PAS discusses racial issues

Amadeus Smith

Last night in an open panel discussion, professors in the Department of Pan-African Studies discussed Don Imus’ statement and the misinterpretation of language that may have caused it.

“It’s a reflection of the times,” said Chris Williams, Pan-African Studies associate professor. “Things haven’t changed as much as we think.”

Williams said Imus’ “nappy-headed hos” statement has been linked to hip-hop music and that although the black community should take some responsibility for the statement, it doesn’t “give him the green light to say it.”

Tim Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, asked the group why Imus felt so comfortable with the word.

“White folks did not create the words ‘nappy-headed ho,'” Moore said.

He explained that the words and their meanings were developed by black people and that white people, such as Imus, have internalized the words along with the meanings.

But Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor of Pan-African Studies, said the white population has always been comfortable with using words like the n-word. White people have even used the words to gain financial means and to make the black population believe the n-word is appropriate to describe African-Americans.

“America has called us (n-word) so much, we think it’s our name,” Okantah said.

He said he believes Imus did the black population a service by bringing the inappropriate use of such words out in the open.

Chris McVay, professor of English and Pan-African Studies, said society is at a point where the negative meaning behind the word as well as the origins of the word have been lost.

McVay said black and white students at Firestone High School in Akron say the n-word constantly and the teachers don’t react.

This, she said, was a result of not having enough focus on African-American and African culture in the educational system.

Okantah said the educational system purposefully presents an education which will manipulate a black student’s perspective.

“Once you control a man’s thinking,” he said, “you don’t have to worry about his actions.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Amadeus Smith at [email protected].