My heroes: Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team

I am so angry I hardly know where to start. Don Imus’ racist, pig-headed, degrading, insulting comments about the players of the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball Team make me sick. Physically sick, close to vomiting.

I would love to see him fired, but I don’t think that is going to happen. That is a shame.

I need to vent: America is a racist country. I love this place – I am incredibly proud to be an American and I embrace my country, my flag, and our history, warts and all, because despite everything, I think this is the most amazing country in the history of the world. But we are stupid when it comes to racism.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we do not understand, nor do we properly study, the history of slavery in America. Why not? Because if we did, it would make white people feel bad. The truth of the matter is that this country was built on the backs and in the blood of millions of enslaved people. (Read Complicity; How The North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery.) And that is an uncomfortable truth to ponder.

We need to learn about slavery to understand how we got here. We need to admit that many people are ignorant of cultures other than their own. We all need to talk to each other, and offer respect instead of assumptions. And speaking as a white woman to all my friends and readers out there who are white: we have to stop allowing comments like Imus’ to pass without loud and immediate outrage and consequence.

What about free speech? you ask. Isn’t the man allowed to say what he feels?

Yes, that is another beauty of America – freedom of speech and thought. He can say whatever he wants. So can I. And I can choose to boycott his radio station and his television station and all of the sponsors of his show, and I will. I will also find it hard to vote or support any politician who goes on Imus show after this, unless and until the man shows real growth and change.

And don’t even think about getting in my face and saying that the language Imus used is acceptable because it can be found in the lyrics of black hip-hop singers. Since when have we used the language and attitudes and behavior that is found and praised in popular music as our benchmark for what is acceptable? There is a vigorous debate in the African-American community about hip-hop lyrics and how language can/should be used. (You might also want to read The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t and Why by Jabari Asim.) I don’t see a place for my voice in that discussion. But I can sure as hell call out a white guy on the carpet for bringing down my country and harming a group of talented young women.

::pauses for breath::

Maybe, just maybe, we can turn his ugly language and attitudes into a teachable moment. If this happens, it will be because Coach C. Vivian Stringer is an amazing American woman, and her team is a class act. The team held a press conference today to respond to Imus’ hateful comments. (Learn more about the individual players from Sports Illustrated.)
Coach Stringer could write volumes about rising above pain and oppression.

Remember that phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”? That’s a lie. Words hurt. Words hurt deeply.

26 Replies to “My heroes: Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team”

  1. I agree. That was STU-PID!

    It just makes me upset how most of these remarks are usually forgotten after two weeks.But the Anna Nicole story has been going on since her son died last.More people would rather pay attention to Anna Nicole than a radio host saying offensive remarks that is to a group of people on the Rutgers women basketball team.Really sad.

  2. There’s also a quote by Robert Fulgham that I think would fit this situation “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.”

  3. Agreed

    Words do hurt. And words heal.
    And writers are healers.
    Thanks for speaking up – and here’s to all writers and speakers who will continue to put good words out there – may the healing words win!

  4. I so strongly agree with you. What we teach about race and racism in school could fit in the front pocket of a flimsy Trapper Keeper. And it goes something like this: Racism is when some crazy people were mean to each other for no reason a long time ago. That it was pervasive; that it is cultural and institutional; that its effects linger; or that it is STILL ACTUALLY AROUND — this knowledge is absent or actively censored.

    The effect is not that kids don’t notice race and racism (the excuse some people use for not talking about it) but that white kids ignore it or fit it into other schema — “that’s not racism, that’s just how people are” or “that’s just the economy” or “that’s just an opinion” — and that nonwhite kids, unless well-protected by their parents, think they’re hallucinating and totally alone.

    Try this with a well-educated elementary-school class sometime:

    Teacher: Why were the Nazis bad?
    Class: Because they were racist about the Jews.
    T: Would it be okay for Germany to still celebrate some Nazi leaders by having holidays on their birthdays?
    C: No, of course not!
    T: Is there any racism in this country?
    C: (in chorus) SLAVERY! (note: elementary-school students generally believe that Martin Luther King Jr. ended slavery)
    T: Would it be okay for us to still celebrate people who owned slaves?
    C: ….*cricket sounds*….

  5. Lordy, I hope he gets fired. That he hasn’t actually apologized TO THE WOMEN HE WAS TALKING ABOUT says it all.

    And I was glad that the article pointed out – it wasn’t just racist – his remarks were misogynistic. The first thing you do when you want to bring a woman down is call her a whore.

    What an ugly moment, highlighting a pervasive problem in this country. I hope the furor burns bright until he truly gets his comeuppance.

  6. My mouth DROPPED when I read his remarks. Wow. Just wow.

    I have to agree with Al Sharpton. People need to learn that it’s not okay to say stuff like that and then apologize.

  7. By letting men call women “‘hos” we are perpetuating a sexist patriarchal society where women are viewed as objects.

    By letting racial slurs slide we are also perpetuating the idea that it’s ok to make fun of minorities and look down on them.

    Being a woman in a biracial relationship, I hear what we have termed “nice racism” more than the “mean racism,” but I’ve heard my fair share of both. Imus shouldn’t get away with mean racism.

    because it can be found in the lyrics of black hip-hop singers

    Since when have songs made saying things in daily conversation ok?!?! Songs are meant to overemphasize everything because you only have 3 minutes to get your feelings across. Not that it makes it completely ok in songs, either, but songs are EDITED on the radio, so why wasn’t Imus?

  8. A radio shock jock an obnoxious asshole willing to say anything to get ratings? Stale news. If that were illegal, we could shut Ann Coulter up, too. Which would be an end I’d applaud for both people, though not the means.

