Reprieved Talk shock jock Don Imus has done it again. On his nationally syndicated WABC morning talk show on Citadel Broadcasting Corporation, Imus in response to a statement from another WABC programmer about Dallas Cowboys defensive back Adam "Pacman" Jones legal difficulties asked "What color is he?" When the programmer responded he's African-American, Imus responded, "Well, there you go. Now we know."
The response reinforces the worst racial stereotypes of crime and violence about African-Americans. White football players and other sports notables have run afoul of the law but there is no known Imus statement linking their misdeeds to their race. But he did it with Jones.
Beyond that there are a couple of things really interesting about Imus' latest slur. When Citadel brought the thought to be disgraced shock jock back to the airwaves, the brass at the media syndicate solemnly pledged to closely monitor Imus' remarks and on-air conduct to insure that there would be no embarrassing repeat of the nappy headed ho zinger that brought the Reverend Al Sharpton and packs of civil rights and womens rights advocates screaming for his head. They ultimately got it. CBS and MSNBC canned him.
Imus took the warning to heart for a time. He kept a properly low keyed, subdued, almost dignified presence on the airwaves. He knew that he was being watched and listened too for any sign that he would revert to his old ways. The betting odds were that it would sooner or later do just that. Imus being Imus first of all, and secondly, shock jock radio is still big stuff on the airwaves, and there's not much value as in ratings and ad dollars by spewing verbal pablum. It was only a matter of time for Imus.
The other interesting thing is that Imus would choose to tread again on old, dangerous ground with a racial crack about an African-American athlete. Remember it was his racial insult of black athletes (the Rutgers womens basketball team) that got him banned in Boston for a hot minute. But again old habits die hard, especially when it comes to racially stereotyping African-Americans. Thse stereotypes are always the most durable, convenient, and even crowd pleasing ones. In any case, Imus has done it again. So what's to be done?
Imus and Citadel Broadcasting can clean up his latest mess by issuing an immediate public apology for Imus' racially offensive remark. Citadel must go further and issue a public reprimand of Imus.
If Citadel is true to its word about closely monitoring Imus' on-air conduct and statements, it should have no problem with ladling out what's really nothing more than a gentle wrist slap for his on-air bigotry. Let's monitor the media conglomerate to see if they can do that much.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).