Amid the sound and fury occasioned by Don Imus’s witless and cruel comment on April 4th about the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team, one response has seemed to me exceptional for the wisdom and charity it reflects.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Kia Vaughn, a member of the Rutgers team, spoke to the matter of the team’s intention to meet with Mr. Imus.
“I’d like for him to get to know us,” she said.
The characterization of the Rutgers players as “nappy-headed hos” by Don Imus and his producer has called forth a lot of commentary condemning and defending the long-time radio host, some of it nearly as objectionable as the original remarks were stupid. But how admirable for one of the insulted players to make a case not for punishment, further humiliation or revenge, but for understanding.
It was not surprising that Coach C. Vivien Stringer, who may know the Rutgers players better than anyone except their families, talked at length about the sterling qualities of the potential doctor, lawyer, and psychologist presently wearing the Rutgers colors. Coach Stringer is justifiably proud of what the young women with whom she is working are accomplishing as students and as athletes. But the point is that nobody — no woman, no man, no black, no white — should be subject to the adolescent insults Imus and his colleagues spewed on April 4th. It is especially shameful that some of the targets of the alleged humor are eighteen and nineteen years old, and that circumstance may help to explain why these particular remarks have provoked such a powerful response, but some of the program’s past insults targeting other female athletes and various minorities have been no less foul.
Meeting Kia Vaughn, Essence Carson, and the rest of the members of the Rutgers team may or may not change Don Imus. Ratings long ago taught him that in our culture, there is a place for insults and slurs, no matter how moronic they may be. That’s a hard truth to repudiate when you’ve been making a lot of money by embracing it. But if it occurs to some of the many people who are paying attention to this controversy that Kia Vaughn is right, and that nobody who knew her and knew her teammates would have considered making the sort of remarks Don Imus made, some benefit will have come from this otherwise irredeemable tale of ignorance and worse.