    But this is only part of the larger issue of hatred in general, which I don’t see as any better or worse than racial hatred in particular. Physical differences of any sort are simply the most obvious and easy things for people to settle on in deciding who it’s okay to hate. They aren’t hatred itself. If there aren’t more obvious differences to use like race or gender, people will use lesser ones, as the English/Irish experience shows, or none at all, as in the case of the Protestant/Catholic wars.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that redirecting hatred doesn’t fight hatred in general, and browbeating people into shutting up isn’t going to change hearts. It’s just going to polarize us and convince us that we’ve made more progress than we’ve made.

  9. “Words hurt. Words hurt deeply.”

    Words may ‘just come out’, but when words like that come out, they reveal just how ugly the interior is.

    And… amen.

  10. It’s not just race either. This is the land of opportunity if you are a straight, white, upper-middle class male. And if you’re not…

    On the upside, usuing slurs can back-fire, see Coulter Cash. It’s often the more subtle discrimination that does people in, because it goes unnoticed.

    Don’t even get me started on hip-hop. I wish people would get as worked up over sexism as they do racism.

  11. Me, feeling bitter? No.

    Oh and people are stupid. God, people are stupid. The idiocy amazes me. Every time I think I have seen it all and that people can not possibly get any dumber, they suprise me. One of these days I am going to write a book and the title will be something a long the lines of “How to avoid being a complete ass around the mentally ill.” I could write dozens of books about all the stupid shit people say and do. It is almost enough to make me turn my back on the world, but every time I want to, someone does something to change my mind. Bastards. I’d sleep easier if I could just shut everyone out.

  12. Hey, Laurie…Please check your e-mail…Our ALAN proposal was accepted!

    We had the conversation that you are having with yourself (and with us) with my pre-service teachers last night. The opinions about Imus’ comments were shockingly varied, which I am still processing…

    On another note…I’m desperate to get your reply to the acceptance of our ALAN breakout on historical fiction. David Gill recommended your blog! When you get a minute, please check your e-mail so we can get the ball rolling. Wah hoo!
    Denise (David’s colleague)

  13. I heard about this, and it infuriated me in so many ways. Racism and sexism. And women’s basketball doesn’t get enough credit as it is (it’s vastly underappreciated compared to the rest of the sports world) and these remarks- by someone who is supposedly educated, are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Apology or no, one must live up to the consequences of his or her actions, and saying sorry doesn’t just make it go away. Acting as though they are “just words” is a horrendous statement, simply because he meant what he said. He didn’t “let it slip”, and it wasn’t an accident- he said it purposefully, and for that he needs to be punished.

  14. I LOVED hearing the Rutgers girls interviewed- they are about 1000 times classier than Imus. The not-so-hidden undercurrents of racism are bad enough; having a fool spouting comments like these into millions of ears (and thereby helping make them seem “OK,”) is just wrong.

  15. Don Imus only apologized at great length to give his corporate enablers time to separate themselves from any responsibility. He has a history of “crossing the line” and so it was only a matter of time before he did it again. However, this particular outburst hit the sponsors in the wallet. They are not suspending him or cancelling his show because they care. Would anyone in their right mind give an arsonist unlimited gallons of gasoline and a can to carry it in? Oh did I mention the lifetime supply of matches too. Then how did this man get a job in front of a microphone and a tv camera. Because the truth is people who listen or watch or produce his show are themselve enablers. His crudeness was applauded everytime the ratings went K$$$$Ching. Don Imus drives the boat, he doesn’t own it. Anyone who listens to that show and wasn’t offended needs some personal growth. That was an awsome rant baby!!! Rutger Girls just won a National Championship……RESPECT LOVE BH

  16. Imus is an ass.

    I was also outraged to see this. I heard about it on my evening news and my jaw dropped.

    I don’t know what the hell gave him some brilliant idea that this was alright to say. It’s not! I have many choice words from him. Even a personal, individual apology to each team member won’t do any good. He’s not sorry. He got caught and now he’s making excuses to try and salvage his reputation.

    Unfortunately as Americans, many of us are ignorant. Many of us are unaware. And it’s entirely our faults. We need to take the iniative to educate ourselves, especially if no one else will.

    It’s so easy to let ourselves blame our problems on one group of people. And often times, we do. That’s how the Holocaust started. And we swore we’d never let another genocide take place. But that’s another story completely.

    As much as people don’t want to acknowledge it, racism is a HUGE problem in America. And not just from whites to blacks. It goes from everyone to everyone. Blacks, hispanics/latinos, Muslims and even whites. I’ve witnessed racism against whites in my area, sad to say.

    But that’s beside the point. Racism is worse than people care to admit. End of story. The only way that story will change is EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION!

  17. Remarks made about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team

    First of all let me start by saying congradulations to Rutgers Lady Basketball Team on making it to the women’s basketball championship. Now about Don Imus remarks, totally out of line. It makes me sick of the stomach, to even think about. How can a man call hiself a man, after making those types of comments to the whole world about beautiful educated black women that has excelled in both academics and sportsmenship. My heart goes out to the Rutger’s basketball Team. Continue to hold your heads up high ladys and also continue to excel in your academics where it counts the most. Louisiana (K.Prout) got your backs, peace out.

  18. I agree. And, since I didn’t know where else to put this, I just finished ‘Speak’, and I loved it. I read a hundred pages at a time because it flowed well. (As my best friend would say.) I have also read Catalyst, which also helped me in science (no joke!). Thank you so much for your work and contribution to society. I am close to someone who has gone through what Melinda has, and thank you for exposing the truth of the crime to young men and women (and everyone else too!) Yours, Courtney

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