Asha Bandele, a poet, author and former editor at Essence magazine, says her sister was once called a "nappy-headed monkey" by a white classmate. When she heard Imus's remark, she says it struck a nerve.
To understand what's going on in today's society, she says you have to understand American history. "The denigration of black women has been ongoing since we came to this country," she says. "The black community doesn't own degrading black women. Black women have always been degraded, and we all have to take responsibility."
Although some members of the black community use derogatory words to refer to women, Asha says that doesn't make it acceptable. "'Nigger' did not originate in the black community, trust me," she says. "Being called bitches…that didn't start with us. It's not as though I want to minimize some of the damaging things that have happened in the culture, but I'm saying nobody gets a pass on this. Don Imus doesn't get a pass because two wrongs don't make a right."
Asha believes that the media's portrayal of black women is part of the problem. "We don't get to see black women's humanity [in the media]," she says. "We get to see body parts on the covers of magazines, but we don't get to see black women's humanity."