Friday, April 13, 2007

Don Imus fired. Does anyone care?

I have imagined a powerful conversation that might have taken place in the Rutgers locker room that is very different from what I’ve been watching on the Today Show. I imagine Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer has heard that the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight basketball team, her team, is offended and hurt when they hear what Don Imus said. She calls all the young women together for a stern lecture. I imagine her saying, “I hear that some of you are whining about some dumb things that some guy on the radio said. Well cut it out. Some of you are even saying that this dumb cracker stole your joy the morning after your great accomplishment. Well that’s enough. There is no amount of ignorance that can take anything away from you. You are smart, talented, strong, independent, kind young women and you deserve to have it all. Be proud, hold your head up and know that this will not be the last time that this happens. If you fall apart every time someone says something derogatory then you will have to spend time building yourself back up, time better spent doing something you love. If you spend your present reliving the past then the past will dictate your future. Now get out there and play ball.”

I did not listen to the Don Imus show. I was never a fan and I thought him to be an unfunny prejudiced jerk and yet I ask: Will the firing of Don Imus promote literacy and intelligent, educational conversation? Yes, I do understand that words might hurt. The pain may be enormous. Ask any fat kid on the playground and they will tell you. I could tell you. But should Don Imus be fired? Furthermore, does anyone really care that Don Imus got fired or is this all just posturing in a world where being politically correct has destroyed any chance of having an honest conversation about issues that divide people?

I have been hoping that someone would see the humor in this, because surely I am not the only one who found it funny that an old white man would discuss young black women using slang made popular by young black men. It seemed a bit perverted. Such a silly old white man.

I wanted to hear a dialogue with the young women on the Rutgers team that showed how far we have come in terms of how we communicate on issues of race and gender. Yes, racism and sexism exist but are we still having the same argument between villain and victim, the same arguments about inequality between oppressors and oppressed? I hope that we will move beyond this viewpoint toward one where we stand on higher ground. Where is the personal responsibility?

This could have been an opportunity to rise above. In my opinion these young women have been misled to believe that other people have power over them. Unfortunately, they have been guided to cry about being victimized in the face of ignorance. They have been encouraged to meet with Mr. Imus in a grim encounter session where he was expected to grovel and beg forgiveness and they, in turn, told him their names and their educational goals. And how exactly is that going to create awareness on a global scale? Why was it so important to impress Don Imus with the human qualities of the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team? Especially now if he won’t be allowed to use his impressive forum of millions of listeners to proselytize his new politically-correct sense of humor?

In my imagination they could have instead appeared in a sketch on Saturday Night Live, each of them brilliant, successful, beautiful and completely unaffected by a ridiculous buffoon who only sees their hair and skin – a commedia dell'arte idiot. In my imagination they would have appeared at a press conference and performed a number about how no one will be able to steal their joy or quiet their thunder. That is the lesson that I want our daughters of all races, ethnicities, and religion to learn.

Again I ask: Where is the personal responsibility? A parade of commentators portraying themselves as experts on race relations have flooded the media with cries of victimization when a white man repeats language used regularly in the black community. They are insisting that the record labels and radio stations be held accountable, both for the words of rappers and the market that exists for their product. Why are they not marching at the homes of Ludacris and Snoop Dogg holding them responsible for the prevalence of derogatory language about black women?

There is a strong voice is the size-positive movement to fight “sizeism” and the injustices against fat people perpetuated every day. Sizeism is the last acceptable prejudice in our society. I want all people to be seen as worthwhile and beautiful souls and I want A Celebration of Curves to play a role in that coming to be. And, I absolutely believe that whatever I push against will push back. I do not want to participate in an “anti-sizeist” revolution because I believe that a celebration of size acceptance evolution will create an organic shift in our culture that will last for generations.

There have been many times in my life when I felt really good about myself; because of an accomplishment, because I thought I looked good in a new outfit, because I just felt happy and someone has said to me, “now if only you lost some weight.” Yes, those words hurt. Yes, I have allowed those words to form my opinion about my self worth. I have spent years thinking that I was worthless if I was fat. And I am the only one responsible for that. I can not blame my feeling bad about myself on the guy in the bar who approached me by saying, “Hi, do you know how beautiful you would be if you lost some weight?”

I look in the mirror and I see a beautiful woman. I am responsible for feeling good about myself and the words and opinions of others can not take away my joy. Diet ads that try to convince me that I am the “before” picture can not alter that I am a beautiful, strong, kind and creative woman. I am responsible for my reputation and how others see me.

How about you?

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