Thursday, April 12, 2007


About Don Imus

Earlier this week there were bits of news about a remark Don Imus had made regarding the members of a girls' basketball team at Rutgers University. He referred to the players as "nappy-headed hos." The news snippets included the statement that this phrase was insulting to the girls of the team, as it was both a racial and a sexist insult. I couldn't understand why.

After a day or two I saw a television program in which the basketball girls had a news conference. It turned out that all but two of them are black; that is, Americans of African descent. I decided that perhaps "nappy" refers to the hair that most black people have: thick, black, with tight curls. O.K., I guess that counts as a racial slur, although not particularly insulting, just a bit disrespecting.

Two days later I learned that Mr. Imus had offered the excuse that his term was no different than the term a black male rapper would use to describe a black female. Then I figured out the meaning of "ho" and why it is an insult. Black rappers, at least some of them, use a dialect taken from the deep South that their great-grandparents learned as slaves. In this deep Southern dialect, the sound represented by the letter "R" is omitted unless it begins a syllable. Thus, "ho" is deep Southern pronunciation of "whore."

OK, that cleared up the mystery for me. I still don't understand why Mr. Imus tried to imitate the pronunciation of black rappers, or why he thought that he, a white male, could get away with imitating their speech. It reminds me a little of old-time minstrel shows in which white actors would cover their faces and hands with black coloring and go on stage and use a bogus form of the deep Southern dialect to portray black people as silly and ignorant.

Mr. Imus has managed to insult both women and black people. His act is just as insulting and shameful as the minstrel show skits. He should have his mouth washed out with soap, be given a severe whipping, and be sent to bed without his supper. He should also be kept away from a microphone until he learns better manners and expunges any remaining feeling he may have of white male superiority.

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