Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Know You're Tired Of This, But...

Okay, I wouldn't read any more commentary about Don Imus either. But Ben asked me to say something, and it has been bouncing around in my mind, even though I think it's useless (for anyone but me) to say any more.

It is not African-American women who should be angry at Don Imus, but African-American men. If you think of it as an SNL skit, where some clueless honkey is trying to impress his black friends by talking about "bitches an' ho's," you'll get the tone right about Imus's comments on his show. The Assistant Village Idiot notes: white people never talk like this. Everyone knows this but no one's saying it. White people might say any number of other bigoted or ignorant things, but not this particular thing. None of them calls black women "ho's," unless they are pretending to talk black. If you read the transcript and know Imus, the tone is clearly in mockery of how (some) African-American men talk about women. The stereotype was not of women, but of how black men talk about them.

Seeing that it is a very limited number of black men who actually talk this way, it is they who should be torqued off at the stereotype of themselves. Al Sharpton brought in his 8 year-old daughter when he had Imus on the show and asked "Would you call her a ho'?" No, Al, he wouldn't. Now think for a minute who might, about ten years from now, call her that behind her back and yours?

If you imagine it as Steve Martin as a flashy "wild and crazy guy" coming up to Eddie Murphy who is in a banker's suit, and trying to ingratiate himself by talking this way, it actually would be pretty funny. Murphy could do a lot with just his eyebrows and a weak smile on that one.

But if you're going to be edgy in your humor, you've got to get it just right. I can tell what humor Imus was going for with his comment, but he didn't pull it off. And when they just die like that, you're going to be all alone.


Woody said...

No one better call Anna Nicole Smith a ho'.

Ben Wyman said...

Exactly what I was looking for.