An indignant Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama quickly jumped on the dump Imus bandwagon and loudly demanded that the shock jock get the boot. Obama's wrath at Imus didn't stop there. He told ABC News that he'd never appear on his show again and that if one of his staff members denigrated anyone they wouldn't be working for him. Obama's pique at Imus, like millions of others, boiled down to his slur of black women. Said Obama, "He fed into some of the worst stereotypes" about black women. He took it especially personal since he has two daughters and complained that they have to deal with those stereotypes.
Obama was the only presidential candidate that actually called for Imus's firing. For taking that stance, he was hailed as bold and courageous. Imus, though, was the easiest of targets. Obama made only one appearance on his show, and he owed absolutely no allegiance to him. Billionaire Beverly Hills entertainment mogul David Geffen is another matter. Geffen is the president and CEO of Insterscope Geffen A&M records and gangster rapper Snoop Dogg is his long standing and one of his top-selling artists.
Now let's flash back a month before Imus's foot in the mouth racist crack drew Obama's ire. A beaming Obama sat at Geffen's dinner table at his Beverly Hills mansion and delivered a 25 minute dinner speech to a core of doting and fawning Hollywood luminaries and heavy financial hitters that included Stephen Spielberg and Jennifer Anniston. Geffen punctuated the Obama Hollywood star-filled love fest with a well-publicized trash of the Clinton's, to which he had once dumped millions into their campaign coffers, and declared that he was switching allegiance to Obama.
Obama walked away from the dinner with a reported cool $1.3 million for his campaign. It was a dream mix of money, politics, celebrity, and entertainment. But that mix also poses a dilemma and challenge for Obama. And that's what to say or do about Geffen and Snoop. A day before Obama slammed Imus Snoop issued a testy public statement in which he vehemently protested any comparison of Imus's brand of shock insults to his. Snoop managed to prove his point with an expletive laced B, and H, and MF rant that far topped anything that Imus said. He defiantly pronounced that he'd keep using those fond and endearing terms to describe black women, and capped it with a trash of poor black women.
A number of civil rights and women's groups in Los Angeles immediately announced that they would demand that Geffen and Snoop endorse a public pledge to cease the denigration of black women, and others by gangster rappers in their music. Given the arrogance and intransigence of Snoop and the hardcore gangster rappers on how they see and describe black women musically, and the prospect of jingling cash registers for Geffen records with their slew of rap artists, the likelihood of that happening is slim. They still must try.
But even if Geffen and Snoop say and do nothing, Obama can do one of three things. He can also say and do nothing. He can issue a generic and tepid statement calling for musical and artistic integrity in the rap industry He can make a private call to Geffen and request that the mogul insure that his record label not issue CDs in which Geffen's artists sexually and racially demean women or anyone else in their music. Obama will not cut ties with Geffen over this, and there's no suggestion that he should. The risk of that would be to great and the financial damage too big for his fledgling campaign. However, a firm statement by Obama against demeaning lyrics would go far toward showing that he can be just as consistent when it comes to denouncing racial and sexual degradation when it comes from a black artist and their companies that profiteer off of it as when it comes from an on-the skids white male shock jock.
Obama certainly knows that a big reason his two daughters struggle with the demeaning stereotypes of black women is because of the routine depiction of young black women as poor, debased, dysfunctional, sexual objects. Snoop and his gangster rap pals reinforce that depiction in their lyrics, and they influence millions, and that included Imus to do the same.
During the Imus drama, a legion of Imus defenders and media talking heads pounded Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, and black professional groups with the knock that they employ a double standard for not attacking the rap purveyors of sexual and racial insults with the same ferocity they do whites such as Imus who, as Obama put it, "cross the line." Though Obama was spared that knock, his failure or refusal to speak out against them , even if means offending his newfound financial bankroller, David Geffen will and should raise the same eyebrows.