Girl Power

Role Models

EssencecarsonThis morning at breakfast, The Princess and I listened to Essence Carson and her coach, C. Vivian Stringer, interviewed by Soledad O’Brien on CNN.

Essence is the team captain of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Champion Rutgers Scarlet Knights. She is a junior in college. She is tall and strong and articulate and a fine pianist and academically successful, too.

I quickly explained to The Princess what had happened, the remarks made by Don Imus ("the one who wears the hat?" "Yes.").

We listened to Ms. Carson and Coach Stringer describe how disappointing it was to return triumphant and find the TV cameras were interested only in the racist and misogynistic comments of a radio/TV host who didn’t even know them.

"All men are created equal," said The Princess. "All white men."

We looked up newspaper stories to read more about yesterday’s press conference and found that Ms. Carson had given Imus’ words right back to him:

“It’s more than about the Rutgers women’s basketball team,” the team’s
captain, Essence Carson, said during a news conference in Piscataway,
N.J., adding, “As a society, we’re trying to grow and get to the point
where we don’t classify women as hos and we don’t classify
African-American women as nappy-headed hos.”
(New York Times, quoted in a column by Selena Roberts, 4/11/07)

It’s discouraging that in 2007 a public figure has no filters in his mind, no sense that this type of discourse is unacceptable. Honestly, it would have been shocking to me in 1977. I grew up in the South, and I suppose I knew there were racists around me, but my immediate family circle never spoke unkindly, much less in a demeaning fashion, about anyone. (I often tried to get my Senator father to render an opinion on Bob Dole, for instance, who I sensed he didn’t like, but the worst I could get was a Lurch-like rumble.) Thus I am still shocked by stories such as this one.

This morning I hear that Imus, in addition to being suspended for two weeks, will perhaps lose some corporate sponsors.

Is that enough? I don’t know. I do know that I look at Essence Carson and her team-mates and see role models for young women, whether or not they are athletic. The women of the Scarlet Knights are scholar-athletes, young people pursuing a passion while also pursuing an education. I want that for my children, too, especially my daughter. Who will she be at 21? What will matter to her? I don’t want to see the next ten years slip past too quickly, but I am curious to know what she will be willing to stand up and say, whether she, too, will be someone’s role model.

12 thoughts on “Role Models”

  1. I like what she says about being disappointed that he is getting the attention and not the team. I think that’s a big part of it. Sure, he’s a racist, misogynistic creep, but he also thrives on the attention, however negative it may be. Change will happen when the media, when we, decide he’s not worth getting upset over, and pointing our attention where it’s due. Imagine the change that would occur if the media had left Imus virtually silence, and lauded the women with a lot of attention and praise instead.

  2. I think to some degree, we really have been desensitized as a society in terms of what shocks us anymore. And, I do think it was good that Ms Carson addressed the fact that in many hip-hop and rap genres, this sort of language has been used so much that many in the general public thinks it’s somehow acceptable when it’s used in artistic expression. As these women so articulately pointed out, it’s never “OK.” Never was, never will be, never should be tolerated. Period.

  3. I can’t believe people continue to use the language Imus used.
    I am very impressed with the basketball team’s response.
    I want a better world for your daughter and mine.

  4. I heard an interview with her where she described how he doesn’ even know them, and then went on to describe in very vibrant, loving terms, just who her teammates were. She’s a bright, articulate young woman. Too bad she doesn’t have a radio show.

  5. I heard Imus’ apology yesterday.
    While he was most eloquent in his apology, something didn’t ring true.
    After saying that there was no excuse for what he said, he then said, “They don’t know me. They don’t know my show…Then don’t know that on here>” He went on to say that everyone gets made fun of on his show, that everyone gets ridiculed.
    First, that isn’t really true. Mr. Imus’ biases are revealed on a regular basis.
    Further, his “producer” gets to spout all kinds of racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-semitic gibberish and Imus says “No, no” most of the time…but it’s all played for comedy.
    Recognizing that many will disagree, I’m all for ironic humor. While I admit it is deeply offensive, I find much of the humor of “South Park” to be clearly intentionally ironic, a la Archie Bunker. The same could be said for the Colbert Report and The Daily Show, two far classier outlets for contemporary ironic humor.
    What sets Imus apart, to me anyway, is the meanspiritedness of so many of his comments. I saw a YouTube segment from St. Patrick’s Day, when the “producer” masquerading as a foul mouthed Irish Catholic Bishop “does a Cartman” spewing insult after insult after insult. What is missing is the irony. The character isn’t portrayed as a fool (a la Cartman, Archie Bunker, Colbert), he is simply outrageously offensive. (In fairness, Imus is also attacked by the character, but that doesn’t excuse the attacks on others, regardless of what Mr. Imus thinks.)

  6. I heard an African-American activist on Kojo Nnamdi’s show yesterday calling this whole thing a sort of Kabuki theater. That is, someone says something offensive, they get punished, they apologize and go into hiding for a while, then they come back at some future date, bigger and even more popular.
    Imus’s ratings will spike and he’ll negotiate a larger contract next time around. You heard it here first. I hope I’m wrong.

  7. I continue to be dumbfounded about the entire thing.
    Not that it would be appropriate for Imus to talk like that about anyone, but the words he used were so out of context…as if he’d called them “green faced Martians.”
    They’re awesome basketball players at a good school! and they won! WTF!

  8. I too love strong and athletic role models. Not because I’m strong and athletic but because I never thought I could be. I thought I needed to be delicate and “girly.” I love to see young women like Ms. Carson.
    I attended Texas Tech the year the Lady Raiders took the national championship. It was one of the most exciting events I’d ever attended – the welcome home party that is. For the first time, a women’s team got all the attention and glory. It changed my perspective on women’s sports and has made me a lifelong fan of Sheryl Swoops.

  9. Wow, and good for her. I also simply cannot believe that man would think it acceptable to say that in private, much less in public.

  10. First . . . a correction if I may. You wrote, “Essence is the team captain of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Champion Rutgers Scarlet Knights.”
    Rutgers is not the Women’s Basketball Champion; they lost to Tennessee in the Championship Game. That, of course, takes nothing away from the great season they did have.
    Second, I, too, have been following this story and the press conferences held by the Scarlet Knights. I was honestly expecting some sort of typical response. What I saw, however, was a poised, intelligent, articulate grace that is usually lacking in these types of events. Both Ms. Carson and Ms. Stringer have done a marvelous job in the face of some not-so-marvelous behavior. If Kid Ref showed any interest/ability in basketball, I would probably consider Rutgers … even if NJ is a long ways from MT.

  11. I thought the press conference the team did was fantastic. The yshowed themselves to be poised, respectable, courageous young women.
    Young they are too. No seniors on thsi team. So, we are looking at 18-21 yr olds for the most part.
    They are bright, to be on team they must maintain a 3.0. Very gifted, piano players, volunteer workers, science majors.
    I was most pleased with their actions. They are true champions and heros. They are a class act and are fine leaders.
    Imus,…not so much!

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