NCBL on Imus

news-ImusThe National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) joins the ranks of those taking Imus to task for his specious remarks about the Rutgers University Womens’ Basketball team. As a bar association established to vigorously advocate and agitate, for the liberation of oppressed people worldwide, particularly those of the African diaspora, we are appalled by this hate speech.

Yet sadly, in this post-9/11, Bush-Regime climate, where anyone who is considered an “other” is fair game, America is rife with a feeling that it is okay for one to act on his/her/their racism and misogyny. When the president’s own mother states that Katrina survivors are living better in the Houston Astrodome than they did in the projects from whence they came, is it any wonder that “shock jocks” believe they can blanket federally-regulated airwaves with vitriol?

Imus claims to have been joking and had no idea that he’d offended anyone. Even he can’t be that stupid. Joking would have been to make remarks about the relative merits of the team’s playing skills. Instead, a select group of team members were singled out, and decimated by his racist, misogynistic description of discrete, identifiable, stereotypical, physical attributes in derogatory terms (nappy-headed), which excluded non-Black members of the team. While the majority of the team members are Black, there are also white teammates, so to select hateful language that encompasses only the Black players, is not only offensive, but reeks of an intentional racial slur. To feign ignorance of his offensiveness and to deny a nexus between his ingrained attitudes and his words, is at best disingenuous, and at worst, hugely insulting to anyone with a brain larger than a pea!

Adding insult to injury, is his reference to these lovely, educated young sisters as “hos”. The old adage that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is NOT TRUE! Words can and do hurt. Recognition of their ability to hurt, vilify, even maim, is not only constitutionally ingrained, but legally actionable. It’s why there are First Amendment exceptions to free speech, for categories such as “fighting words”. That words can and do hurt is affirmed by one’s ability to collect punitive damages for harm done through slander, to a reputation. That words can and do hurt, is even criminally actionable, as hate speech.

We know that hate and racism are inculcated in the culture, and are as American as apple pie. We also know that we have a duty to speak out against it, whenever we see and hear it, especially when the display is very public, very vicious, and directed at innocent bystanders, whose only “crime” in this case, is apparently being Black and female.

It is NOT OKAY to use the public airwaves to intentionally and maliciously denigrate, and verbally assault, a group of people based on race and gender! Words can and do hurt! NCBL is pleased that at least for the foreseeable future, Imus will not have the public airwaves at his disposal to continue spewing his hate-filled speech.

African Women, White Men, Sex and Don Imus by Mark P. Fancher