This week I ask you: which is worse - to be a racist, or to be a jerk about it?
The media is all up in arms this week over Don Imus and his morning radio talk show, on which he called female Rutgers University basketball players, "nappy-headed hos." He has been dismissed for two weeks and some are calling for his termination from the airways. The NAACP has demanded an apology to the athletes, Al Sharpton has scolded him on his own show, and Jesse Jackson has led a protest against his program and called for an end to racism in our culture.
But is racism the real issue here?
I am not saying that the racist nature of his comments should be ignored; racist comments are wrong and I think it is important to point that out and ensure that our children understand the ignorance of basing opinions about people strictly on issues of race.
But in my opinion, Don Imus' comments have less to do with him being a racist than with him being a jerk, and with us letting him get away with it.
Why is it okay for someone - anyone - to go on the air and make rude, insulting, and downright mean statements about people and call it entertainment? People like Don Imus and Howard Stern and countless other grumedgeons who have branded their own version of shock-jock entertainment have created an empire and earned millions at the expense of common decency. But as long as we as a society encourage these bullies to clog our airways with insults and crude humor by listening to their programs, they will continue to take full advantage of their first amendment right to free speech.
Civil rights organizations are calling for Imus to be fired because of his racist comments. But sadly, Don Imus will probably only be fired when he stops making money for his broadcaster. When companies stop advertising because people stop listening because he uses his time on the air to insult our intelligence, he may be fired.
What I am trying to say is, the outrage is misplaced. It should be at ourselves, for letting people like him trash-talk us to a point where we consider profanity and rudeness to be an acceptable use of our airways.
So which is worse, to be a racist or to be a jerk about it? I honestly don't know, but I know better than to answer that question.