like that, but she wasn't born with it. The folks running society while she was growing up told her a big enough lie often enough until she believed it.

I don't buy the argument that if black people use certain words, they are up for grabs. I think that if black people use those words, they do so with irony. Because they can. Other people should not because it comes off as a lack of respect. Fair has nothing to do with it.

You don't deliberately insult anyone unless you are a total lowlife scum. Sound like anyone in the news lately? I thought so.
Anonymous said…
What irritates me about the Don Imus scandal is the use of the word "Ho" because it's yet another example of black people being hypersexualized and underintellectualized - like the Nelly video, or Barack Obama's swimsuit pictures. Noone in the media says much about the fact that Obama achieved the top position at the top journal at the top law school in the world. I guess it's less threatening to think of him as a sex object than as the intellectual superstar he is. Likewise, the Rutgers kids are keeping grades at a prestigious research university, while achieving major success as athletes, which is something to celebrate. But Don Imus somehow managed to underintellectualize and hypersexualize the whole squad with one comment. He probably tried to cut them down because he is threatened by their achievements and feels inferior. Just a guess.
West said…
Better than I could've said it.
Nice one.
Anonymous said…
My is a double standard...Black people call whites Crackers and rednecks (oops they call themselves red necks) but we call whites and Asians derogatory terms. So yes, it is a double standard. I mean really can someone tell me the derogatory term for non-Jews used by Jewish people....or non-gays used by Gay people, I don't know it.

Gripe 2:
Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Oprah, Tavis, if you all can get up in arms about these white folks comedians or talk show hosts making racist remarks about blacks...why can't you get your money and clout together to get your friends, 50cents, Jay-z, Nelly, Akon, MiMs, Young Joc, Snoop Dog and others to stop rapping about Ho's and using scantly clad women in their videos and stop writing about the beauty of strippers (recently there has been a fascination among rappers about strippers) and violence.

When I see that much uproar and dedication by blacks (the whole population) and black leaders, then and only then will I really get upset when ignorant whites like Imus and the Sinfield comedian make nasty comments about blacks.
velvet said…
Ugh, Imus and his ilk need to be off the airwaves, effective immediately and permanently.

I think that this kind of stuff needs to stop on all levels. But how? I'm at a loss for a solution.
Liz Dwyer said…
Whew, it's been a busy day and I haven't had a chance to really respond to everyone's comments. I'm having a hard time believeing that I was totally wrong! Imus is getting a permanent vacation.
Liz Dwyer said…
You make me think about the frequency with which we're hearing the actual words Imus said. It's been said over and over on tv and radio. I wonder if this story could be told without hearing what he said repeated a gazillion times.

I had no idea there were Obama swimsuit pictures! (google image searching right now...)

Just kidding. He is a good looking man, no lie there, but it is interesting how there is alot of focus on his looks. Actually it's a little weird/creepy for folks to be like, "He's running for president and look, he's hot in swim trunks too!"

Why thank you. Now...if only I can be the winning bidder on a computer! ;)

I don't think change has to wait till every black person in America agrees on something or stops doing something, or every white person for that matter. Imagine if our nation had waited till every white person agreed that slavery should be abolished. Goodness, I'd probably still be picking cotton in massa's fields. And, don't you remember Oprah calling Ludacris and other rappers to task for using the n-word?

So, he got fired! Good. I think your question is one of the most important ones that we should all be asking. I think we have to work to change things in our individual spheres of influence. We all have control over where we live, what schools we send our kids to, who our friends are, and what we each individually say.
the last noel said…
Well said. What a terrific rant.
That's why, in my post about this incident, I did not repeat what he said. I think we know all too well what he said. I was more interested in stating that it was wrong and deeply offensive to most people.

And I am encouraged by the fact that he was fired.
Moby Dick said…
I thought I was the only one that did a post about how Don Imus looks like some kind of moth-eaten zombie.
Anonymous said…
Very well written. As the famous Wesley Snipes said: "This thing is bigger than Nino Brown!!"

This is a complex situation, but you pointed out some key points very well. The demographic that supports and funds this lunacy for the most part is 18-24 year old White men. What can we do to get Vivendi to tell their Label Def Jam, to cut this crap?
Liz Dwyer said…
I guess this was just something that's just set me off. Oprah had a show on today with all these hip-hop big wigs justifying the demeaning language they use and it annoyed me to no end, but I figure one rant a week is enough.

Good point. You know I do keep thinking that there has to be some sort of silver lining in all this. I'm just not sure what it is. Hopefully it's that people are actually talking to each other about how they really feel.

Yes, I guess all that hard living tends to eventually catch up with folks.

Is that the million dollar question or what? Vivendi was originally a French utility company and now they own lots of stuff. They probably own my apartment building and I just don't know it. Hmm, if I get an eviction notice from my landlord, now I'll know why.
Late to the party, I know. By now, Imus is probably in a nursing home somewhere. But anyway...

This isn't so much of a retraction as it is a realization:

It has come to my attention that, by and large, "nappy" is still considered an insult by most black people.

Maybe I spent my college days around too many five percenters, but I'd just thought we'd reclaimed it, taken it over to just mean "natural" (as some of us, who love their tight curls, have already done). That we've embraced it the way Bell Hooks did. It didn't matter to me who "started it", because I'd thought we'd reclaimed it to mean something good: simply tightly coiled, natural hair.

Turns out I was wrong (I'm still shocked that he even knew the word, though).

"Ho's" is something entirely different all together. Not acceptable or even remotely debatable in my book.
Liz Dwyer said…
Mrs. J,
I think we are both part of a generation that actually knew 5 percenters even if we ourselves weren't a part of the movement. Kids they even know what that is or would they think it's some derivative of 50 Cent's name?

When I'm at schools here in LA, and I hear students start playing the dozens in the hallway...or actually verbally sparring before blows start being thrown, one of the first insults to be thrown by both boys and girls (but always directed at a girl) is some variation on, "You ugly-ass, nappy-head black bitch." I can't tell you how many times I've heard that and the first time it was heard was one time too many.

Even with older folks, I hear too many of us saying, "Girl, my hair is too nappy. I can't go out looking like this."

But, I think the number of people that see natural hair as being a positive good thing is increasing. I often think about how I'd be thinking about hair if I had girls instead of boys. It's a political statement to not get the kiddie perm these days.

And yes, Imus needed that break. Reminded me of that saying, "death warmed over".
Junk Monkey said…
Of absolutely no relevance to the discussion but a 'nappy' in Britain is the thing you wrap a baby's bottom in.
Anonymous said…
I'm impressed that you started to talk about the big CEO in there. There are six media conglomerates that control over 90% of the world's media, and Vivendi Universal is number six at the moment (according to reported revenues). The Jewish involvement in these companies is obvious, as is the Jewish ownership of Black organizations like the NAACP. It doesn't really matter if it were a Jewish or Japanese or any other small ethnic group conspiracy, but conspiracy it obviously is. And that they would infiltrate "Black" groups, music and culture to promote self-defeating themes like victimization and recreational sex is completely natural.

I appreciate greatly the *prudishness* of this post, as it is the prudes and puritans who really understand how to stand up for themselves, promote intelligence and progress over addiction and animalism. I'm busy now promoting media awareness, conservatism and true racial pride on a Chinese blog at MSN spaces. I think we can all do our part to oppose the base media that we have today. Thanks!

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