“aging white men”

We are all aging; this is a cautionary tale about how bright and sensitive people can maintain a startling degree of ignorance. It’s also about a small but disgraceful nationally (USA) aired episode in racism and sexism.

Don Imus described Rutgers women’s basketball team in terms that were both highly racist and sexist and put in a way such that the racism and sexism compounded each other.  He was fired when the sponsors got the message that his program would deter people from paying for the products advertised on it.  Now he is getting back on the US airwaves and Dick Cavett, for one, is glad.

Cavett’s take:

There is really no getting away from the injustice that’s been done. A program enjoyed (and missed) by millions was trashed for the sake of the few. No one who contributed to the denouement of the Imus show and the mindless abuse heaped on him has anything to be proud of.

Cavett’s most egregious comments, in my opinion, concern why Imus’ remarks shouldn’t have been taken ‘personally’:

There’s no getting around what he said, of course, but it’s worth asking under what circumstances would a man ever be justified in calling a bunch of women — of any color — by the volatile term “hos”? The first requirement, really, would be that he would have to know them. How can an insult be personal if the person delivering it and the person(s) receiving it don’t know each other?

Isn’t that just how prejudice works? If you are prejudging, then of course you don’t have to know them to do it.

One very interesting feature of Cavett’s stand on the NY Time are the responses to it. Of course there are the “yeah for free speech” and “down with political correctness” advocates, but a very, very solid set of comments say “aging white men” just don’t get how bad it all was. At least one indeed fron a self-identified aging white man.So what is the lesson to be learned?  Racism and sexism reveal your age?  How about:  Every once  in a while there’s some sign that some part  of the human race is growing in its grasp of the requirements on living a decent life. 

7 thoughts on ““aging white men”

  1. Wow. What a fucking idiot.

    I actually don’t know how much it has to do with age. I think that’s a part of it — older people seem to be more likely to hold these kinds of views — but far from being the entirety. I’ve known just as many young people who DON’T. GET. IT.

    Being an old white man, he doesn’t get that when you call black women nappy-headed hos, you’re degrading all blacks and all women. He doesn’t have to get it, because he doesn’t face that kind of language or threat to his personhood on a daily basis. That’s not to say that others who should get it always do — they don’t, and often find their own excuses, because it’s easier to live life pretending that you’re equal than it is to stand up and speak about the fact that you’re not.

    But I really can’t imagine speaking so stupidly, so publicly, from such a completely uninformed point of view. I don’t care how old he is, I care that he’s a racist misogynist idiot — if anything his age gives him even less excuse, because he’s old enough to know better.

  2. Cara, thanks for your nice and complex points. I thought I got the point of the references to his age, but your comment is making me wonder again.

    Part of it is the idea that there are these people who’ve lived lives that have increasingly isolated them from the facts of their society, so that now, faced with such an egregious example, they can’t see it. Perhaps, then, the idea is that it isn’t so much that old people are rigid (which some of us are determined will not be true of us) as the idea that the protections of privilege really do serve to maintain ignorance AND that younger people have less protection in general???

  3. How about,
    when you get older your brain starts to go – and, for some, it gets harder to keep up the illusion to ones listeners of being a decent human being.

  4. Dear GNZ, there was a time when I too was happy to describe all old folks as decaying wrecks. That was decades ago…

  5. Guess no one commenting watched Don Imus. If they did you would know he made a horribly worded joke and blew it.

    He is returning and will clear the air finally. You will find out what ‘REALLY’ happened.

  6. PS: To me it seems much worse in context on the tape; I had before only heard a brief audio segment of the actual remark. He’s clearly going for a fuller gendered assessment of two women’s team; the other team come out as cute, but not Rutgers, who are scary with the tatoos and all.

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