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Two weeks later. The frenzied desire for satisfaction has been accomplished in the Don Imus affair.

Now what?

What did it all mean?

1. Timing is everything. If Imus had uttered the same infamous phrase one week later, it is likely that the forces that combined to bring about his public destruction would have been otherwise occupied. But Imus stumbled into a slow news cycle. America's powerful opinion-making and public-policy setting media elite were bored. Taking down Imus seemed a worthy and appealing thing to do at the moment. In the aftermath of the VA Tech massacre, Imus and his radio fiefdom seems much less consequential. But it matters little that the urgency of mid-April seems oddly dated and irrelevant; the deed is done. We are on to the next cause celebre with no remorse or regret.

2. The surreality of it all grows increasingly pungent with the passage of time. Eugene Robinson observed early on (April 10): "I can accept that Imus doesn't believe he is racist, but "nappy-headed hos" had to come from somewhere" (his full column from the Washington Post here).

Where did it come from? From some dark chamber in the black heart of Don Imus? This awful line of argument misses an obvious point made clumsily by Imus and others.

From where did the ugly remark emanate? The "nappy-headed hos" comment was a phrase borrowed from African American life, which had transmigrated from hip-hop culture to mainstream American pop culture. Imus, who makes his living synthesizing and exaggerating and lampooning American culture, threw the phrase out there with his usual recklessness. "Nappy-headed ho" was in Imus's repertoire because it had become as American as apple pie.

Unlike the atomic-bomb of contemporary speech, the n-word, "nappy-headed hos" originated with black America. And the argument is not merely that African Americans say "nappy" and "ho." Some incompetent Imus defenders conflated the import of the "n-word" and "nappy" and "ho" and proceeded to package them together as somehow comparable. True, for various reasons, individuals in the African American community have co-opted the derogatory n-word (used by whites to convey disrespect for blacks) for their own internal use; notwithstanding, the n-word remains the most potent vehicle to deliver egregious insult to black America.

The Salient Point: the difference is that "nappy" and "ho" are words still relatively unfamiliar to white America. In fact, they are words introduced to pop culture by black America. Even as Imus repeated the "slur," one had the sense that he really didn't quite understand what the words meant.

An anecdotal aside: Imus may be the first white person I ever heard utter "nappy."

Back to the Real Point: Castigating Don Imus for carelessly employing "nappy-headed ho" is tantamount to you spanking your children for picking up curse words that you regularly toss around at home.

Even now, we as a community are still wrestling with the meaning of the phrase. I have heard more than one random person take offense that Imus called the Rutgers players "whores." By that they mean prostitute. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of "ho." No fair reading of the incident leads to the conclusion that Imus meant to insinuate that the ladies in question accepted money for sex. "Ho" is a term of disparagement and degradation applied generically to women. While men are sometimes called "whores" in conversation, they are never called "hos." "Whores" and "hos," at least in this context, are completely different words conveying completely different ideas.

That doesn't get Imus off the hook--but it is a good place to segue into the fundamental hypocrisy and inconsistency of the disparate cultural forces that came together to bring him down.

Next time on Part II:

3. Keeping it Surreal. I will consider the tsunami of hypocrisy from all sides.

4. Imus picked the wrong friends. The conservative movement in American politics houses the true defenders of free speech. Imus's liberal buddies ran for cover in the face of politically protected opposition.

5. Why Imus's apology was cowardly, insincere and foolish. And, in a related matter, why I have not listened to Don Imus for ten years.

More to come...
Category: Race in America
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The hypocrisy?

The double standard?

The juxtaposition of the Duke athletes emerging from thirteen months of hell against the "scarred for life" Rutgers basketball players?

Will the Imus affair have a chilling effect on speech in the public square?

No comment.