An interesting defense. I think it’s legitimate to criticize both Imus and hip-hop, while recognizing that the color of the speaker does make an obvious difference in impact and intent, with respect to hate speech. When black culture deploys its own n-words about itself, it’s a form of self-abasement as well as self-defense. It’s sad and ugly, but it’s different than perpetuating contempt for minorities from a position of majority power and privilege. Neither is defensible, but one is less defensible than the other.
Where this breaks down, of course, is with respect to women. And the depravity of much of hip-hop culture on the part of men with respect to women is truly disgusting. It’s of a piece with rampant black homophobia. I don’t see why male, black hip-hop artists and producers and radio stations get a pass on women-hating and gay-bashing. Minorities should not get a pass on their own bigotry.
As for Sharpton, surely Imus hs a minor, but valid point. Sharpton deploys the vilest form of racist assumptions against whites in general, and gets away with it. He got away with it while accusing specific people of rape – people who turned out to be innocent. Again, since whites still enjoy vastly more cultural power than blacks, Sharpton’s bigotry is more defensible than Imus’s. But it’s still bigotry. (And, to give Sharpton his due, he has spoken out against the rhetorical depravity of much hip-hop.)
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty.)