Deal With Racism, Don’t Cover It Up

If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s saccharine stories about underdog sports teams overcoming adversity to earn respect on and off the field.
When these players are minorities (‘Remember the Titans’) or women (‘Bend It Like Beckham,’ ‘A League of Their Own’) who must struggle against racism and sexism, all the better.
It’s understandable, then, that when the Rutgers women’s basketball team beat the odds to make it to the NCAA championship game, America’s hearts went out to them, and shock-jock Don Imus’ ‘nappy-headed hos’ comment hit a particularly sour note.
Support for the Rutgers team came from politicians and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, who said, quoting Maya Angelou, ‘On behalf of myself and every woman that I know, you make me proud to spell my name W-O-M-A-N.’
Rev. Al Sharpton was not an especially vocal supporter of the team, but he was undoubtedly the biggest critic of Imus’ comment. He successfully led a crusade to get Imus fired from his job as a radio host for CBS and MSNBC, accusing Imus of ‘condemning a whole race’ with his comment.
Imus, for his part, has faced up to his punishment with quiet dignity, appearing on Sharpton’s radio show and apologizing to the Rutgers team in person.
I agree with Sharpton on one point: Imus did behave inappropriately. But not in the way Sharpton thinks.
If we are to fault Imus for anything, let it not be for a stupid comment he made, but for his incessant kowtowing to publicity-seeking opportunists like Sharpton and for blowing a tremendous opportunity to stand up for our rapidly diminishing free speech rights in America.
To the extent that Imus has defended his actions, he has done so by pointing out that even though his comments were offensive, they were not in any way unique.
‘I know that that phrase didn’t originate in the white community,’ Imus said. ‘That phrase originated in the black community, and I’m not stupid. I may be a white man, but I know that these young women and young black women all through that society are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected by their own black men and that they are called that name, and I know that that doesn’t give me