I've been thinking a bit more about Imus and hip-hop, spurred by some of the comments to my earlier posts.
Some folks have argued that the equation of Imus' remarks with the use of misogynist and what would otherwise be racially offensive language in "hip-hop" is simplistic and ignores context.
I am not "equating" the two as much as I am conceding that they are different and that, in 2007, hip-hop is the larger problem. A racist remark will destroy a career. Although I think there is something artificial and overwrought about our reaction to Imus and similar offenders, I can understand the need for social enforcement of what are now our norms regarding race. We know our history in this area and we want to move away from it, not back toward it.
But the avalanche that befell Imus suggests that, today, there are few worse things that one can be accused of than racial insensitivity. Imus certainly insulted the Rutgers basketball team, but his remarks - and, for that matter, the public expression or endorsement of white racism - hardly represent a serious threat to the African-American community in 2007. (This is not quite the same thing as saying that "racism" no longer exists. I don't believe that, but it's another topic.)
But the expression of hostility toward black women and the glamorization of amoral and destructive behaviors is pervasive in hip-hop and often presented in a very attractive way. (Unlike many conservatives, I readily concede that some of these guys are quite talented and that the songs can be quite clever.) This not only affects black culture but it affects white perceptions of black culture.
I understand that one can spin a whole intellectual rationale for the expression of an outlaw culture developed in response to repression and seeking the only authenticity permitted young men otherwise frustrated by oppression, blah, blah, blah. But few people outside the faculty lounge hear it that way and that is what is important.