Seeing Don Imus for the Trees

Don Imus is not a racist. He’s a misogynist.

That’s my take on it, anyway. Mind you, I am not technically qualified to draw a bead on this latest weird white guy flare-up, being both white and a guy myself.

But I am also an amateur observer of politcal and cultural issues who thinks our nation’s still-raw wounds regarding issues of race sometimes makes us myopic.

For instance, on the 60 Minutes this past evening, flailing presidential candidate John McCain was asked about his waffling a few years ago on the issue of South Carolina’s drive to fly the confederate flag above its statehouse. The exchange went like this (paraphrased from the 60 Minutes transcript online):

“‘Let me bring up another issue that surrounded South Carolina in the year 2000. There was a political issue, a local issue about whether the Confederate flag should fly over the Capitol. You waffled on that,’ said correspondent Scott Pelley.

‘Yes. Worse than waffled,’ said McCain. Asked what he meant, McCain said, ‘Well, I said that it was strictly a state issue and clearly knowing that it wasn’t.’

‘That’s not what you believed in your heart?’ Pelley asks.


‘What did you believe in your heart?’ Pelley asked.

‘That it was a symbol to many of, a very offensive symbol to many, many Americans,’ McCain said.”

The problem: It should be offensive to many, many more Americans than it is, more Americans than to whom McCain was referring. It should be offensive to you if you’re an American, no matter how you hyphenate it. It’s not just a symbol of slavery. It is the symbol of the single biggest act of sedition that has ever been perpetrated upon the United States of America, the attempted secession of many states from that union.

And, as such, the notion of flying that symbol above any publicly-funded buildings or land should be prohibited without debate. As if its more usual connotation isn’t enough. But, unfortunately, it isn’t. And it’s not all there is. There should be no pride to be had, no celebration required, from a movement that did seek, literally, the end of the United States of America. We are at the moment in a bit of a scuffle with another group of folks who seek to achieve the very same thing.    

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. That’s how big I think it is. And when you narrow the question to the issue of how this affects a singular group of Americans, you deny that it should and does affect the rest of us. The confederate flag isn’t just “their” issue. It’s everyone’s.

I think the same hair-trigger impulse has forced Don Imus to answer for some charges while not having to answer for some in his comments that are at least equally disturbing. More than insulting African-Americans, what Imus said insults women. Specifically, he commented on their attractiveness. He implied that, because they were athletic and were ambitious in athletics, they were not attractive, and he furthered the notion that, to be worth anything, women should be attractive and should not be athletic and ambitious in athletics.

Think of it this way: Would Imus have made a similar statement about the Ohio State guys?

Certainly, race played a considerable role in Imus’ charming comments, and he probably should be attempting to apologize to that community—although it is an entirely futile exercise, because the physics of it is that once a celebrity type utters such a thing in public it is drawn on plexiglass and stapled to his forehead forever—he also needs to have his people book an appearance on The View.

His comments were not just harmful to African-Americans. They were harmful to women generally.

P.S. Where does Imus get off saying that anyone else in the world is “nappy-headed?”

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