Don Imus, Black People, and the Economic Incentives of Racism
Another radio talk show personality makes another racially insensitive statement and the Reverend Al Sharpton makes another racist charge. How many times has this scenario already played itself out?
Radio host Don Imus used his nationally syndicated talk show which airs on the MSNBC television network to say that members of the mostly black Rutgers University women’s basketball team, where the majority of players are black, were nappy headed whores. The team had lost a playoff game for the NCAA Women’s Championship. Al Sharpton has demanded that Imus be fired. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push Coalition plans protest outside the NBC headquarters to voice their grievance. But truth be told the racist Imus has very little to fear.
The program that Don Imus hosts is a very profitable one for NBC. Sponsors practically fall over themselves lining up to buy a share of the commercial time available during his program. Many of his listeners can identify with his view on a number of issues including his racist views on minorities. While many people may not be so bold as to remove any doubt of their racist mindset, Mr. Imus gives them an opportunity to indulge their own bigotry In fact, Mr. Imus may wind up more popular than ever because of his racist expression. There has always been, and always will be, economic incentives for the racist practice of discrimination.
Arguably, America’s most economically profitable era is its period of slavery where many Africans suffered enslavement via extraordinary rendition. Not only were Africans used as free labor. Africans family members were bought and sold for profit like so much property. Through a racist social policy that regarded men and women of color a sub human classification many of our ancestors were forced to suffer inhumane conditions because slave owners had no economic incentives to provide humane treatment for their slave labor force.
When the white man woke up to the fact that they could not economically compete with the free labor market of slavery, the necessary steps were taken to end the system. The emancipation proclamation outlawed slavery and freed the people of African descent. But the economics of racism continued to thwart any fair treatment of black people. A series of Jim Crow laws were established to deny blacks their right to vote. The denied right to vote effectively kept racist officials in positions of government at the local, the state, and the federal level. Racist government officials were all too willing to support policies and practices that denied black people the economic opportunities white people enjoy
Racist policies of keeping black people ignorant and under educated, or uneducated, allowed white people to take advantage of them in business dealings. To this day many blacks still suffer the effects from a history of poor education. Many businesses prey on minorities with substandard educations such as predatory lenders who give people who most likely can’t afford to buy a home the most ornery financing terms with the highest financing rates in order to drive them to financial ruin and seize the house back to sell it to some other easy target. Easy money until so many people fall prey at once and the lenders are now the victims. Thank god for karma.
Racist practices by politicians are wonderful tools to scare the public. Politicians will talk tough about reigning in some fictitious wave of crime to appeal to the masses. Manipulated statistics will show how law enforcement needs to crack down on undesirable elements in our population. For most people, that means keeping black people from committing crime. Politicians will bend over backwards to put a black man in jail for life or send a man to the gas chamber to show how tough they are on crime. Yet white collar crime such as the Enron spectacle, the Jack Abramoff scandal, Halliburton’s no bid multi-billion dollar contracts, Mark Foley’s congressional page scandal, Exxon-Mobile’s eye-popping record $30 billion profit while the rest of America suffer record gasoline prices, and so many other offenses consistently go under the attention of any agency charged with protecting the interest of the public.
Law enforcement agencies regularly benefit from racist policies. Police will randomly target black people for drug enforcement processes such as illegal traffic stops and vehicle searches. A black man will suffer prison for an offense a white man would get off without a mark on his record. Black men in prison work for pennies a day while the prison reaps profits for their modern day slave labor. Prison agencies will justify their existence to the public by touting the number of criminals they have to maintain. A high vacancy rate would be bad for business. So any opportunity to charge an inmate for a petty violation does not get passed up.
Such is the case with the Texas Youth Commission. This agency is charged with the responsibility of keeping juveniles in the state of Texas from the public. Yet, employees of this agency regularly violate laws that are much more severe than the crimes many of these children are accused of. Take the case of Shaquanda Cotton who was sentenced to be incarcerated for a maximum of seven years for shoving a hall monitor at her Paris, Texas high school. She was sent to Texas Youth Commission. Yet Texas Youth Commission employees are accused of raping and torturing these children. So many children have been kept behind bars in order to keep enrollment in the prison system near maximum levels. As many as 550 children may be released now that their cases are being reviewed by the new master of Texas Youth Commission hired by the Governor.
When civil rights activist brought attention to Shaquanda Cotton and the Texas Youth Commission, many people were appalled at the conditions with which the agency operated and demanded justice and changes. Many people are now in fear of being fired for being negligent in the responsibilities. Other Texas Youth Commission employees are under threat of being prosecuted for criminal behavior. So many people are upset that they are now being scrutinized by new management. Now the employees of the Texas Youth Commission want compassion. Inevitably other racist will rally to their defense.
Until minorities can figure out a way to take the economic incentive out of being a racist racism will thrive and thrive well. As some broadcast analyst commented, Don Imus has nothing to fear as long as he is profitable to his company.