It’s fall-out from the Imus scandal. Al is contacting all of the movie and TV studios, telling us that he and his organization will be working with us to define a set of standards for appropriate language usage. It’s going to take a few months, he says, but for now, to be safe, he recommends we consult an African-American slang dictionary and simply avoid using any words or phrases in that dictionary in any of our movies or TV shows. The exception, of course, is if those words are spoken by African-American characters. But even then, the Sharpton organization would like to be consulted in advance, which I think is a great idea and our folks at ABC have already put together a liaison team.
Words to be avoided include not just the obvious ones (you know what I mean) but also some words that many of us (myself included, I must admit) had never heard before. To avoid confusion Reverend Al is giving us in advance a list of words and phrases that will definitely be off-limits. These include: high yellow; redbone; rhiney; shizzle or any words ending in the -izzle suffix; hooptie; homeboy or its variants, homey or homie; booty, in any context, even if not referring to someone’s buttocks; ebony; mahogany; denigrate; renege; negate; “643″; NID; DWB; and “the downlow.” Sharpton also asks us to avoid having white people playing blues music as well as “most forms of jazz,” and says that, “in no context or situation should Causasians be shown rapping, and yes, this applies even to so-called `professionals’ such as Eminem.” Sharpton also recommends media executives check out this article in which Kanye West explains that white people may be allowed to use some black slang but only words that are at least one year old. “Good rule of thumb,” Sharpton says.
You know what? I’m really glad this happened. Not that Imus said what he did, but that this has prompted a healthy and very necessary dialogue in our country and especially in the media. I think this is long overdue. I’ve also been a big fan of the Reverend Al for a long time, and I’m glad to see him taking the lead on this. As for Disney, I must say that ever since I took over here I’ve been deeply ashamed by “Song of the South,” and have pushed to have all copies destroyed. It’s just one of those legacies that no company wants or needs. I’m thinking now that this might give us the push we need to do the right thing. Peace out.