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What Don Imus And Others Should Understand
By Jonathan D Richardson
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Don Imus created quite a stir with his comments about the women of Rutger's University. What is funny? What's Not? Here is a story.
What Don Imus and Others Should Understand:
Don Imus and his comments of “Nappy headed ho’s” directed towards the Rutgers women’s basketball players, has ignited a firestorm. Many African-Americans find his comments highly offensive and worthy of his termination. Many European-Americans however, while finding his comments racially insensitive and offensive, seem to view it as someone who (in attempting to be funny) crossed the line; But should he be fired?
There are those who feel that our society has become too sensitive towards words intended as jokes. Is every joke said by European-Americans going to be scrutinized? Can anyone take a joke?
Please find (below) an excerpt: Can We Take A Joke?(It Depends) from a book entitled, The Complicated Life Of The African-American Man(What’s on his mind) © 2006 Available at: www.nowitsdonepublish.com or www.amazon.com This excerpt (as well as other topics covered in this thought provoking book) will give the reader a better understanding and feel for the African-American perspective.
To Get Insight, Is To Get Information;
To Truly Be Informed, One Must Truly Listen;
If One Is Inclined To Listen, One Is Destined To Learn
The Complicated Life...
Can We Take A Joke? (It Depends)
A statement reads, “Laugh and the whole world will
laugh with you.” Not everyone wants to laugh at what
some may deem funny.
An African-American golfer won a prestigious golf
tournament. The tradition of this tournament was to allow
the winner to choose the meal for the following year’s
tournament dinner. A white golfer was asked what advice
he would give to the African-American champion concerning
the choosing of the meal for the dinner. The white
golfer said something along the lines of, “Just tell him
not to serve chicken and watermelon and things will be
okay.” An uproar ensued from the African-American community.
A Samoan-American football player was asked what
was the best way to slow down his African-American
teammate (who was the team’s running back). The Samoan-
American said something like, “Just fill him up with
chicken and watermelon.” The community outcry was not
nearly as loud as when the white gentleman made his comments.
European-Americans often ask why words coming
from one group of people are not perceived as offensive,
but as soon as a white person says them, there is an uproar.
I believe the answer to this inquiry is multi-layered
The first element that we find is the fact that a culture
more readily accepts jokes about its culture from
someone of the same culture. We see African-American
comedians making jokes about African-American culture.
Asian-Americans about Asian-American culture, Hispanics
about Hispanics, Italians about Italians, Polish about
Polish, Native Americans about Native Americans and so
on. When people see that you can identify with them
through your cultural commonality, it is easier to laugh,
knowing there is a common thread.
When dealing with a joke coming from someone
other than one’s own race, another dynamic comes into
play on whether or not the joke is deemed offensive or
not. In the case of the Samoan-American football player
making the joke about his African-American teammate, I
believe that the African-American community did not get
extremely outraged because of two points: one, cross-cultural
commonality and, two, cross-cultural respect.
When an African-American looks at another minority
in America, we often see a familiar historical story.
We see Hispanic neighborhoods that look a lot like our
neighborhoods. We see Samoan families closely bonded
to ensure all their shelter, food and clothing needs are met.
We find that the lower paying jobs that we have been relegated
to down through the years are often co-worked by
others of Mexican, Samoan, Hawaiian, Indian, and Asian
Through working together and living close to one
another, we often develop a mutual respect for one
another’s culture. So when the Samoan-American makes
a joke about an African-American, the feeling of being
respected as a culture and as a man allows us to see the
joke as simply that, a joke.
European America, on the other hand, has not shown
a lot of respect (historically) to the African-American culture.
The very game that the European-American and the
African-American were playing (golf) has been exclusionary
and restricted. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, there were
tournaments that blacks were not allowed to play in. Country
clubs have a notorious reputation for not allowing
minorities to be members (to this day).
In a broader aspect, White America has not shown
enough respect to African-Americans and our culture, for
us to feel that a joke told by someone of European descent
is not coming from a place of disrespect and ridicule.
For years, America has been making fun of African-
Americans as these lazy, shuffling, big lipped, watermelon
eating, step-n-fetch-it men and Aunt Jamima, big hipped,
big lipped, scarf around the head, mammy women. They
portrayed us as such in books, on stage and on television,
even going as far as putting on blackface and parading
around a stage.
Even though these extreme examples are no longer
accepted today as appropriate, America still has no problem
portraying African-Americans disparagingly. America
has never truly shown respect towards the African-American
Let’s put it this way. Say you were adopted when
you were two years old. Your adoptive father always told
you that you were ugly, fat, bad smelling and useless. You
heard this all the way through your childhood and teen
years. Finally, you grow up and move out. Years later,
your adoptive father invites you and some of your friends
over for dinner. He proceeds to tell jokes about your looks
and your weight. Do you think you’d be laughing?
Since the firing of Don Imus by CBS, there is now an outcry from the mainstream media and others about Rap music and how some of it’s lyrics are demeaning and disrespectful of black women. They (the media) contend that Black America has not pursued and condemned some of these rappers the same way it has pursued and condemned Don Imus.
Taking into consideration some of the elements written about in the excerpt above (Can we take a joke?), we find that the cut is a little deeper when it comes from a group which has not historically respected African-Americans. Furthermore, African-Americans have been voicing their concern about some of the sexist and demeaning rap lyrics for many years. It seems however that as long as it is black on black, the mainstream media and the larger society does not care much.
Why do we hear the outcry from the media and others now?
There was an African-American man who saw the need for a television channel which catered to the under served African-American demographic(Mr. Robert Johnson-Founder of Black Entertainment Television a.k.a: BET). He built the brand by catering to the African-American on many different levels. While BET showed entertaining fare such as Video Soul and Midnight Grooves, there was also other programming offered that catered to the Spiritual, Social, Economic and Intellectual needs of the African-American consumer.
After many years at the helm, Mr. Johnson decided to sell BET. After BET was sold to a company NOT owned by an African-American, many of the programs that appealed to the African-American’s Spiritual, Intellectual, Social and Economic desires began to disappear. Nightly News, Tavis Smiley, Teen Summit and others, began to be replaced by music videos and comedy shows.
So they take the Spiritual, Intellectual, Economic and Social properties which promote the health and wholeness of the African-American off the air, and replace it with programming which promotes not only dancing and laughing, but also undergirds sexist and demeaning language and images heard and shown in some of the videos that have become an embe dded staple of the programming offered.
If you cater to such a flesh driven level of consumer desire and show that financial gain is obtained though such (as we see being catered to as well to European-Americans through such offerings as the Girls Gone Wild videos), how do you condemn the African-American community for not speaking out loudly enough against the very things you put on their plate to consume?
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