The Wider Conversation

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

Don Imus’ reference to the Rutgers’ womens’ basketball team as "nappy-headed ho’s" has opened up a wider conversation (see here and here and here) about the liyrics of many rappers, and they’re frequent allusions to ho’s, and so on.  Why, for example, aren’t we condemning them?  Is this one of those situations where blacks can use racial epithets on blacks, but whites get fired/suspended for using the same words?

My feelings?  Yeah, I don’t like the misogyny in rap songs either.  (Truth be told, I’m generally no big fan of rap music, regardless of the lyrics).  But it is an different animal.  Imus was direct a racial slur (and an untrue slur) at specific named and identifiable human beings — real women with names, histories, families, and feelings.  Rappers refer generically to women as "hos" and "bitches".  The rapper’s language is ugly, but what Imus did was ugly and mean-spirited, because he didn’t merely use the offending no-no words; he directed them specifically at someone.

Should rappers who use such language be condemned?  I certainly think so.  And hopefully — in time — the free market will.  Imus, however, is — and God only knows why — a media power broker.  He’s a man who politicians and newsmakers seek out.  By virtue of that position, he’s necessarily more accountable.

So it ain’t the same thing.