This 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.