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Don Imus & The Chris Rock Rule
Friday, April 13, 2007

“Nappy Headed Hoes.” Call it the unnecessary comment heard round the nation, because that’s exactly what it was, unnecessary. When radio personality Don Imus let those words slip out of his mouth for reasons that amounted to nothing more than garnering a very cheap laugh he had to know there would be some backlash. The repercussions for Imus came quicker, and were harsher, than many expected as he was fired yesterday. Before his firing, however, pundits threw Hip-Hop fairly unceremoniously into their discussions about his comments, making it a sidebar to the story of a 66 year old man spouting epithets about a local women’s college basketball team. The fact of the matter is, no matter if you’re on the side that feels like involving Hip-Hop in this discussion or not, Imus broke the cardinal rule, the rule Chris Rock so poignantly pointed out during his 2004 act “Never Scared,” that a lot of girls are fine hearing degrading things like the word hoe as long as they feel “he ain't talkin bout me.”

Now before I get an in-box filled with hate mail let me explain. The Rutgers women’s basketball team is talented group of girls who I’m sure celebrated their Final Four appearance by hitting a bar or a nightclub, or at least having a house party. During that party rap music was most likely the soundtrack, it’s the soundtrack to most every college party. One of the songs that was probably heard at least once was Fat Joe’s “Make It Rain,” where he and Lil’ Wayne go back and forth talking about how they can “make it rain on these hoes.” That song is, of course, just an example, but the point is the team has partied to rappers calling women hoes for quite a while now. What makes that different from what Imus did? Chris Rock's “he ain't talkin bout me” rule. Imus was talking about them.

That being said, this incident could be used as an opportunity for us a community to address our lyrical content as I can’t help but wonder how the Rutgers women’s team will react the next time they’re at a party, or turn on the radio, and hear yet another song referring to women as hoes. Will they stay on the dance floor or will they leave and sit down somewhere? Will they crank the radio up because the beat is hot or will they change the station? The rule that women won’t get offended unless the hoe comment is directed towards them can change, and it can change now. This is a great starting point. If all the women, or at least the majority of them, stopped dancing and stood to the side whenever a song came on that referred to them as hoes the DJ’s would stop playing those songs and the problem would be solved. Most people don’t realize how powerful their opinions, or complete lack there of, can be.

Don Imus’s “nappy headed hoes” comment was ill thought out, if thought out at all. One of my friends feels all the fathers of the women on the Rutgers team should be able to punch Imus in the face if they ever see him on the street. While I’m not sure I’m for that kind of vigilante justice I do see how others might agree with the sentiment. The issue, however, just like with Michael Richards and his N-bomb, isn’t the comment, but rather the underlying feeling that created the comment. Imus has a past when it comes to being inappropriate, especially when it comes to race. His firing will only keep him off the air temporarily, though, and when he comes back he’ll still be Don Imus. His fans will love him, he’ll still do mountains of charity work that he’ll be able to hide behind, and the issue of why he said his “nappy headed hoes” comment will still go unaddressed.

Imus can go on all the talk shows, or at least all the ones that will have him, he wants, but the nation doesn’t need an apology. The Rutgers women’s team deserves one, a real one, and in addition to that apology what else needs to happen is that Imus needs to explain himself to his own fans since those are the people who are the most influenced by him. The majority of the country, and the world, doesn’t give a rat’s behind about Don Imus, but his fans do, which is why as soon as he comes back on the air, which you know will happen sooner rather than later because there are plenty of radio stations desperate for ratings, he should be prepared to talk about his comments, why he said them, how he feels about them now, and how he feels his fan base should react towards them. Until he’s ready to address those issues, however, he’s better off just keeping his mouth shut.

Side Note - Yes, that was me on New York's CW11 News last night talking about this very subject! Check out the clip online this week.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:43 AM  
  • At 10:05 AM, Blogger Mara Fraser said…

    As a woman, I can say I agree with the Chris Rock rule. It IS true that most women don't mind the word "Hoe" as long as it isn't, specifically, leveled at THEM. We also don't really mind calling ourselves "hoes" either, as long as it's seen as a joke or it's known it's all in fun. (I am a MySpace Hoe for instance.)
    But the truth of the matter is that no one will protest. Because that would then mean we'd have to stop using the word ourselves. Let's face it, that just won't ever happen. What we need to do is change the meaning behind the word in pop culture. I think that's already started to happen, or at least, in MY circle of friends it's already started to happen.

    Oh, and PS: I don't listen to rap anyway. ;-)

  • At 6:10 PM, Blogger Pedro said…

    Man, I honestly think your missing the point entirely on this one. If Imus thought women were hoes point blank then the Chris Rock rule applies. But the point here is that he called them "nappy headed hoes" and that implies specifically both racism and sexism which is much more messed up than mere misogyny.

    Don't get me wrong, it's about high time rappers and men in general in society started showing more respect to women. But the point here is that his comments implied that Black women are hoes, not just all women. That amounts to sexism but the underlying theme there is racism which is the reason its such a big deal.

    So Chris Rock wasn't speaking on this situation. I'm sure if you were to ask him he would very clearly say that no Black women will allow anyone to or listen to music which implies that a women is a ho because she is Black.

  • At 7:14 PM, Blogger Adam said…

    Mara, thanks for the comment. I truly hope someone protests, though.

    Pedro, Imus has done some really racially insensitive things in the past but this wasn't as bad as the majority of them. Nappy, unlike hoe, has been used in the past as a non-denigrating descriptive term. The Fugees debuted with "Nappy Heads" and we even have a group that calls themselves The Nappy Roots. You can look Nappy up in the dictionry, it's not a slang term, it's a real word and could even be used to describe the hair of half my family (Jewish). Was Imus using it in a negative way, yes, but the implied racism is really minimal in comparison to the "hoes" comment in my opinion. Nappy may have been a negative way to say black in his mind but the hoe label is far more damaging as it outright implies those women sleep around and have no self-respect for themselves. When I sat down I thought of it this way, if I had a black daughter, or sister, what would I have been more upset by, "nappy headed" or "hoe" and "hoe" won hands down.

    Imus wasn't saying they were hoes BECAUSE they were black, or that all black women were hoes, but rather that the team was full of black hoes, period (which musta made the white player feel very strange).

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