STILL WAITING ON THAT POST-IMUS ‘DIALOGUE’ ABOUT RACE RELATIONS

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So, I guess we’re supposed to have a discussion now. Is that right?

Isn’t that the whole outcome of this Don Imus thing? I’ve been hearing for over a week now about how the I-Man’s remarks, as vile and pernicious as they were, will give us the opportunity to “dialogue,” about the racial divide that still exists in America. It’s the same thing that was supposed to happen after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992. It’s the same thing that was suppose to happen after the O.J. verdict in 1995.

As if we didn’t already know that racial divisions exist among us. As if I didn’t realize that if I enter certain neighborhoods every eye will be looking at me crooked because I’m white and I don’t belong there. As if I don’t automatically cross the street when two black men are coming the other way, even though they might just be heading to a Bible study.

So what do we talk about? You tell me that Imus is a racist, and I’ll counter with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Two-to-one, I win. Ah, but you bring up Imus’ sidekick, Bernie McGuirk and it’s a tied score.

So what do we talk about? Should we bring up the inequity of what happened last week, when someone who made a stupid, brutish remark had to pay for it with his job? Should we bring up the fact that Sharpton and Jackson are nothing more than race-baiters and do more to separate us than bring us together? Should we ignore the fact that Imus apologized repeatedly and profusely and was still let go from MSNBC and fired from CBS Radio?

Surely, you must agree that the punishment did not fit the crime and Imus is now a sympathetic figure. But you probably don’t want to hear that. Some dialogue, heh?

How about this? Sharpton and Jackson have the title of reverend in front of their names. I don’t know where they got their collar or at what church they minister, but don’t most men of the cloth practice forgiveness as part of the tenets of the faith? What forgiveness was Imus extended? Even the people who were hurt by his racist remarks have publicly accepted his apology.

Why not Sharpton and Jackson? I’ll tell you why. They don’t know when they’ll get an opportunity like this again. They will milk this for all it’s worth. They will appear on talk shows, and Imus will be their poster boy for racial injustice. Am I alone in thinking that their actions are more repulsive and repugnant that the I-Man’s comment?

Comment. Singular. Imus made one statement. It was a vain attempt at humor. Now he is painted as a racist by the likes of Sharpton and Jackson. Three words, actually. And I won’t repeat them. This from a guy who has been on the air for over 30 years doing his four-hour talk show. That’s 20 hours a week. Over 1,000 hours a year.

The Imus In The Morning Show is parody and satire. When McGuirk imitates New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin or African-American poet Maya Angelou, it’s funny. It’s as funny as any skit on Saturday Night Live that pokes fun at a particular segment of our population.

How about Tracy Morgan’s “Ghetto Wedding” skit? Nobody is offended by that? Or Dave Chappelle’s “White Pixie” skit, wherein he encourages a white man not to be insecure over a well-endowed black man. No outrage? Certainly not from Sharpton and Jackson because Morgan and Chappelle are, dare I say it, black.

The Imus program ran in a setting where the kind of comment he made is standard fare. Was it in poor taste? Absolutely. But we’re not talking about National Public Radio here, we’re talking about the Imus In the Morning Show. We’re talking about a morning program where nothing is sacred. They poke fun at the Catholic Church. They poke fun at evangelicals. They skewer illegal immigrants. Politicians. One of the funniest segments was blues singer Blind Mississippi White Boy Pig’s Feet Dupruis.

Imus may survive. He may find a home somewhere in satellite radioland. But one thing is for sure, his remarks have opened up a dialogue. But somehow I don’t think we’re all any closer than we were before. In fact, Sharpton and Jackson might have driven us farther apart.