Denver Post

New York - As Don Imus fought in vain to keep his job, the embattled radio host argued that rappers routinely "defame and demean black women" and call them "worse names than I ever did." That's an argument many people made as the fallout intensified, culminating with Imus' firing on Thursday for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Now that Imus has been silenced (for the moment), some critics are moving down the radio dial to take on hip-hop, boosting the growing movement against the harmful themes in rap.

"We all know where the real battleground is," wrote Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock. "We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show." Pointing out that the rapper Mims uses "ho" and worse epithets in his chart-topping song "This Is Why I'm Hot," columnist Michelle Malkin asked: "What kind of relief do we get from this deadening, coarsening, dehumanizing barrage from young, black rappers and their music-industry enablers?" The Rev. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., who as pastor of the Rutgers coach helped mediate the Imus imbroglio, said today that he is organizing a nationwide initiative to address the culture that "has produced language that has denigrated women." "We have to begin working on a response to the larger problem," he said.

T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, author of "Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop's Hold on Young Black Women" and a professor at Vanderbilt University, said many black women resist rap music and hip-hop culture, but their efforts are largely ignored by mainstream media.

As an example, the professor pointed to "Rap Sessions," the 10-city tour in which she's participating. She said the tour and its central question - does hip-hop hate women? - have gotten very little mainstream media coverage.

"It's only when we interface with a powerful white media personality like Imus that the issue is raised and the question turns to 'Why aren't you as vociferous in your critique of hip-hop?' We have been! You've been listening to the music but you haven't been listening to the protests from us." Crouch said that change in rap music and entertainment likely won't come fast, because corporations are still profiting from the business - but it's coming.

"I've been on (rappers) for 20 years," Crouch said. "I was in the civil rights movement. I know it takes a long time when you're standing up against extraordinary money and great power. But we're beginning to see a shift."

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