My Life in Words

On Imus, WPLJ

April 10 , 2007

This Tuesday morning, April 10, 2007, I got in the car to go to work and turned on 95.5 WPLJ (a NYC radio station, for those unfamiliar). To my atonishment, I came in at the very beginning of a conversation during which the two DJs, Scott and Todd, but mostly Scott, expressed their outrage at the way Don Imus has been treated recently. The situation, Scott said, had him "steamed." Not only was it said that what Imus had said about the Rutgers women's basketball team really wasn't "that bad," but at one point it was discussed that if the two terms, "nappy-haired" and "ho," hadn't been used together, people wouldn't have been offended at all.

What follows is the letter/email I wrote to the program directors of WPLJ, explaining why I will no longer listen to that particular radio station (a decision which I believe anyone who values human dignity would take):

I am writing to express my disgust at the conversation I heard on the morning show on my way to work today (Tuesday, April 10).   The conversation was regarding Don Imus' comments on the Rutgers Women's basketball team and the outrage that has followed.   I was appalled to hear your DJs defending his flagrantly racist, sexist, and disrespectful comments and coming remarkably close to expressing their support for the man they referred to as "a legend."   In specific, Scott questioned whether what was said was really that bad.  

I find it to be intolerable when a public personality, like Imus, in today's society, makes such unwarranted, blatantly racist, sexist, and indefensible comments against upstanding people who have done nothing to incite criticism or derision and are not in a position to defend themselves against them.   I further find it unconscionable that your DJs are seeking to diminish the ramifications and impact that such comments can have on your listening audience and society in general.   The use of the term "nappy-haired" to refer to any black person and the term "ho" to describe any woman are indeed "really that bad."   Used alone they are exceedingly disrespectful and offensive. Used together as they were, they demeaned everything these young women had worked for and achieved, and reduced them to a couple of racial, sexual slurs.  

At one point, either Scott or Todd made a vague remark about listening to "these other guys talking about white people," or something to that effect.   I found that this only deepened my sense of offense.   First, they offered no evidence or specifics to back up this claim, making it nothing but a baseless opinion.   Secondly, even if said statements were true, "they did it first" is not a legally or socially acceptable reason for any sort of behavior in the United States - outside of a playground sandbox.  

Finally, the discussion about Al Sharpton's own motives in berating Imus on his own radio show was, to me, the last straw.   I acknowledge that there are many people on both sides of many issues that have doubts about Sharpton's motives.   However, no matter what one thinks of Sharpton, it has no bearing on Imus' initial comments and their effects.   Using it in any attempt to deflect their offensive nature instead only serves to magnify it.

By this point it should be obvious that I have been completely turned off to listening to your radio station.   I will not demand an apology.   Even if one were given, it would not change what was said and its authenticity would always be in doubt.   Instead, I am simply seeking to explain why I will not be a WPLJ listener any longer.   I cannot in good conscience lend my support to any person(s) who supports racism and/or sexism in any form, and I cannot support those who sponsor them.   I have spoken to several of my friends and colleagues and they have all had similar reactions.   I hope in the future you will consider the impact of the conversations regarding race, sex, and other social issues that your DJs have on the air.   In this case they have lost you at least several previously loyal listeners.


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