Don Imus And The Rutgers Girls

by Uzoma Nduka


For over three decades, he has been on the public airwaves. He commands great respect among his peers. He reaches out to the younger minds as well. His sphere of influence spreads across all entertainment media and his own show, shown on both the radio and television. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have been hosted by him. He has elite Washingtonians as guests. This man is a commentator whose choice of words has been severally been described as both racists and sexist. He has done good things to people with situations. But his most recent comments spurred huge anger and disgust amongst cross-section of the American populace. Many citizens, including “his own”, disowned and distanced away from him and his thoughts which in the beholders’ eyes was cast in jocular mood. This man is Don Imus.


Rutgers is a college in the state of New Jersey. It’s got a female basketball team. Not up until the recent development, they were not really popular. Put otherwise, they were not in the public glare or nationally recognized. In the recently concluded N.C.A.A., the Rutgers girls struggled to play a run-off. And they did real well but not good enough to clinch the trophy. The Rutgers girls, most of them are A-students and highly disciplined, exhibited great sense of teamwork and togetherness throughout the N.C.A.A. competition. However, their joy was cut short by Don Imus.


Don Imus during his show, “Imus This Morning”, aired on NBC/MSNBC with his producer called the Rutgers basketball team “nappy headed hoes”. This slang expression Imus claimed was meant not to be derogatory but jocularly, not to be degrading but funny and not to be racial but ludicrous. But a lot of people, black Americans, some whites, women and men alike, young men and women, boys and girls took offence at Imus’s strike on these young energetic, athletic, intelligent, promising Rutgers team. Many called it racist and sexist. Others saw it as being misogynistic. In all, a few voices rose in defense of Don Imus saying that Imus wasn’t the “originator”, “inventor”, “creator” of the above expression. But this defense didn’t sell. It didn’t sell not only because of the premise being used by defenders of Imus but because it was coming as a black versus white issue.

Some schools of thought have argued that the veteran shock jockey, Don Imus, given his position and the sensitivity of it should have looked for a different phrase to use. By calling the Rutgers basketball team made up of black and white girls “nappy headed hoes” shows a large degree of disrespect not only for these girls but for the entire womanhood. The argument being that, first, these girls are not whores but have mores. Secondly, African-American women, to be specific, and the generality of womanhood cannot be rubbished not by Imus’s of the world.

Again, this comment by Don Imus goes a long way to unearthing how 21st century America has degenerated. It unearths racial differences and stratifications imbedded and buried by unreal show of camaraderie and hospitality by both blacks and whites. It further elucidates the fact that white supremacy and dominance still exists in America. No matter how hard you try to disguise the masquerade it still shrills. And the fact still is that lip service has been paid and continues to be paid to racial slants charted against the blacks. This blows out in the number of black men and women in prisons today. It, also, is seen in the injustice meted against people of color who have no means of defending themselves in the court of justice.

To add, morals have lost its place in the American society and culture. For a man of Imus age to call “his daughters” prostitutes is unconscionable. It is inexplicable. It is morally wrong and indefensible. The saying goes: one good turn deserves another. So if Imus does not respect his kids how will he feel if his kids return disrespect to him? From my own ocular proof, the word “respect” is not even part of American culture and lexicon. Most American children are disrespectful. But this is not to say that the Rutgers girls are.

Voices have risen to say that certain form of disrespect comes from the pop music and culture. Don Imus even referenced the fact that he’s not the first person to use the word “hoes”. He went further to say that African-Americans use it amongst themselves. And equally that hip-hop artists use worst words than “hoes”. This Imus’s defense, though true, is shallow and shocking. He shouldn’t have cited it at all in his “I’m sorry statement”. To some people, especially those sentimentally attached to the issue, it was uncalled for and does not justify why Imus himself should employ such indecent words on the Rutgers girls. And it does not replicate the remorse Imus is trying to convey.

Imus holds a position of respect and he disrespected that position. Imus uses public airwaves and the hip-hop artists don’t. Imus drums up political bigwigs to his show and the hip-hop industry doesn’t. Imus has big time advertisers on his show but the rap musicians don’t. Don Imus holds a position of trust and he misused that trust. And the question still remains: where do we go from here?


Both Reverend Sharpton and Jackson called for the firing of Don Imus because of his racial insensitive remarks on the Rutgers girls. This drew the ire of some television commentators and radio talk show hosts in America. They culled up the past of the two reverends. They insinuated that the two reverends have used racial words in the past. They began inciting blacks against blacks by asking the question: Are these two reverends African-American leaders and speakers? But some of this anger came because of the individuals and personalities pushing for the firing of Don Imus and not because of the latter’s remarks. It now became a political issue. Some of these radio talk show hosts saw it as a liberal attempt to pull the plug on a conservative commentator. They left the kernel of the matter and began pursuing shadows. The issue was sidelined because of the political points some conservative thought they will achieve from it. This is to tell you how American society has fallen. Are the mighty really falling?

A lot of individuals and organizations followed the Sharpton-Jackson call. They took to the streets. They wailed on the airwaves. They commented on cable networks. They spoke and did so in good chunk of unison.

But still, some other people didn’t see Imus’s offense as a “firable” one. Be that as it may, the decision was for Imus employers to take.


After, Procter and Gamble, Staples, Sprint, General Motors and other advertisers that brought not less than $8 millioninto CBS on “Imus This Morning” show yanked off their advertisement, Imus’s employers had to think fast. Imus first got a two-week suspension and on the day he was to meet with the Rutgers girls, Don Imus was fired by CBS.

To my mind, the Sharpton-Jackson led protest did not lead to Imus’s exit from the airwaves. The Rutgers girls’ reaction did not lead to Imus’s firing. But it was motivated by insiders’ action and reaction. Imus’s colleague rose to stop his rude and racist attitude and comments which as they purported has a trail. The staff of CBS/MSNBC carried placates against one of theirs. They rose in defense of the Rutgers basketball team, themselves and the entire womanhood. Though Imus records show his magnanimity to humanity the same records throw him in a bad light. And record was broken here by discarding the notion that darkness cannot takeover light.


This Don Imus case serves as a wake-up call. It is a wake up call to all persons in positions of trust to be mindful of the language they use. So many cable network and radio talk show hosts trade with and boast of name callings. They use it on politicians and public servants a great deal. Don Imus’s issue brings to the fore the indecency in the use of language by some big time anchormen and women on American airwaves and cable networks.

It also has beamed so much on the intolerance and hatred of Americans themselves. More so, partisanship should not be introduced in every little thing that takes place in America. This taking of political sides continues to deepen the divide in American society today. Issues should be tackled as is. No coloration-ethnic, political, of any sort should be introduced when issues like Don Imus’s crops its ugly head in America. It does not portray a credible and sensible image of this great country. Enough is enough. America needs to wake up to the issues of the day and stop chasing after shadows.

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