Don Imus called the women of the Rutgers basketball team "nappy headed hoes". And like the comedy of Buster Keaton movies and early vaudeville, it was assumed that the joke would be absorbed in the genre of accepted insult. After all......rappers say it. However, Imus struck a gasoline line and it exploded. Most minority communities have a brand of self deprecating humor. It takes the sting out of insults from outsiders. But that does not give "outsiders" the same privilege. The ideal image of Barbie, Madison Avenue and Hollywood have historically excluded Black women. The blond beauty and virtue held in a higher esteem. So Imus's remarks whether innocent or not served to reinforce a cruel stereotype. In a week where Anna Nicole Smith held a "whose the Daddy" contest posthumously, young Black girls wept at the accusation of being called "hoes". These were scholar/athletes reviled for pleasure and ratings.
Imus has apologized. There are calls for his firing. That will not solve the issue. One can only hope that a chastened Imus will serve to enlighten those who would find humor in racist remarks. And that his ten million dollars a year, Connecticut estate world will be brightened by the wisdom of the Rutgers girls basketball team.