john & ken

KFI AM 640 radio talk show hosts John & Ken

*The suspension of KFI’s John and Ken show has sent shockwaves through Los Angeles and thanks to the Internet, the nation.  Black people everywhere, who have never even heard of John and Ken, much less listened to their show, are in an uproar and have something to say about the two white men in L.A. who called singer Whitney Houston a “crack ho” on the radio.   There are even talks in Los Angeles about having a Day of Protest against the show and the station for the offensive comments.

At the center of the controversy are the duos on-air comments about Houston’s behavior prior to her death where they said: “It’s like, ‘Ah Jesus . . . here comes the crack ho again, what’s she gonna do.”

John and Ken went on to say that when it came to Houston’s long time problems with drugs, that she was “cracked out for 20 years,” and regarding her death, they said: “Really, it took this long?”

As a Black woman to who listens to KFI religiously Monday through Friday from the first word out of Bill Handel’s mouth in the morning to the last word from Tim Conway Jr. in the evening, and who is not one of the millions of people mourning the death of Whitney Houston, even I had to do a double take when I heard this slip of the tongue live on air last week.

I remember thinking, did they really just say that?

Coming off of the Don Imus controversy and his on-air “nappy headed hos” comment, the suspension of John and Ken wasn’t that much of a surprise.  We’ve already been there and done that.

For the record, white people calling Black women derogatory names is nothing new.  And even though I listen to the John and Ken Show, as a Black woman, at the end of the day I know exactly where I stand with them and what they think about Black people.

Are their comments enough to justify national outrage from Blacks?  Maybe.

However, I’d argue that before a single finger is pointed at John or Ken, most Black people need a quick reality check.

While the word “ho” on KFI is seldom used, the same can’t be said for Black America where it is in heavy rotation on a daily basis.  From the barely bleeped out lyrics that we listen to on the radio, the videos we watch on television, and how we speak to and about each other—there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t hear the word ho and it’s usually coming out of the mouth of another Black person.

Just one scan of the most requested songs on Los Angeles hip-hop radio station Power 106 proves my point.

2012 Best New Artist Grammy nominee J. Cole’s “Work Out,” features the lyrics, “She bad and she know it.  Some niggas save hos, I’m not that heroic.”  Nice.

Add to that, this year’s Best Rap Album Grammy nominees Jay-Z and Kanye West and their “Niggas in Paris,” which, if you can get past the title, uses the word bitch four times and is only topped by Tyga’s “Rack City” which manages to use the word bitch 22 times in a little over 3 minutes and says, “All the hos love me you know what it is.”

Lil Wayne’s “She Will,” says, “I tell her, now go and pop that pussy for me. Haters can’t see me but them bitches still looking for me,” among other things.

I could go on and on, from city to city, radio station to radio station and still come up with the same examples.

But it’s not just radio that helps to keep the word ho alive in Black America.  Thanks to CD players and iPods where censoring is not even an issue, much worse is played in the cars and homes of many of the same Black people offended by John and Ken’s characterization of Whitney Houston.  Homes and cars of Black parents with impressionable children who see and hear Mommy and Daddy enjoying songs with the word ho in it and a lot worse.

So while John and Ken were undeniably wrong in using the words “crack ho” to describe Whitney Houston, the reality is that they are two white guys on the radio in Los Angeles who have a majority conservative white audience they play to.  And even if they used the word ho everyday to describe Black women, they still wouldn’t come close to the damage that’s already been done and continues to be done on a daily basis in the Black community with our own use of the word.

Black children and teenagers are not listening to KFI but they are listening to Mommy and Daddy, watching MTV and BET, and listening music that says much worse than “crack ho.”

Last Thursday, in the statement, KFI’s John Kobylt said, “We made a mistake, and we accept the station’s decision. We used language that was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize to our listeners and to the family of Ms. Houston.”

When was the last time a rapper apologized for using the word ho, bitch, or even niggas?


John and Ken apologized and were suspended.  Is it enough?  I think so.  The chances of them using the word ho on-air to describe any Black woman in the future are slim to none.

Protesting to extend their suspension or boycotting KFI and its advertisers, even if it were successful, would donothing to change Blacks own use of the word and that’s really where the issue is.  Whitney Houston was a talented singer who died tragically and wasn’t alive to hear herself being called a “crack ho.”  Millions of other Black women however hear it everyday—either coming out someone else’s mouth or sadly—their own.

A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view.  Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

jasmyne cannick