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Julie’s Race Card – Trump Card – You Decide

Reported by Ellen - April 15, 2007 -

Note: Guest blogged by Priscilla

I was really hoping for a discussion of substance when Julie previewed her segment about Imus with the question, “How far have we come in dealing with race relations in this country?” It was encouraging to see that the panel had, in addition to right wing Joe Pagliarulo, three African Americans (including one woman) as this seemed to indicate that Fox was willing to listen to the perspectives of the community that was affected by Imus’ racial slur. But, as happens in many of Banderas’ segments, what starts off in the world of reality quickly detours into the realm of the twilight zone.

My hopes were soon dashed when Julie asked the very predictable Fox question, “Who is the bad guy, Imus or the growing gangster culture?” to Tracy Sharpley-Whiting who is the author of a book on hip hop, “Pimps Up, Ho’s Down, Hip-Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women.” (Comment: What Julie didn’t mention was that Ms. Sharpley-Whiting is a PhD who is also the director of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University) Dr. Sharpley-Whiting responded that Imus had to “pay the price” and noted that he said more than just was being reported in that he compared the young women to the Toronto Raptors and described them as “grizzlies.” She stated that the term “ho” has been in existence since blacks were first brought to this country and that it is “part of the national fabric in any discussion of race.”

Julie’s next predictable comment was about how the Duke rape case which “dominated the news headlines” (Comment: certainly on Fox News) and later Imus were situations where whites were being accused of disrespecting blacks while the hip hop industry is expressing demeaning messages. Not surprisingly, the question to Juan Williams, was “is this a double standard?” While Williams agreed that rap is demeaning, he added that Imus, a white man, was talking about dignified college athletes. A photo of Imus was shown with the chyron, “Is there a double standard when we use slang?” (Comment: Imus’ comment when used by whites is not “slang.”) Julie then said that it was hypocritical for Snoop Dogg to be calling for Imus’ firing. (Comment: the calls for the firing were not just from the black rap community)

Roy Johnson, an African American “media consultant,” in commenting about Imus said that “America stood up and said we will no longer stand for this.” He said that we need to lay standards on other industries and that he will be speaking to BET about this. (Comment: What Julie didn’t mention was that Mr. Johnson is an assistant managing editor for Sports Illustrated)

Joe Pagliarulo, right wing radio talk show host, said that Imus’ “vernacular” comes from hip-hop. (Comment: guess he doesn’t believe Dr. Sharpley-Whiting). He felt that Imus “took the fall for something that’s been happening for years” and added that it is time to “boycott rap now.” He later commented that Imus and Howard Stern have been saying this kind of thing for years and it’s only an issue because Jackson and Sharpton “latched on to it.”

All three African Americans disagreed with the caller who said that Imus was “scapegoated.” Williams said that Imus played to the “lowest common denominator” and has a history of similar comments. Johnson asked “what happened to accountability” and noted that if “we said these things, we would be fired.” Williams did get his Fox memo, though, as he worked in a comment about how there is a discussion in the black community about rap although, according to Williams, Jackson and Sharpton don’t seem to be embracing it.

The last segment took a bizarre turn when Julie introduced something that her producer had e-mailed to her. It was the story of a horrific carjacking murder of two young white Tennessee residents by, allegedly, a group of four black men and one black woman. Julie, who wanted to “spare us the details”, went on to describe the specifics of torture and mutilation. She was indignant that this has not received national attention to which Dr. Sharpley-Whiting responded that if the media hadn’t been paying as much attention to Anna Nicole, then they might have picked up the story. Williams said that it was a heinous crime and that the guilty parties should pay the consequences. He also noted that Julie hadn’t told the whole story as there are some questions about whether the victims were involved in a drug deal. Julie concluded by saying that she was “very disturbed by this and wished she had a whole hour to devote to it.”

Comment: What was a substantive (for Fox News) discussion of the state of race relations was quickly hijacked into more vilification of blacks. The issue was not Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or the Tennessee murder (which white supremacist websites are now – I’m not kidding – blaming on the Jews) but was rather about a public racial slur. Instead of holding Imus accountable, Fox and their right wing commentators shift the focus to a segment of the black community. The race card that Banderas played was vile and inappropriate; but for Fox News, white does “trump” black.