Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- If the truth sets you free, we're not quite born again yet.

After more than a week of pandering, pontificating and supplicating in the wake of Don Imus' firing by CBS and MSNBC, we've shed little light on the gleaming nugget buried deep within the rubble of rhetoric.

As is often the case, the truth was in front of our noses, captured in a single image: Imus and Al Sharpton facing off in Sharpton's radio studio the day the civil rights wrangler gelded the cowboy.

Both perched before mics and wearing headphones, they were twins of a different color, mirror images reflecting a co-dependency of provocation and outrage.

Both are products of American emotions that are real and often legitimate. The same culture that created Sharpton also created Imus.

Which is to say, for every lash, there is a backlash.

Racism isn't a myth, after all. Sharpton -- or someone like him -- was inevitable. If not he, then someone was bound to grab the spotlight and cast a high beam on the horrors that have been and are committed out of racial animus.

That Sharpton is appropriately called out for applying a double standard in his policing of justice doesn't change the fact of what brought him forth. Born of a rage that can't be denied, he is a reaction -- if overlong sustained -- to a central flaw in our humanity.

While some of Sharpton's advocacy has been reprehensible and has backfired, he nevertheless has been a voice for people who didn't have one -- a vent for long-simmering frustration among a portion of blacks who feel marginalized and disenfranchised.

Imus, too, was a reaction. Shock jocks come equipped with a range of dubious talents, but they have a market for a reason. Imus was a draw primarily for white males who feel marginalized by a culture that finds entertainment in male bashing, especially those of the pale complexion.

White males, in fact, are the only group left on the planet that can be ridiculed and demonized with impunity. Imus vented their frustrations for them, saying what they couldn't. In our PC culture, he was a tiny island where bad boys could assemble and make the sort of remarks that men have made among themselves for centuries.

The I-Man and his scatological sidekicks were liberated ids vicariously employed. In particular, Imus was a boy's boy. Saying he was a man's man seems a stretch given that his sense of humor often came straight from the backseat of mama's station wagon.

Or from the locker room.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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