Don Imus, I salute you

Shelley Blundell

It is not often that people across the nation rally around the words of a talk show host with such negativity. Put aside the Bill O’Reilly “haters” of the world, who literally cream their jeans every time the uber-conservative tells this week’s token liberal to “shut up.”

I’m talking about Don Imus.

Just in case you are not a fan of news media, let me clue you in: Last week, on his popular morning talk radio show, “Imus in the Morning,” Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as a bunch of “nappy-headed hos,” in reference to the girls being somewhat rough and tumble, tattooed and, well, mostly black.

Almost instantly, Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton left their expensive homes to protest Imus’ comments. What was intended as a funny, flip comment on Imus’s part, turned into yet another ugly racial incident for the radio talk show world, and Imus was quick to apologize — but not really.

Appearing on Sharpton’s syndicated show, Imus apologized for his comments, telling Sharpton they were meant to invoke laughter, not anger and feelings of righteous indignation from people of color. But when Sharpton told Imus his comments were “abominable,” Imus somewhat backpedaled and told Sharpton: “I can’t win with you people.”

Ah, Don Imus – you are my hero.

Let me follow this with a disclaimer: South Africa, my home country, was a country fraught with turmoil and extreme censorship during my upbringing, so when I moved to America, I was more than excited that freedom of speech wasn’t only guaranteed, it was written into the country’s supreme rule of law.

So imagine my surprise when I see First Amendment violations occurring across the U.S. media landscape on a weekly basis.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not supporting Imus’ comments. They were stupid and racist, but what do you expect from a drunk hillbilly?

Which leads me to my point – while I am a mere university newspaper columnist, and Imus is a largely respected talk show radio host (who is so famous, he’s even won scornful commentary from shock-jock Howard Stern), the First Amendment gives me the right to call him a drunk hillbilly. As much as it gives Imus the right to call the Rutgers women’s basketball team a bunch of nappy-headed hos.

Gives him the right, but does not make it right.

But that’s the point – the First Amendment gives Ku Klux Klan members the right to march down the street, proclaiming white supremacy over all. And it also gave Martin Luther King Jr. the right to tell the world that he had a dream of racial harmony.

I do not support bigotry in any form, but as a card-carrying journalist, I must support freedom of speech.

So instead of wishing Imus dead, feel sorry for him and his inability to see his own bigotry. But at the same time, support his right to be a drunk hillbilly.

Because our ability to call him that is what makes the First Amendment so special.

And if that still doesn’t convince you, consider this: How many people take to the street in protest when Dave Chappelle does the same thing?

Shelley Blundell is a history graduate, senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].