Don Imus is gone! Like a gladiator kneeling in the coliseum before a foe that just defeated him, Imus experienced the terror of waiting for the thumbs up or thumbs down decision of the crowd. This time the decision for the seasoned media warrior was professional death. He was stripped of his cameras first by MSNBC and then of his microphone by CBS. I am glad that his microphone was muted because of the venom and vitriol that he spread on a daily basis.
I would like to believe that a major blow was dealt against racism and sexism in America by the swift punitive actions taken last week. Bruce Gordon’s comment last week --- that he hoped that the Imus release would mark the beginning of a new era in media --- was refreshing to hear. As most people know, Gordon was the former head of the NAACP and is currently a board member of CBS. Gordon has undoubtedly noticed, as I have, that civility and respect have been absent from many popular news and entertainment programs for years. Gordon’s comments sounded like the seasoned words of a black statesman who has risen above the hype and media mayhem to a long term perspective.
Higher ethical standards in broadcasting must originate with the media owners and producers like CBS and MSNBC. Shock jocks, comedians, recording artists, and best selling authors will always push the envelope of personal expression in the name of art. These free spirits will rightfully argue incessantly that their freedom of speech must be protected at all costs. Both media consumers and media conglomerates should ask themselves what kind of world do they want to help create? Barack Obama and others have opined that the Hip Hop Culture is doing more damage to the self image of black men and women than Imus could ever do. While others have declared that the breakdown of families and neighborhoods in black communities is a much greater threat to black young people than the words of any radio personality in the world.
The black community has to initiate a new assertive strategy that does more than simply fight negative media contamination. The black media community has to promote the discovery and release of fresh voices into the marketplace of ideas. With this concept of raising the moral bar in mind, it’s hard to understand why Rev. Jesse Jackson (who called for Imus’ head) also sought to mute the voice of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s planned presidential debate partnership with the FOXNews Channel.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.