After Don Imus claimed that rappers "routinely defame and demean black women" and slander them "worse than I ever did," it seems as if everybody and their uncle weighed in on how much rap music is to blame for creating an environment where terms like "nappy-headed hos" could be bandied about so loosely. Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock argued that the anger at the I-man is misplaced, and asked whether it should instead be focused on "the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?" Likewise, Michelle Malkin wondered, "What kind of relief do we get from this deadening, coarsening, dehumanizing barrage from young, black rappers and their music industry enablers who have helped turn America into Tourette's Nation?"
Rap music mogul Russell Simmons also joined the fray, as he released a statement explaining that "Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship." Snoop Dogg had similar feelings, saying that rappers don't deserve to be compared to Imus because they "ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha----as say we in the same league as him." Salon's own Joan Walsh took yet another tack when she wrote that "hundreds of years of the racist misogyny of white men like Imus and [Imus producer Bernard] McGuirk are far more responsible for misogynistic rap music than the reverse."
Even with all these opinions out there, Janetta Rose Barras added an interesting new twist to the subject in last Sunday's Washington Post. In an article largely about the hypocrisy of those criticizing Imus, Barras pointed out that "the public aids and abets the process" by which thug culture enters the mainstream -- a process that makes a lot of people rich, as "each year rap/hip-hop brings more than $4 billion to the music industry." Barras makes an important point: Imus and gangsta rappers couldn't sell that misogynistic and racist language and imagery if the rest of us weren't buying it.
-- David Marchese