It has been two weeks since Don Imus described Rutgers’ women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” but I am still angry. MSNBC and CBS declared Imus’ language unacceptable – just 15 years after Imus started using such language when his show began. In actuality, both companies were afraid of losing more advertisers and probably suspected their other programming would suffer.
As far as MSNBC and CBS are concerned, the issue was not about a zero-tolerance policy for reprehensible language. It was just about the zeros.
This issue raises some very serious concerns for freedom of speech and the acceptability of language similar to Imus’. No one is defending Imus’ words; however, there are a few of us who defend his right to say them. It is all part and parcel of the Bill of Rights, First Amendment thing. We all have the right to say whatever we want, even if it does offend people.
Within the rap and hip-hop community, people have tried to say comparisons to Imus are unfair. Hip-hop producer Russell Simmons released the following statement: “Hip-hop is a worldwide cultural phenomena that transcends race and doesn’t engage in racial slurs… We are concerned by the false comparisons… between Don Imus and hip-hop… Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them…”
Mr. Simmons justifies rap artists who denigrate women simply because the world listens to hip-hop, and because it is their personal experience. If Imus had once encountered a sexually promiscuous African-American basketball player with frizzled hair, would that justify his words about the Rutgers girls? Absolutely not, and I have little doubt Mr. Simmons would agree with me.
Rapper Snoop Dogg was less eloquent is justifying denigration in rap music. “We’re talking about hos that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing sh**, that’s trying to get a n***a for his money… We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel.”
Following Mr. Dogg’s logic, if Imus truly felt what he said, it would be justified. I am certainly curious about the difference between words that come from Snoop’s mind and words that come from Imus’ mind; why are words – from anyone’s mind – more or less acceptable to say?
Closer to home, Common visited our campus Monday. In his latest album “Be,” released in 2005, he uses “the n-word” 27 times, and “ho” twice. He also refers to police officers as Nazis, which seems just as racially motivated as “nappy.” Let us be honest – when you hear Nazi, you think “white guys.” And if Mr. Common did not mean to directly imply white people, then he made a terrible analogy – the Nazi Party was not exactly accepting of minorities.
In talking to the audience between songs Monday night, Mr. Common used the “n-word” at least twice; he said something to the effect of, “She can suck a n*****’s,” and then he grabbed his crotch. Such an action would have been completely unacceptable for Imus, but it was widely cheered by the audience.
ASCSU President Jason Green and Vice President Sadie Conrad ought to be ashamed of themselves for bringing this kind of speech to campus. And everyone who denounced Don Imus while praising the decision to bring Common to CSU ought to be ashamed as well, for their very clear hypocritical stance.
We need to have free speech. We need to allow people to say what they want and allow others to criticize. Free speech needs to be the standard for everyone. If some words and phrases are socially unacceptable, they ought to be unacceptable for everyone. And regardless of social constraints, we should always maintain the right to say what we wish.
Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.