Friday, September 18, 2009

An Author Considers Race, Racial Humor, and Racial Healing

Michael Awkward. Burying Don Imus: Anatomy of a Scapegoat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

The author urges that African Americans become more aware of the racial history. He is very critical of elements of the hip-hop generation members who express pride in not knowing this history. The author observes that efforts of striking back at symbols of racial intolerance, such as Don Imus, do little to create racial healing. Controversies such as the Imus debate highlight the “still unresolved trauma” Blacks feel over racial progress combined with racism continuing.

Don Imus, a shock jock, described the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “that’s some nappy headed hos”. This provided evidence that racism continues. Critics made Imus a symbol of racial evil. Making Imus this symbol ignored that Imus was well known for outrageous comments, including calling Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as “war criminals”. The criticism also ignored the amount of charity work Imus did with veterans hospitals and with ill children on his own ranch.

Humor can expose deep seated anxieties. Some believe any white person telling a joke about Blacks “almost automatically” is “hate speech”. The Imus Show is known for its informal mode of conversation. Jokes about race, Rednecks, and religion were known to arise in discussions and comedy skits. The author notes there are important difference between expressing intended racial beliefs, such as racial comments by Klan members, than what are the beliefs of a person performing a comedy sketch. Should John Donald Imus, the person, be held to hold the beliefs express in a comedy bit by Imus in the Morning?

It is noted Freud claimed “jokes have a relation to the unconscious”. Some see whites joking about Blacks as their racial hatred surfacing. The author warns that believing this, in many cases, does not help heal racial wounds.


Blogger Marc Breed said...

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