Jason Whitlock:

L’affaire Imus caused a lot of people to lose; Don Imus, CBS Radio, MSNBC, free speech (if you believe certain radio personalities who believe they could be next). Only two people can thank the firestorm for improving his or her professional status; Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer (who indirectly got a book deal out of it) and sportswriter Jason Whitlock.

Well before Imus blew himself up, Whitlock has used his status as a columnist at the Kansas City Star and AOL Sports to state the biggest problem in the African-American community is, as he puts it, the ‘Black KKK’. Whitlock believes African-American culture in general and hip-hop in particular celebrates a prison mentality (Bill Cosby also feels this way, and has been speaking out over the past few years). In the aftermath of Imus’ comments, Whitlock wrote an article reiterating his point:
While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos. I ain’t saying
Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves.
This contrary position propelled Whitlock to numerous spots on news networks, Oprah (twice!) and Harvard.

While I don’t agree with Whitlock’s ranking of problems in the African-American community (I believe the lack of male role models is more important than anything else) I do agree with a lot he has to say. I share his point that black folk don't have to jump to attack when obvoiusly baited (Read: Rush Limbaugh). My main critique of Whitlock is, and excuse the pun, he sees things too much in black and white.

Whitlock seems to live in a zero sum world. Because 50 cent uses bad words and black people don’t protest, Don Imus can’t be criticized for using bad words. Because Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don’t challenge The Game for the words they use (by the way, they have) they can’t challenge Don Imus. Why can’t both be wrong?

And his attack on Vivian Stringer was beyond the pale:

I watched the Rutgers news conference and was ashamed.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for eight minutes in 1963 at the March on Washington. At the time, black people could be lynched and denied fundamental rights with little thought. With the comments of a talk-show host most of her players had never heard of before last week serving as her excuse, Vivian Stringer rambled on for 30 minutes about the amazing season her team had. Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that the comments of a man with virtually no connection to the sports world ruined Rutgers’ wonderful season. Had a broadcaster with credibility and a platform in the sports world uttered the words Imus did, I could understand a level of outrage.

But an hourlong press conference over a man who has already apologized, already been suspended and is already insignificant is just plain intellectually dishonest. This is opportunism. This is a distraction.

So Stringer’s crime against black folk is bad public speaking? And as for opportunism, where does one press conference weigh against appearing on Orpah (twice!)? When Whitlock comes out with his book (and if doesn’t have book out by the end of 2008, I’ll be shocked) will that be opportunism? Or is it that since you are fighting the good fight against Snoop Dogg and Dave Chappelle, you get a pass?

Whitlock seems so hyper-focused on this issue, nothing else can penetrate his universe and no one that doesn’t share his views exactly can be painted with the same brush as the people who he believes actively advance the ‘prison culture’.

His attitude is not going to help his cause.


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