Cavett’s Cavils


The only good thing to come of the recent scandals which illuminate white racism is the threadbare victory of blacks’ having all their conspiracy theories validated. For all the good that does. Of course, the primary victory is one which is totally lost on those who apologize for it — proof that skin privilege, with all its attendant social costs, is alive and well. Not far from first place in the pyrrhic victory category is the fall collection of the Emperor’s New Clothes that is white intellectual superiority. Man, how hard privilege has to work to deny itself. I can’t decide whether it’s more painful than bitterly amusing to watch.

Check out Dick Cavett on Imus’s return to the air. Isn’t he supposed to be the intellectual’s intellectual? That’s why I clicked on it, figuring that someone of Cavett’s supposed candlepower would give me something to think about. But, alas, the entire post is so embarrassingly silly, or should be, it’s hard to pick out the dumbest nuggets, but let’s try, shall we?

There’s no getting around what he said, of course, but it’s worth asking under what circumstances would a man ever be justified in calling a bunch of women — of any color — by the volatile term “hos”? The first requirement, really, would be that he would have to know them. How can an insult be personal if the person delivering it and the person(s) receiving it don’t know each other? Imus would have had to meet the ladies and determine to his satisfaction that they were, um . . . how to say? . . . ladies of light virtue. And then he would have to decide to broadcast the authenticated fact. And what on earth would have to be in his mind were he to do that?

Wow. “There’s no getting around what he said” but there should have been no backlash. And note the replacement of rac- and sexism with the much more user-friendly “personal insult;” power is nothing if not sneaky and manipulative in shrouding itself. A statement can’t be rac- or sexist – my bad, insulting – unless it’s utterer had actual knowledge of his target’s moral status. Hmmm, sorta leaves out the part where the very essence of rac- or sexism is negative essentializations based on demeaning the Other. As for what would “have to be on his mind?” how ’bout white supremacy? It’s unthinkable that his buddy is racist, therefore, he isn’t, no matter what he says. And, then there’s this:

At the risk of seeming class-conscious, whenever I’ve appeared with Imus, the folks who mentioned seeing me were certainly . . . well . . . is there a nice way of saying “well above average”?

Anyone? Anyone? Is there?

There are worthy arguments to be made in support of Imus then and his return to the air now. This includes none of them.

At least there’s one thing Cavett and I can agree on re Imus: “A lot of people did not come off well.” Neither did their IQs. Good thing I have no actual knowledge of whether Dick Cavett is a…never mind.

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