Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lesson to Learn from Imus

I'm not an Imus fan. I never got into the whole "shock-jock" genre and I don't recall ever listening to Imus' program a single time. For all I know he is a great humanitarian, giving time and money to important causes. For all I know he would give his last dime or even a kidney to someone he loves. He may vote for the most forward thinking, progressive candidates. He may be an avid recycling devotee. He may be, most of the time, the salt of the earth. I just don't know much about him. I'm willing to assume that he tries, more often than not (as most of us do) to be a good, contributing member of the human family. I'm also willing to bet that he falls short of his highest ideals. Again, we all do.

Because I know so little about Imus and because I'm willing to assume most sane people want and try to be decent, caring, well-intentioned folk, I have no reason to believe Imus is an exception. However...

It was highly insensitive for him to make a clearly racist and sexist insult against the Rutgers women's basketball team. The young women he insulted are scholars and athletes. They are preparing for careers and enriching themselves with the college experience. Some of them may become great leaders in our society. They are daughters and granddaughters and sisters and girlfriends and nieces. They deserve more respect and courtesy than Imus showed them.

To his credit, Imus apologized. To the credit of the networks, he has been held accountible. To the credit of the athletes he insulted, they responded with dignity and poise and grace.

What we can learn from this is that racism and sexism are hurtful. The hateful rhetoric that demeans and belittles others is wrong. Of course, once we really get that, we may then decide that homophobic attacks and insults are also wrong. Showing respect and courtesy to all people may not be in fashion these days, but maybe the Imus incident shows us that it should be. Maybe we will learn to be civil again. Wouldn't that be nice?

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