Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Newark African Americans blast Don Imus, racism

By staff

Bashir Akinyele, New Black Panther Party. Closeup of speaking

In the wake of the controversy over the racist remarks by radio personality Don Imus, Fight Back! did the following interviews with grassroots leaders of the Black community in Newark, New Jersey.

The remarks made by Imus are nothing unusual – they are typical of what’s being said on talk radio and in media across the country. It is racism with an agenda of justifying the systematic discrimination, inequality and national oppression that is imposed on the African American people.

Nell Sanders, 26, music teacher at Trenton Community Charter School, Rutgers and Mason Gross School of Fine Arts graduate

Fight Back!: What is the most important thing?

Sanders: Everybody realizes it’s bigger than him. He just brought up a bigger issue. We’ve been normalizing racism and sexism in our everyday lives. He’s a stepping-stone for us to eliminate all this stuff on radio and TV.

The American people are so complacent about everything. Katrina, Iraq, if it doesn’t have a direct effect on you and your little community they don’t give a ——. Right now black people and women have a link. We can go on and connect to what’s happening in Iraq and what’s happening to Muslims and really do some things.

The problem with hip-hop is it’s the young white people who are keeping these artists in business. The black young people don’t have the money. The white kids aren’t looking at them as role models but young kids in the black community do. Young women are acting like these videos on TV. And they’re young.

I’m just glad he said it so we can wake up. Reporters on TV are saying, “It’s the black community,” but it’s not. BET does not represent the black community. Viacom owns BET. You think it’s a coincidence? It’s not. The media is funding the most negative things we produce. They’re being funded and put on TV. I have a friend who’s a jazz cellist but you’ll never see anything on TV about her. These rappers are no better than the corporations. It’s all about money.

Fight Back!: What should we do now?

Sanders: Organize in communities on a small scale to create dialogue. Why is it not OK for a white man to call you a ho, but for a rap artist it’s OK? Get them to look at it and see it’s not OK. We have to want to give the people a voice so we can empower them. Let’s write to BET and get this stuff off. Let the people brainstorm together and find their voice. It doesn’t have to be a big thing.

BET is all over the world; it’s all people know about us, this negative image. It’s not an accident. Let people come up with their own voice. Imus was our wakeup shake but we have to act fast before people go back to sleep.

Bashir Akinyele, Chief of Staff, Newark Chapter, New Black Panther Party

Fight Back!: What does this say about U.S. culture?

Akinyele: [Imus’s remarks are] part of U.S. culture – denigrating women, particularly black women, because they are the most vulnerable. It’s typical. We’ve got to put Imus in perspective as part of the corporate culture-entertainment industry…the justification of the n-word, they beat up on groups that have no power to fight back. You see rap music, the radio stations. It goes deeper than Imus, we should attack the whole industry.

Fight Back!: Where does the mass struggle have to go?

Akinyele: We need to attack the whole entertainment industry. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Fight Back!: Why not?

Akinyele: We haven’t been able to come together. Petty ideological differences keep us from sitting down for dialogue. We need to do that. Once we have that we can have mass energy coming together to attack these issues. People need to dialogue with the New Black Panther Party. Women’s groups, the revolutionary communist parties, we need to sit down and dialogue.

Debbie Strong, Vice-Chairperson, People's Organization for Progress

Stong: He felt so comfortable. It represents a system of racism that’s ingrained so well that certain people feel they can say whatever they want and only apologize. But the damage has been done. There’s no sense of responsibility.

He was talking about all African-American women. Period. Not just those particular ones. He didn’t even know them. In the music, on the airwaves, on TV there is a reverse sense of morality. People see that happening in politics. Politicians lie, they steal, they do whatever they want to do and all they have to do is apologize.

Fight Back!: What do you mean by a reverse sense of morality?

Stong: I came up in the 60s. Back then certain things could not be said; people had to control their behavior. You had to be responsible for what you said. You couldn’t slander people. Something would happen to you. Freedom of speech has to come with responsibility. But today people suck it up like sponges because it’s on radio’ it’s on TV. Little kids copycat and adults do the same. Once things were regulated, now they’re out of control. The complacency of the people lets this happen. People have been misinformed. People don’t pay attention.

Fight Back!: What do people have to do?

Stong: Imus was fired because the sponsors wanted him out. It was a reflection on them, such an uproar was made.

Fight Back!: Isn’t that a reflection of the power of the people?

Stong: Yeah, the people who were leading this were not going to give up. The public would have stayed on it until the sponsors either lost a lot of money or gave in. But what about the other radio jocks? They’re still making their ‘little racial jokes.’

Fight Back!: What do the people have to do to make a lasting difference?

Stong: I’m not going to accept that the things Black people say is behind the problem. White people in general have to be conscious of how the things they say affect people who are different. I don’t think they’re even conscious of it. That has to stop. When that change happens maybe some real changes can happen. The country has an obsession with race, some kind of addiction. The country has to go on rehab.

The masses of the people have to be the ultimate decision-makers. Each individual has to decide their relationship to other human beings. The government is not competent.

People with money are running the government. They’re not always the right ones because they’ve never had to be responsible.

Fight Back!: Given the changes taking place all over the world can U.S. society continue to exist as it does much longer?

Stong: It can’t go on this way. It’s only going to get worse. People become part of the system because they’ve been guided to think a certain way, act a certain way. It’s all based on capitalism and greed.

What’s going on in the school system is not education. You have to be able to pass a test, it’s not about being able to think and act for yourself. People have to fit into the picture or else. There’s no room for being creative.

When things get to the point where it’s the haves versus the have-nots we will see something basic. There’s always been the in-betweens. When it gets to the point where there are no in-betweens, that’s when change will happen. Maybe some day we will thank Imus for waking up the people. Turn it into something positive. That’s what we have to do.

Woman at winter protest in bright sun and dark shadow.

#NewarkNJ #Interview #AfricanAmerican #PeoplesOrganizationForProgress #BlackPantherParty #DonImus