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Michael Awkward

1 October 2009 | Email This Post Email This Post | Print This Post Print This Post

University of Michigan Afro-American literature and culture professor Michael Awkward discusses his new book, Burying Don Imus: Anatomy of a Scapegoat (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), with Imus in the Morning listener Joseph Planta; they discuss the 2007 firing of talk personality Don Imus over comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team which ignited a firestorm over race, free speech and language in America.

Burying Don Imus: Anatomy of a Scapegoat by Michael Awkward. (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) Click to buy this book from Amazon.ca: Burying Don Imus

Text of introduction by Joseph Planta:

I am Planta: On the Line. This is THECOMMENTARY.CA.
I’ve long been a fan of Don Imus. Anytime I could sneak him into a conversation on this program, I would. I watched his show on MSNBC ever since we started getting the news channel here in Vancouver around 2001. He would be on live from 3.00 to 6.00am Vancouver time, and I would always record it and watch it later in the day. I had about 15 video tapes that I’d rotate daily to record the show. That way if I wanted to go back and hear something funny or a particularly interesting interview with some politician, well-known broadcaster, or generally well-connected personality, I could go back a couple of weeks or more. It seemed everyone did the Imus show, and important politicians or journalists would go on there and goof off with the I-Man, while later on going on 60 Minutes, Meet the Press or some other more highbrow program. I still have the 15 video tapes, and have yet to bring myself to watch his last day or so on MSNBC. You might recall in April 2007 Imus had called members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team, ‘some nappy-headed ho’s.’ It ignited a firestorm that was at once unique as it was noteworthy. The Imus show quickly lost sponsors, and soon he was dropped by MSNBC which simulcast the radio program syndicated by CBS. The whole event started a debate over free speech, race, gender, and the power of language. Imus was off the air for a few months before re-emerging in December of 2007 on WABC radio in New York and RFD-TV, and now next month on the Fox Business Network.

My guest now, Michael Awkward, has written a thoughtful, endlessly educational, and fascinating book, Burying Don Imus: Anatomy of a Scapegoat. It’s written from the singular perspective of a black intellectual who has a long-standing commitment to feminism and a deep familiarity and appreciation of the Imus in the Morning program. It illuminates much about unsolved race relations in America, and more. Michael Awkward is the Gayl A. Jones Collegiate Professor of Afro-American Literature and Culture at the University of Michigan. This is, I believe his fifth book; and it’s published by University of Minnesota Press. I’m very pleased to welcome to the Planta: On the Line program, Michael Awkward; Good morning, Professor Awkward.