04/10/2007 07:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Trouble With Imus' "It's Not Fair, Other People Do It" Defense

I find it a coward's move, a bully's desperate flailing shot, to come out and say that his mistake is excusable because he saw other people do it.

You've seen that schoolyard scene. Everyone picks on one kid. Maybe you're the kid. Maybe you're the head bully. Maybe you're the one who piles on. Do you believe in your heart of hearts that the hurtful thing you do is OK because, well, the other boys did it, and you wanted to make them laugh?

Or worse: well, her family does it her. Or, her whole people, they all do it to her, so why can't I?

You know, she's that kind of girl. The kind that deserves it.

Or, they don't care enough to protect her. So I'll kick her, too.

I wish we were beyond this as a species. Seems schoolyard ethics will haunt us forever.

I would die and go to heaven if I could hear Imus admit the following: "I know I'm the guy that gets away with things, the guy you wish you could be. But see, I'm learning there are consequences to not caring. Yes, words can hurt. Words do break bones. Words, repeated over and over, diminish people in each others' eyes. Words help you think of some human beings as garbage."

Cause she's just a ho, right? A ho is always asking for it. Oh, and she nappy-headed? She's a cheap ho! Yeah. Like that old song. If her daddy's rich, take her out for a meal, if her daddy's poor, than do what you feel...

Doesn't matter whose mouth it comes out of: there's just no excuse.

As every moment ticks on, Imus says something else that reveals more deeply the way he sees himself. When he says that black men call their women by these names too, he reveals that he sees himself as victimized. That deep down, none of this is fair--why is he being "humiliated" for the sins millions of men and women (especially black ones!) commit everyday?

Even if we stood every black man in America on trial, and found them guilty of sometime, someplace, degrading a black woman, that still wouldn't exonerate Imus. Maybe helps "contextualize" but doesn't excuse. The fact is there is ongoing passionate debate and struggle within the black community over these very issues. Taking the worst case scenarios as your shield does not give you cover.

There is a small part of me sympathetic to Imus' sense of victimization, just out of simple understanding of human nature: a man can only prostrate himself for so long, self-flagellate, and be flagellated before he feels bitter, before he feels the punishment is unjust.


Imus looks so, so small when he plays the victim. Even smaller than the way he made those young women look. Time for him to be Mr. Man for real. And sorry for him if he loses some of his rabid base because he stops swiping back with sorry excuses.

Because beneath all the bluster, there is a good man under there, right? Here's hoping this story ends with a bully's redemption.

And, more importantly, to me at least: a cheer to the young women finally having their say.