“What has society come to that anything is acceptable today?”

— C. Vivian Stringer, coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights women’s basketball team

The crude racist/sexist remarks of radio talk show host Don Imus have ignited a firestorm of anti-racist protest from people of all races and nationalities all over the country. This protest quickly resulted in the show losing several sponsors and MSNBC dropping Imus’ show. CBS radio, after much hesitation, finally decided to drop the Imus program — which generated $50 million in advertising revenues annually.

This firestorm is related to a new mood in the country that led to the rejection of the extreme right Republican majority in Congress last November. This mood is more than against the war: it is against the right. With the exception of the vote in Michigan that defeated affirmative action (where tens of thousands mistakenly thought they were voting for civil rights), the results showed the coming together of a multiracial coalition with labor and people’s organizations at its core.

The GOP defeat could not have happened without a mass rejection of the racist appeal used by the Republicans to push their pro-war, pro-corporate domestic and foreign policy agenda.

The massive revulsion against and rejection of Imus is part of this new democratic mood.

It’s shameful that CBS took so long to fire Imus. He has continually used racist, sexist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic “humor.” In effect, he has been feeding the Republican right-wing ideological machine, a machine that rationalizes their extreme anti-working-class policies. More and more people today realize that these racist and sexist insults are harmful to our nation and must be stopped.

At the annual Washington Press Corps dinner a few weeks ago, Karl Rove, the president’s chief adviser, performed a racist portrayal of what was supposed to be a rap singer. It was like a minstrel show, with everything but the blackface makeup. As the president’s chief strategist bounced around the stage like a clown, someone commented, “He’s white from his head to his toe.”

This is what’s coming from an administration that is dismantling civil rights enforcement and refusing to provide for the victims of Katrina. This is the atmosphere where public entertainers like Imus and Michael Richards feel they can get away with anything. Racism is alive and well in the White House.

And not just the White House: the Republican Party continues its appeal to its racist constituents. Disgraced Sen. Trent Lott has been re-elected their number 2 leader in the Senate. Republicans clearly have no problem electing an unreconstructed segregationist as their leader. This is part of the bigger picture.

Because Imus’ presence looms so large in the mass media, his removal will send a strong signal to others in the public eye who are doing the very same thing. It will say, “Enough!”

Imus’ defense was that he is “a good person who said a bad thing.” But good people do not spread racism and sexism.

He went on to say that there is a double standard because Black rappers use those terms all the time. Rutgers coach Stringer, at a press conference, rejected this, saying that there is no excuse. “Imus,” she said, “is three times their age and should know better.”

The coach is correct. However it must be added that for many years there has been strong opposition in the Black community to the use of racist and sexist language precisely because it gives license for racists to use the same language. And to be clear, most rap music today is paid for and approved by white male corporate executives.

The whole nation should be proud of the Rutgers players, who have shown enormous dignity, poise and clarity. Essence Carson, the sophomore captain of the Rutgers team, pointed out, “This is not about attacking a major broadcast figure. We are attacking an issue we know is not right.” Ms. Carson clearly sees the bigger picture.

To affect the bigger picture, the fight against racism must be stepped up on all issues: jobs, education, housing, democratic rights and health care. As in most things, this negative contains a positive kernel: this incident is creating a new and growing offensive against racism and sexism.

Today we celebrate Imus’ ouster, but with an additional demand: for peace, jobs and democracy. For this to be achieved, racism must go!

Jarvis Tyner (jtyner@cpusa.org) is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA. This was written on behalf of the CPUSA National Board.