04/13/07 — Next on list: Rap — Al Sharpton has pledged to fight all sorts of slurs

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Next on list: Rap — Al Sharpton has pledged to fight all sorts of slurs

It is not easy to defend what newly fired shock jock Don Imus did last week. After all, his comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team were terrible — no matter what context you cast them in.

Whether or not he should have been fired for those comments is a question that will probably prompt some discussion for a while.

But what should unsettle anyone who watches this sort of banter and who believes in freedom and responsibility, both on the airwaves and in a personal life, are the hypocritical expressions of outrage over Imus’s ill-conceived “humor.”

Al Sharpton has said that now he will head out to battle all sorts of slurs against any group — and he has specifically mentioned the music industry as one of his targets.

Sharpton on a crusade against the multi-billion dollar rap and hip hop industries? Don’t hold your breath on that one.

And if he doesn’t keep that promise to protest and put out of business any group that refers to women of any race in a derogatory manner, or who glorifies rape, murder or drug use, we will know that this outrage was nothing more than a chance to suck up the spotlight.

And Sharpton will also have to police himself as well. He has several less-than-honorable statements against other races and ethnic groups in his past.

The problem with outrage over any statement made in a free society that does not regulate private individuals’ self-expression is that it is very easy to point fingers and call names when you are not the one who made the statement — at least not where it could be heard by others. And that, perhaps, is why Imus’s transgression is so heinous. He had the ears of millions when he made his remark — and having those “ears” is a responsibility.

Imus is a professional who should have known better. He deserved to have a severe consequence for saying what he did. Whether he deserves to lose a career because of his comments is a question for the ages.

He claims he made the comments as part of a humor routine and not as a diatribe against a race. And he is right about one thing, there are plenty of people who do make statements with hatred and prejudice in their hearts who are never called on the carpet for what they say.

If because of this incident Al Sharpton leads a crusade that cleans up rap music and other expressions that are vile and demeaning — and he never makes another himself — well then justice will be served.

Otherwise, all we have is pandering to the cameras. And that is a violation that is reprehensible, too.

Published in Editorials on April 13, 2007 11:30 AM