The Imus Affair, Hip Hop and Politics

In the immediate aftermath of the Don Imus scandal-before there was a resolution, in fact-respectable folks turned their sights on what I guess is the real threat to social harmony in this country: rap music. “A line has been drawn as to what is acceptable and what will not be tolerated,” huffed Today show weatherman Al Roker. “A dialog has been started about race in our country. An opportunity has been created to start holding responsible those who produce and broadcast offensive music lyrics, both rap and rock, that denigrate and marginalizes women.” Even more nauseating was the assault-you can’t describe it better-by Kansas City Star columnist, Jason Whitlock, whose position is basically that Imus should have been left alone until the scourge of bad music and out-of-line musicians was repelled. The liberals and progressives I talked to and read mostly thought this a nifty keen thought, though of course Imus had to go, too.

Presumably Roker and Whitlock are merely the warmup acts for the nation’s chief hater of rap, rock and black youth: Bill Cosby, who must have been out making pudding or something during last week’s contretemps. And where was that harridan against hip-hop excess, Oprah Winfrey, all week? The Imus mess certainly has given us a chance to observe the priorities of rich and powerful African-Americans-Cosby, Winfrey, Whitlock and Roker are all black.

Somehow, maybe it would be hard for you to understand why, I found much more frightening than the last Busta Rhymes album (arguably, the best of his career) this New York Times headline:

In Alabama, Giuliani Calls Confederate Flag a Local Issue

(from the Wednesday May 11 paper, buried at the back of the A section; you can read it here.)

That is, the leading Republican Presidential candidate is making a naked appeal to states’ rights. If you’re too young to remember, states rights was the pretext for the Civil War and a hundred years of Jim Crow and lynching after it.

According to the deaf, dumb and blind boys who run the Washington and national political press corps, Giuliani is electable partly because he’s a Northerner and not a “social conservative.” (According to Imus, who hung with all those pundits, Giuliani’s candidacy was appealing because he’s “somebody who’s willing to take three big ones and drop one on Mecca, one on Jeddah, and one onRiyadh.” He said this about eight weeks before his “slip of the tongue” about the women who lost a basketball game for Rutgers.)

Rudoph Giuliani has a history very similar to Don Imus, on whose show he was sometimes a guest, and more pertinently, to the last disgraced NYC talk show mouth, Bob Grant, an even more unapologetic racist. Rudy appeared quite frequently on Grant’s show before Bob got bounced off WABC for celebrating the death of Clinton’s African-American commerce secretary, Ron Brown, on the air. I’d say Rudy’s considerably worse than either Imus or Grant, though.

Grant used to refer regularly on his show to Mayor David Dinkins, Giuliani’s immediate predecessor, as “the washroom attendant,” and got away with it. But Giuliani empowered the racism of the New York Police Department in a special way. Giuliani used Grant’s bigot rhetoric to help make himself mayor. In the midst of his 1992 campaign against Dinkins, Rudy cheerfully appeared at a demonstration (which came closer to the description “riot”) of NYPD officers on the steps of City Hall. The cops were outraged that Dinkins had proposed a police review board run by civilians. Sure enough, one of the angry cops referred to Dinkins as “The Washroom Attendant.” Giuliani stepped to the mic, and said nothing about the slur. So he didn’t actually say the words but his unreserved support for the cops was endorsement enough.

During Rudy Giuliani’s terms as mayor, Amadou Diallo was murdered with 41 shots from gun-crazy cops.

While Rudy Giuliani was mayor, Abner Louima was raped with a broomstick by Rudy’s police.

During his mayoralty, Rudy Giuliani slashed the budget of the Civilian Complaint Review Board that was established over his protests. In its first five years, during all of which Giuliani was mayor, the CCRB received 20,000 complaints-4,000 a year. One cop lost his job-until the Louima rape. Then several went to jail. And having learned its lesson, the system allowed the Diallo cops to be tried upstate, instead of by a jury of New York City citizens.

After the Louima rape, Giuliani characterized as “shameful” his opponents efforts to publicize and politicize it.

We can probably count on him to do the same if his endorsement of states’ rights in the form of the traitor’s flag of the Confederacy is raised in the Presidential race.

That’s exactly why it needs to be raised, raised again and again.

And when Jason Whitlock writes a column on this, he’ll get some respect from me. Until then, he can kiss Busta Rhymes ass, maybe. I wouldn’t have him near mine.

DAVE MARSH is editor of Rock & Rap Confidential. Marsh’s definitive and monumental biography of Bruce Springsteen has recently been reissued, with 12,000 new words, under the title Two Hearts. He can be reached at:

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