Don Imus Situation: An Open Letter to Jim Reith

Dear Jim,

I listened carefully to your show on Monday April 9 at about 5:25 p.m. Your conversation turned to radio shock jock Don Imus and comments he made about the Rutgers woman’s basketball team, what I heard was disgusting. Mr. Reith, you are usually a standup guy who takes no prisoners when it comes to rights of the unborn and standing up against racism however, on the Imus situation you missed the boat.

You stated that the real problem with Don Imus’ statement was that he mentioned, “nappy headed” and that was the point of contention. Jim, you were wrong. This is about more than simply using the term “nappy-headed.”

During your radio talk show discussion you mentioned use of the word ho’ as appropriate these days because it’s used often by Rappers. In addition you implied that if an African-American broadcaster had made comments similar to Imus there would be no controversy. With all due respect to your self-congratulatory genius Mr. Reith you were wrong. I dare you to walk up to an African-American woman and call her a Ho’ if you deem it so appropriate for common usage.

My 70-plus-year-old mother,40- and 52-year-old sisters would resort to violence if they were called these names by anyone black, white, or green with one eye and antennae. So would most black women worth their weight in salt unless they were in some MTV video wearing a Lil’ Kim-inspired frock.

As some have asked – is there a double standard? Don Imus pointed out, “that phrase originated in the black community… I may be a white man, but I know that these young women and young black women all through that society are demeaned and degraded by their own black men and that they are called that name.”

But just because “fiddy-cent” and other rappers trash black women doesn’t make it appropriate for radio and television airwaves by media personalities employed by NBC (MSNBC) and CBS Radio.

Oprah Winfrey incurred the wrath of gangsta rappers, who called her an “Oreo” and said she was “catering to white women” because she’s refused to allow them to appear on her show due to the content of their caricatures. Or as it’s happened too many times as black college graduates endure the, “You sound like a white person” charge from growing numbers of under-educated black youth.

A source of heated discussions within the black community revolves around race as some African-Americans use words to address each other once reserved for bigoted Klansmen wearing pointy white-sheeted hoods. When whites use these terms we cannot turn around and wag a finger if we in the black community are engaged in that same behavior. The double-standard has to end.

As a 49-year-old college educated black man, am I or are my peers defined by some kid with his pants hangin’ halfway down his legs? Or some SONY/EMI produced lyric with a parental warning? America’s embrace of the lowest common denominator of urban culture has reinforced stereotypes that blacks have worked years to destroy.

Don Imus has pushed the envelope for years and as a person who’s watched his MSNBC show on many occasions I’ve listened as he’s made nasty comments about black people and black culture.

Imus or his cast have called Colin Powell a “weasel,” on Hillary Clinton meeting with black people in Alabama she’ll be “wearing corn rows and a gold tooth,” PBS’s newsperson Gwen Ifil was called “a cleaning woman;” another African-American was called “a quota hire” and the New York Knicks were reduced to a bunch of “chest-thumping pimps.”

What stunned me, Mr. Reith, is the callous nature in which you handled the issue and your inability to see how allowing the use of even the word “ho” to describe someone is as inappropriate as Don Imus adding “nappy-headed” to the term.