Maybe. Just maybe, the Don Imus firestorm will finally provide some clarity as to how our culture treats black women.,p> On yesterday's "Meet the Press," host Tim Russert mentioned how he and other journalists appeared on the Imus program for years knowing it used over-the-top humor. He also noted that rapper Snoop Dogg degrades women and yet is hired by Chrysler to sell its cars. In response, PBS's Gwen Ifill, herself an early victim of Mr. Imus's degrading rants, was refreshingly candid. "So we're all hypocrites, Tim. Let's see what we can do to get past it."
If Mr. Imus deserved to be fired, then some scrutiny also needs to be applied to the $10 billion hip-hop music industry. Many rap songs have positive messages, but record labels still put out "gangsta rap" songs that frankly would have no recognizable lyrics at all if words as bad as or worse than what Mr. Imus used were excised.
The pollution also affects television. Last year, as Mr. Russert noted, MTV aired a cartoon that featured a Snoop Dogg-like character who is accompanied by two bikini-clad black women wearing dog collars and leashes--just as Mr. Dogg himself did at the 2003 Video Music Awards. In the cartoon, the rapper orders one of the women to "hand me my latte" as she crouches on all fours and scratches herself like a canine. It ends with a scatological scene too vile to describe here.
But many in the rap business continue to defend such filth. "Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mind-set that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship," rap mogul Russell Simmons said in a statement Friday. Busdriver, a West Coast rapper, claimed that " 'bitch' or 'ho' can be terms of endearment." Snoop Dogg himself explained that gangsta rappers "are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--. . . . These are two separate things."
But some rap artists are now finally urging restraint. Luther Campbell, the Miami rapper who pioneered the use of nasty rhymes as a member of 2 Live Crew in the 1980s, concedes that rap "sometimes goes too far and we need to do a better job of filtering to make sure the music is not offensive."
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