‘We Are Being Injured Daily By Racism’

Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 2007

In a twisted, indirect way, Don Imus, the disgraced radio shock jock, deserves thanks for being a catalyst for change. That was the sentiment voiced Monday night at an African American community forum at the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland.

“We have to be thankful for this insult that awakened us to the awareness that we are being injured daily by racism,” said Valerie Brown-Troutt, one of seven speakers who gathered to discuss the fallout from Imus’s description of Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”

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“I’m a pastor, an educator, a mother and a wife,” Brown-Troutt said at the beginning of her remarks. “And I’m a black woman. And my hair is nappy.”

Brenda Knight, businesswoman and founder of “Ladies in Red,” a women’s empowerment organization, likened the Imus remark and its repercussions to a “national disaster,” “a tsunami . . . a raging force that destroys who I am as an African American woman.”

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[Arabella] Grayson, who studies images of African Americans by collecting black paper dolls dating back 140 years, said “a new crop of recycled racist images, once banned in the 1960s and 1970s,” are available at flea markets, boutiques and online auctions. The new images, like the “rotund mammies, fat-lipped butlers, wild savages and scary little picaninnies in tattered clothes” of yore, are “equally disturbing and insulting: the glorification of pimps and ‘hos and gangsta thugs.

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Laverne Jones, like most of the speakers, said the problem has to be addressed within the black community, where young men routinely degrade women as “bitches” and “hos.”

Jones, who wore a button saying “No Sex Policy,” proposed this solution: “If we stop having sex with these men who don’t respect us, we could stop this problem in a week.”

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