I think I have some left-wing credentials, and even a few of them in the area of racial reconciliation. But a left-wing thought police scares me just as much as a right-wing one does, and the idea that anyone -- Al Sharpton or anyone else -- is planning to "purify the air waves" doesn't just offend me; it horrifies me.
All people of good will want a good society, and racial prejudice has no place in one. But the fundamental principle of American governance, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is that we rely upon freedom -- letting people say what they say and think what they think -- as the best way to get us there. You want to get rid of prejudice? Shine the light on it. Don't send it creeping back under its rock.
You want to talk about evil -- particularly as it relates to race in America? There's a lot of it out there. The rate of incarceration of black men in this country, and the proven injustices towards them in our criminal justice system; there's an evil we should talk about. The number of black children receiving inadequate health care and education in our country; there's an evil we should talk about.
But one racially prejudiced comment -- not declaring hate or calling for violence, and even if part of a larger pattern in a man's life and career -- is not the evil we should be jumping up and down about. If anything, we should show a lot more sophistication and sense of proportion in our analysis of what matters most.
I am a Jew; I've heard anti-semitic comments all my life. I've had vicious lies said about me in public and written about me in the national media. Did those comments affect me and cause me pain? Absolutely. Did they scar me for life? That's entirely my decision.
The women of the Rutgers basketball team, simply by their existence, say it all. All of them are beautiful. All of them are high achievers. The very fact that they exist prove Imus' comments to be absurd and stupid. I was all for shaming him publicly; healthy shame can be a positive force. I didn't mind his being suspended from his job, and I wouldn't have minded if it had been for longer. But firing him because we have to start concerning ourselves with what's "admissable" on the airwaves? Does that mean I can no longer say "lying president" or "war-mongering vice-president" or "corrupt administration?"
I watched my Congresswoman speak on television about how this isn't the end of the conversation. Oh, really? Does that mean we'll have a real conversation now about the obscene and disgusting language spewing out of the music industry, over TV and radio, every single hour of every day? She knows as well as I do that much of that obscenity stems from black artists. And that language and those images don't just degrade one particular group of women. They degrade all women, of any color.
This situation degrades all Americans.