THE IMUS AFTERMATH: HEALING OR HO-HUM?

It’s a busy week. We’ve got to fire a lot of people.

We’ve got to fire any radio host who has offended gays, Muslims, African Americans or other minority groups. That’s thousands of firings right there.

We’ve got to comb through comedy clubs and kick out any comedians who use certain words that begin with n, b, h or c. That’s hundreds if not thousands more.

We’ve got to storm through the record companies and dismiss any artists who demean race, gender or ethnicity – including their own. That will shut down most of the rap industry, but that’s what we’ve got to do.

We also need to bounce all the executives who have been profiting from this insulting poison. MTV will have to go. Sorry, kids.

Speaking of MTV, all those near-naked women who writhe around for videos that are demeaning women – get dressed. You’re fired, too. And HBO, pack up your stuff. Have you seen how “The Sopranos” or “Entourage” treats racial, ethnic and sexual sensibilities?

Sorry, Tony – bada bing. You’re out.

A lot of hot air, so little action

In other words, we must have a national purging – entire industries shaken upside down – if we are to heed what the talking heads said on TV last week in the wake of the Don Imus firing for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball players “nappy-headed hos.”

Everyone from Maya Angelou to Serena Williams to James Carville to Della Reese weighed in on the scandal, and most talked about “healing” and “discourse.”

I am all for healing and discourse.

But right now, all I see is Imus, who made a career spewing insults – while his employers cheered him – suddenly fired because he used three inflammatory words. Not because he demeaned a race or a gender. He did that for years. Where was all this sanctimony then?

All I see now is a guy who made a classless, racist remark and was clawed apart in an almost joyous, bloody stab fest that American media do best. Healing? Discourse? A move from meanness to kindness? I’m all for it.

But all I see is anger. All I see is gasoline on already burning fires. Some white people may have been “healed,” but many more screamed louder about a double standard. Some black people may have been pleased Imus was fired, but many more grumble at the reminder that racism is alive and well, just hiding behind words you can say and can’t say.

All I see are the same greedy corporations, which were happy to make money on Imus all these years. But as soon as his ugly beacon shined a light back on them, they ducked.

That’s not courage.

That’s covering your butt.

The use of the airwaves

Imus is not a rapper. So he should not get to compare his words to a rapper’s. He is – was – a broadcaster, and there are different standards.

But Snoop Dogg’s telling MTV that he has the right to use those words because “we’re talking about hos that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing”- I’ll spare you the rest – is not exactly a solid defense. And Snoop did Chrysler commercials. Gotta stop that.

As for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Please. Both have had to rely on public forgiveness so many times, you lose count. They just don’t have high-profile jobs to be fired from. But “diamond merchants” and “Hymietown” are ethnic insults to Jews, so those two should be banned from the airwaves.

And Chris Rock goes, too. And Borat. And “Saturday Night Live.” Yes, they’re just trying to be funny. But that’s what Imus said.

So everybody gets the boot if all those talking heads were sincere about healing and turning around the country. Or maybe they were just yakking. Maybe they got caught up in the breathless thrill of a media piety hunt.

And sadly, this week, now that Imus is toast – and worse, old news – they, and we, will go back to our private, angry prejudices, because the only real way to erase hate is to kill it in your own heart.

Angelou said on MSNBC that it would be “ironic” if Imus was the one to pull us all together. I’d love that.

Don’t hold your breath.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

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