Guest Commentary

Young women should no longer be trashed by racist, sexist, misogynist speech

In response to the comments by Don Imus, I have a lot to say. For the first time in a long time, the blatant abuse of privilege is being brought to the forefront in a whole different way.

Freedom of speech can be a good thing--but not when it's used to abuse and send hate messages.

As a black woman and as a mother of college-age female co-eds, I take major and massive offense to Imus. I have worked too hard instilling values of self-respect and respect for others to have my children, or those who look like them, trashed by entities who believe bullshit racist, sexist and misogynist behavior is the damn flavor of the month.

It's simply time to call 'em out. When a privileged white male sits in a position of power and is able to yield sociopolitical commentary through a microphone over public air waves, and said commentary contributes to the complete denigration of a young person's soul, I say: Enough.

The humor was lost on me as I watched the video clips of Imus doing his best behind the coward's mask of popular culture to not only take away from what the Rutgers women's basketball team had accomplished, but also to make them appear less than worthy as human beings.

It rings of misogynistic rape; it rings of hate-smeared words and inappropriate touching. It sends a message of fear and evokes images of a good ol' boy network that allows young sons of men who talk this way to think it is OK to call a woman bitch or ho. Enough of this.

Imus is sure to end up with a multi-million-dollar contract for a satellite show supported by right-wing conservatives who live in the comfort of their plastic bubble, believing they have the right to own and define what is American. This self-appointed assuming leadership means another young woman who may be of color, or may be white, will no doubt struggle with who she is, what she's worth and how to not let others define these things for her.

I assume that Imus and those who think like him have forgotten that they are born of a woman. I have yet to meet a man, woman or child who came here any other way.

This country has a history of making people of color invisible. The wounds are still too recent, the healing not completed, for Imus to call someone anyone a "nappy-headed ho" and not have us feel that it was both racist and wrong as soon as the words rolled off his hateful tongue.

It doesn't matter if it is the negative imagery and words portrayed in rap videos of Eminem or Ludacris, or a like-minded Imus making insensitive and hurtful remarks--the madness has to end. Whether MSNBC and CBS were responding to the outrage of American citizens by firing Imus, or whether they were driven by sponsorship disapproval, or whether they were driven by simply doing the right thing, the fact that the sentiment of the American public has been heard and recognized is a start.

As I spoke to a gender- and age-mixed class at Pima Community College on April 13, my intended words on being African American and same-gender loving were put aside as I instead took the opportunity to speak to the conversation of the day, and what we can do as conscious people to make the world a better place.

I believe we all have a charge to do better once we know better. If we want our daughters to be respected as people and equals, then we have the charge of teaching that misogynistic thinking, thoughts and deeds are not acceptable forms of communication and/or behavior. When dealing with the intersection of race, gender and politics, some real dialogue needs to take place on a regular basis so that we're raising young people who are critical thinkers, who know right from wrong, and who are able to act with confidence when confronted with popular culture and the idea that abuse and intolerance are OK or even funny.

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