Don Imus and Racial Perceptions

This whole Don Imus-Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team debacle can be summed up pretty easily by the words of Imus before he ruined his career and the actions of the team since the infamous comments were made.

Imus is quoted as saying “My goal is to goad people into saying something that ruins their life.” I believe that it was Morpheus in The Matrix who said, “Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.”

In yet another demonstration of why I do and always will love Black Women, the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team accepted Imus’s apology to them after a face-to-face meeting. I pray that one day people stop having to apologize to Black women.

I don’t even need to say how ignorant all of this is. I’ll call it yet another example of racist indifference. Instead of having a somewhat typical response/reaction to all this I think that we should use this as an opportunity to reflect on our own feelings about race.

Tools

With this in mind, I have found a couple of interesting tools online to help you see what your biases may or may not be. One example is Harvard’s Implicit Associations Test on Race. I encourage all of you to take it. The test is about 10 minutes long. There are others on Skin Tone and other things that are all equally as interesting.

My Results from the Race test were: Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between African American and European American. I’m not surprised by this. Well, maybe a little since I claim to love Black people so much :-). What were yours?

Another example is this Racial Injustice Awareness Activity. These would make for interesting discussion questions in any sort of inter-group dialogue(s) that you may participate in, but also are interesting to reflect on personally.

Also, remember ‘A Girl Like Me?’ This discussion reminds me of this because of how it brings our perceptions into to forefront to be examined and hopefully corrected if need be.

These days, we need to find opportunities to encourage reflection and dialogue as opposed to conflict, resentment, and bickering. I see this as one of those opportunities.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

7 responses to “Don Imus and Racial Perceptions”

  1. Primo Mellon says :

    I am curious to see how people feel about how our community and our community leaders have responded to this whole controversy. Personally, I think Imus should have been fired but for different reasons. Allowing him to be stupid would have been a silent endorsement by NBC and GE of his ignorance. So he made the bosses look bad and messed up the money, so he had to pay. At the same time, although he was ignorant and a racist, he does have Freedom of Speech and his language did not fall into the category of unprotected speech (tending to cause a riot, etc.)

    The truth is, racism is very much alive. I do not necessarily worry about the blatant racist, but the institutional racists who hide in courtrooms and financial institutions. As the saying goes, “I would rather have a devil I know than a devil I do not know.” This whole incident just sheds light on what every person of color already knows. However, it takes our attention from where the real trouble lies: Economic and political disparity. So thanks Jesse and Al, but Black America still has bigger fish to fry. One.

  2. Edward says :

    I watched the Imus situation with a very casual eye. I’ve known about his tendencies for quite some time.

    While talking with an attorney I consider a good friend, we discussed the topic in passing. He attempted to defend Imus with the same tired argument about rappers saying the same things about black women and getting away with it. I asked him whether he believed 50 Cent was referencing student athletes at a university in an any of his songs? (It doesn’t make the derogatory lyrics any better.)

    My point to him was that many white people cannot discern the differences among black people in this country because all they see is color. That is why Sharpton and Jesse continue to my spokesmen whether I agree with them or not.

    Racism is very much alive and it is a lot “softer” than it used to be. That is what makes it hurt so bad when something so blatant occurs. We all know money talks, but many of us continue with the same destructive economic game plan despite being repeatedly slapped in the face.

    Imus does have his Freedom of Speech, however, Freedom ain’t free. It comes with responsibility and consequences. That is a lesson for all of us.

  3. Steve says :

    In all this uproar with Imus, I hope the one thing that comes out of this is that we take a more critical eye towards our culture and how we portray ourselves and indeed how we are portrayed. As the saying goes, “art imitates life.” And what is funny or acceptable is often a function of who it is coming from.

    As Primo said, Imus messed up the money, so he had to pay. Whether we like it or not, there are certain groups in society you can not talk about. Is it a double standard? Yes. Is it likely to change, unless you can undue history, no. However, I agree that we as a community do have a lot of work to do. I was discussing this issue with an Asian classmate of mine, and he asked me “When do victims cease to be victims? When do you get into the area of enablement?” To which I replied, victims cease being victims when they are no longer victimized. And Imus’ words are just a vocalization of mainstream America’s attitude. Abra los ojos.

  4. Dumi says :

    I finally got around to taking the IAT. Apparently I have a moderate preference for White folks, ROTFLMAO. The theory and limitation of implicit association is pretty interesting. I encourage folks to check out the article by Arkes & Tetlock – Attributions of Racial Prejudice, or Would Jesse Jackson fail the IAT. Also Lincoln Quillian in the 2006 Annual Review of Sociology does a good review of this research. It’s a beginning, but what is being measured is far from clear. And the term racist indifference is trash… from point of view 😉

  5. MISERYMISSOURI says :

    IMAUS SHOULD HAVE BEEN REPRIMANDED LAST NOVEMBER WHEN HE MADE FUN OF THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT REVEREND BISHOP G.E. PATTERSON’S DEATH! I AM A MEMBER OF THE COGIC AND MY SISTER TOLD ME IMUS WAS CRACKING JOKES IMMEDIATLEY AFTER HIS DEATH. WHEN MY SISTER CALLED ME, I DID NOT KNOW MY PRESIDING BISHOP HAD GONE ON TO BE WITH THE LORD. DID IMUS CRACK JOKED BECAUSE BISHOP PATTERSON LED THE LARGEST AND FASTEST GROWING BLACK DEMONINATION IN THE WORLD? I HAD NOT HEARD OF IMUS BEFORE THEN AND I WISHED I NEVER HAVE TO HEAR FROM HIM AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!! I WISH ALL OF THESE BEAUTIFUL, INTELLIGENT SISTERS WOULD SUE IMUS!!!!!!!!!!!!! IF NOT HE’LL BE NAME CALLING AND/OR LAUGHING ABOUT SOME OTHER AFRICAN AMERICAN’S DEATH LATER ON.

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