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We’ve all waxed poetic about Imus, his apology and his punishment, but now it’s time to get down to business.

This isn’t about the shocking nature of Imus’s comment–whether it is racist or sexist–it is about morality. During one of his apologies, Imus said he knew the phrase he used came from the black community. He went further by saying, “I’m not stupid. I may be a white man, but I know that these young women–and young black women all through that society–are demeaned and disparaged and disrespected by their own black men and they are called that name. I know that doesn’t give me, obviously, any right to say it, but it doesn’t give them any right to say it either.” And the flood gates opened…

Imus’ defense is, basically, that black people use this language, so why can’t I? And as much as I hate to admit it given my feelings about Imus these days, he’s right on this point. It’s time for rap artists to clean up their language and stop pretending they operate by a different set of standards. Just as we are holding Imus, MSNBC, and CBS accountable for their actions, it is time for us to hold rappers to a higher level of accountability for the music they create.

Music has great influence over our culture, and no genre of music has been more influential within the past few years than rap. With its infectious beats and infecting lyrics, I’ve watched rap music destroy the minds and lives of many.

How can music have that much power? It has that much power when the only thing you hear or watch on television is the degradation of women through misogynistic lyrics and imagery. It has that much power when the record execs applaud their artists for creating music devoid of substance. It has that much power when we just sit back and watch our society crumble in the hands of ignorant rappers who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Snoop Dogg believes that he and other rappers cannot be compared to Imus, that the white guy should be condemned for using derogatory language while the rap artists should get a free pass. In a story posted on MTV.com, Snoop said, “[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about ho’s that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing sh–, that’s trying to get a n—a for his money.” Snoop, you may not be talking about “no collegiate basketball girls” in your music, but you do rap about women being “ho’s” without specifying why you use that term about them. That is someone’s mother, daughter, or sister that you are rapping about. So, unfortunately, your definition of what makes a woman a “ho” will always fall on deaf ears until the day your realize there is never an appropriate time to call a woman a “ho.”

What Snoop and other rappers forget is that while they differ from Imus in race and perspective, they all operate within a sphere of influence capable of either building up or destroying minds.

These rappers need to stop being so selfish in assuming that everyone is smart enough to see through their self-evident ignorance. Their lack of moral compass has steered our society off the mountain and into the pit. There has never been a clearer arrow that points to why our children curse like sailors, have the sexual proclivity of a man on Viagra, and possess minds unable to comprehend academic work nearly as much as they can retain lyrics to the latest rap song bar for bar. Scripture says that the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword able to cut between soul and spirit, bone and marrow. But for these perilous times, some of the rap music that exists can be just as powerful and consuming.

It’s time to put an end to this foolishness and stop handling these rappers with kid gloves and letting them run free every time they cry “I’m innocent.” Young minds are at stake every time they turn on the television and see a man disrespecting a woman, sliding a credit card down the crack of her backside–thanks, Nelly–or just allowing women to exploit themselves in a music video for a crummy paycheck. (Yes, the women agree to be in these videos by their own free will, but when will you decide you don’t want them to sell themselves to the highest bidder anymore?) Young ears are being flooded with the poisonous lyrics of today’s rap music. Stop conveying the message that it could ever be appropriate to call a woman a “‘ho” or a “b*tch”–regardless of what you personally know about them. It’s not okay, ever–whether you’re an African American rapper or a white talk-radio shock jock.

A few weeks ago, at a women’s conference I attended, the Rev. Claudette Copeland said that we all have a capacity to either do great good or great harm. The former leads to experiencing God’s ever-increasing glory and the latter just leads to misery. Rappers have that same capacity to use their ability to rap–which could be seen as a God-given gift–to glorify God, to edify people, and to spread love. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” It’s time for everyone to stand up against the bullies of the rap music industry while it is slowly picking away at the moral fibers of our world. It’s time for CDs to burn in the bonfire, for letters to be written, for televisions to be turned off and iPod earbuds to be yanked off, all in favor of cleansing what good remains. It is time for the healing, and it is a village effort.

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