Here's this blurb from a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times:
Just as black comedians who make mean jokes about Asians and Latinos don't see themselves as racists, I'm sure that Imus doesn't see himself as a racist either. He reveres blues artists such as B.B. King and Ray Charles. He praises American icons such as Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. He clearly likes former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford and has interviewed Sharpton a few times. He treated Lani Guinier with uncharacteristic respect during her guest appearance to discuss her latest book.
His sympathy for the Katrina victims came through. And after the James Byrd dragging-lynching in Texas in 1998, Imus did not joke. In serious tones that couldn't hide his sorrow or disgust, he quietly remarked that it was unwise for black people to ever trust whites.
After listening to him for 10 years, I've concluded that Imus is not a malevolent racist. He is a good-natured racist. And the streak of decency running down his self-centered, mean persona is sometimes pretty wide.
In my own view, it's hard to say if he's a bigot-at least in the sense of someone ala George Wallace back in the 60s.
However, there are also people that I know who are friendly to me and truly wonderful people- and yet are pretty bigoted in the views of people. And yet, I still like these people, because even though they have some wacked out view, they still have caring hearts.
A few years ago, I was traveling with my ex-boyfriend and we were near his grandmother's house in rural Illinois. We stopped by and chatted. She was a darling woman and after a while she looked at me and asked if I ever played basketball or football.
I simply said no, while chuckling to myself silently. What she said was sort of bigoted (thinking that because I'm black I must play basketball), but I also know she was from another time and that it didn't come from a spirit of meaness.
My guess, and this is only my guess, is that Imus is not the mean-hearted racist of old who really hated black people. My guess is that he is someone who has preconceptions of blacks and maybe women that are bad, but that he also has some good in him as well.
The fact is, we really don't know what is in Imus' heart regarding race. Maybe we do know, but I tend to think we don't. This article seems to say that he probably does like black folk even though he says things that would take my breath away.
This is a long way of saying that things are complicated in this world of ours. I've encountered bigots who are terrible people and some who are good people. And I've encountered people who will say all the right things in regards to race and are yet pretty bigoted.
Imus words were wrong, but I think the answer to the question of him being a bigot is far more complex than some bloggers and pundits think.