Protesters demand resignation of Twin Cities’ own Don Imus
Last Thursday, December 6, members of several communities of color met outside ABC’s KQRS-FM radio station in Minneapolis to protest race hate statements made by radio talk show personality Tom Barnard. The protest is the result of continuous outrage felt by community members dating back to 1998 after Barnard said, “Either assimilate or hit the god***n road” in response to an incident where a 13-year-old Hmong mother had been accused of killing her infant.
Hmong community member Aimee Xiong told of how she was affected by Barnard’s words in 1998 as an eighth grader, and of her frustration that now, at the age of 23, she still finds his racial slurs being aired at the radio station.
The Hmong community has not been the only target of Tom Barnard on the KQ Morning Show. Somalis, African Americans, Mexican Americans and Native Americans have been fair game as well. Just a few weeks ago, Barnard joked that the Red Lake Ojibwa Reservation’s high suicide rate was the result of incest and the Native Americans’ genetic makeup.
During the rally, William Means, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, called for Barnard’s job in response to a growing list of verbal attacks.
Even though the 1998 statements caused several companies to withhold their advertising dollars, the Imus effect has yet to occur. After 10 years of tension between Barnard and communities of color, he still maintains comparatively high ratings and a very loyal fan base among Twin Cities radio listeners.
After a decade of perseverance on this issue, participating members of several Minnesota communities of color were neither discouraged nor silenced by the cold December weather on the day of their protest. Instead, they chanted together, “The people, united, will never be defeated” outside the ABC station’s doors.
They also expressed outrage that Disney, who owns ABC, can continue to describe itself as a family-friendly corporation while allowing racial slurs to travel their airwaves.
St. Paul NAACP President Nathaniel Khaliq urged supporters to be an example for youth by “standing up against this kind of oppression… We all stand together with our brothers and sisters to change this mindset, as Malcolm [X] once said, ‘by any means necessary.’”
Although starting in November the station broadcast an apology for Barnard’s late-October statements, which included a comment about the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community providing assistance to Red Lake to combat the high suicide rates with money from Mystic Lake Casino, the presence of the American Indian Movement at the rally indicates that the apology did not suffice.
Meanwhile, backed by KQRS-FM, ABC, and ultimately the Walt Disney Corporation, Tom Barnard’s Morning Show continues its tradition of broadcasting bigotry to an apparently receptive audience of Twin Cities listeners.
Vickie Evans-Nash welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.