The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More on Imus and Duke

A few commentators have made an understandable observation about the Imus flap. Namely, that the term “ho” is used in rap music, so what’s the big deal?
Well, a few thoughts:
1) Yes, it’s dreadful, and inexcusable. You’ve heard me complain about it in this blog. But it wasn’t just the word “ho.” It was the term “nappy-headed ho.” Or, in other words, “black ho.” It is the combination of these terms that caused the real problem.
2) The term “ho” is short for “whore.” Obviously vile when applied to women in general. Not much better as a specific insult applied to a woman considered too….hmmm, shall we say “free with her favors”? But at least then it is communicating a value judgement. Woman rotating her butt in a music video? My mother used to say such women were acting like whores, so it is reasonable that the shortened term would convey the same opinion. We can debate whether that is an appropriate communication, but at least I understand what is intended. But what exactly was it about the behavior of these collegiate athletes that was whorish? Can you tell me that? I think that it can only be surmised that the term “ho” meant “black woman” in this context. That was their only sin…the color of their skin. And being mocked for being “nappy-headed” has been a part of racist American culture for hundreds of years.
3) As abominable as I find the lyrics of much rap music, it’s “in the family” so to speak. In other words, if I slap my kid, eyebrows will raise. If YOU slap my kid, that’s assault, and you’re going to jail. If I make love to my wife, that’s, well, that’s a typical morning in the Barnes house. Ahem. But if YOU do it, that’s either rape or grounds for divorce. Context and permission mean EVERYTHING. Yes, actions and words mean completely different things, depending on who, what, where, and why.
4) No, I don’t automatically think Imus is a racist. But you know something? Probably 5-10% of people—black, white, Asian, whatever—ARE racists. Where do you think they live? What do you think they do for a living? They rarely show themselves except when protected by anonymity. Don’t you think some of them are radio personalities? And even if he isn’t, don’t you think such comments give aid and comfort to that 5-10%?
5) What we have here, really, is a line in the sand. For 400 years, blacks have had to put up with being called whatever whites wanted to call them, excluded from whatever whites wanted to exclude them from, and were told to be good, quiet little citizens about it. Play the game. Go to school. We did. And a lot of us got law degrees and MBAs, and are now working in Corporate America. Imus wants to make his 500K a year doing insult radio? That’s his right. And it is our right to deny his sponsors our dollars. Or to express our pain and outrage in whatever legal way available. No, government shouldn’t censor such talk. But we as consumers certainly can.
6) I love the fact that some commentators say that “Imus will lose some black listeners…” Oh? Only black people care if black people are insulted? Only women care if women are insulted? Only gays care if gays are insulted? Isn’t that an interesting revelation of attitude: “If you aren’t a member of group X, you won’t/shouldn’t care what happens to group X.” This type of thinking leads to Holocausts. My experience says that PLENTY of white people care about blacks. Plenty of men care about women. Plenty of straights care about gays. Plenty of human beings, in other words, care about the dignity of other human beings, regardless of superficial differences. And I'm betting that anyone reading this blog would agree.

We're all in this together, folks. There's nobody out there. Whatever you see in the world is a reflection of you, your own inner demons and angels. What you say about the world tells me infinitely more about YOU than it ever does the world "outside."

Reality is a Rorschach test.
I have a suspicion about what happened at Duke University. I think the frat boys got too rowdy, said some insulting things to the stripper they'd hired. I wouldn't be surprised if the comments were racially charged: alcohol lowers inhibitions. Perhaps too much touching as well: there's a good reason strippers work in pairs, or with bodyguards. And the girl tried to get revenge. Just a guess. If that's what happened, I sympathize, but she deserves to be prosecuted. I guarantee you that their lives have been damaged. If they did not rape her, this whole thing is inexcusable, and I feel nothing but the deepest sorrow for them and their families.

And the girl needs help. And jail time.


Today is a fasting day. I’m going to yoga shortly, and will then re-hydrate but not eat all day. Tananarive says that my upper body muscle mass is increasing…and has in the three WEEKS I’ve been on this program. And she knows that I work like a dog, and get damned little result from it. My body is almost invulnerable to illness, but gaining muscle mass is very, very, hard for me.

My daughter Nicki might be in a stage play in a couple of months that would demand she show a little skin. She’d like to lose about 15 pounds by then, and is watching me like a hawk to see how I do on I.F.
If she choses this way for weight loss, I will kick her sweet little butt if she doesn’t go WAY out of her way to eat fresh fruits and vegetables by the cartload on non-fasting days. And I’d probably suggest a little fruit on fasting days as well, to help quell hunger pangs, and even out her blood sugar.
Our favorite weight-loss exercise in this house is called a “Fat Ripper” or what refers to as a “DOE Man-Maker” since it was created by a security specialist at the Department of Energy. The idea is 30-60 seconds of intense kettlebell exercise, followed by 60-120 seconds of moderate jogging. SPIKE the heartrate, then recover, get it? We use a treadmill set on the “30 minute medium” level. And then choose three KB exercises. This last time it was Swings, Windmills, and an evil concoction called a Deck Squat. Each exercise is done for 40-60 seconds (in rotation) followed by a minute on the treadmill. Doing this with a partner, switching stations as it were, is fun because everyone tries to figure out whether going first or second allows you to miss the hardest running periods. What’s worse: running fast, or running hills? Depends on what KB stuff you’ve been doing. (By the way, this adaptation of the Fat Ripper is actually more intense than recommended. It works perfectly fine to make the recovery jogging as gentle as you wish. The jogging is not to increase fitness: it is active recovery, a chance to re-distribute your lactic acid.)

We also make a game out of burning music Cds. Good music makes a workout infinitely more entertaining. We like Hard-driving rock, rap, R&B…something with a kick-ass beat, and somewhat aggressive lyrics. The theme from “Casino Royale,” “You Know My Name,” by Chris Cornell, really gets my juices running. And corny as it may be, either “The Rocky Theme” or “Eye of the Tiger” is just killer. Makes me want to go out and fight Clubber Lang.


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