The Voice of Black America

Apr 102007
Authors: Tyrone Reese

Recently radio talk show host Don Imus has come under fire for his comments regarding the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Imus referred to the team as “nappy-headed hos.” Even though Imus claims he was joking and made “a mistake,” it cannot be ignored that these comments were racially insensitive, sexist and misogynistic.

Imus was suspended for two weeks from his radio show, “Imus in the Morning,” as punishment.

The Rutgers women achieved a great accomplishment winning a championship in college sports, and their efforts have been diminished to their race and gender.

Now I could focus this entire article on this ignorant situation, but there is something distracting my full attention to this issue.

My distraction lies with one simple question: When did Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson become the voice of black America?

On the April 10 edition of “The Today Show,” Imus’ comments were being discussed and guess who their guests were? Sharpton and Jackson, back-to-back!

What further frustrated me was host Meredith Vieira’s interview with Jackson.

Vieira asked about Jackson’s comments in January 1984 when he made an anti-Semitic remark in an interview with Washington Times reporter Milton Coleman and the days after in which he apologized and how that situation different from Imus’. How did Jackson reply? He completely dodged the question.

Why does the media always run to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson when there is an issue with black people in America? Their so-called powerful voices only end up being material for a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

If I do not take them seriously, as an African American, how do others perceive them? The discourse of race in America is important to address, but it cannot be effectively addressed with shouting and theatrics.

The media has a tendency to go to the most outrageous and sensationalized voices in a community and Sharpton and Jackson are that for the black community. Why didn’t “The Today Show” talk with Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson or Toni Morrison, intellectual black voices who can say something productive on the discourse of race and society in general? The media finds them to be “boring.”

Does Pat Robertson speak for the entire Christian community? Does Ann Coulter speak for all conservative republicans? Did Comedy Central’s “The Man Show” speak for all men? I sure hope not or we are all screwed.

The media needs to understand that one voice cannot speak for an entire community.

As a writer for the Collegian, do I speak for the entire black student population? I sure hope not, because that is an insult to me and the community. I cannot represent the spectrum of diversity in our community. My experience does not reflect that of everyone else.

If it were up to me the voice of black America would not be a select few, but all of our voices. This issue transcends race. With other issues such as gender, sexual orientation, religious views, political views, etc., everyone does not think alike. They are individuals and should be respected as such and not asked to speak for everyone else.

Odd. And to think this all began with a women’s basketball game.

Tyrone Reese is a sophomore psychology major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be send to

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