'THANK YOU, Don Imus," writes Jason Whitlock, a black columnist at the

Kansas City Star.

"You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it's 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

"The bigots win again. While we're fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I'm sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent's or Snoop Dogg's or Young Jeezy's latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos."

Whitlock has it right.

Eliminating Imus' program won't do much to solve the problems in the black community. When it comes to determining black self-images - or as Whitlock sees it, self-hatred - Don Imus isn't a significant player.

To identify the "real black-folk killas," Whitlock holds up a mirror. "It is us," he charges. "We are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture - hip-hop - that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture.

"The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive,

pro-drug dealing and violent. Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves."

On MTV News, Snoop explained why it's OK for him to rap about nappy-headed hos but why Imus can't: "Rappers are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who made it to the next level in education and sports.

"We're talking about hos that's in the hood that ain't doing s---, that's trying to get a n---- for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-a-- white men that sit up on MSNBC."

Jumping into the hysteria, Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running for president, also called for Imus' firing. "He didn't just cross the line," Obama said. "He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America."

So there was Imus, trying to be hip like Snoop, and his place is now at the end of the unemployment line. "There's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group," Obama told ABC News. "And I would hope that NBC ends up having the same attitude."

In November, Obama invited rapper Ludacris to his Chicago office to talk about, as the Associated Press reported it, "lighting the way for the nation's youth." They discussed "empowering the youth," said Ludacris, whose hits include "I Got Hos" and "You'z a Ho" and just plain "Ho."

HERE'S THE milder lyrics:

"You'z a ho, ho; you'z a ho, ho; you'z a ho, ho; you'z a ho, ho; I said dat you'z a ho; you doin' ho activities; with ho tendencies; hos are your friends; hos are your enemies; with ho energy to do whacha do" . . . etc.

It's not all nuts. There's a line in the same Ludacris song for the kids about the environment:

"Reach up in tha sky for tha hozone laya."

And about nutrition:

"And here's a ho cake for the whole ho crew an everybody wants some cuz hos gotta eat too."

There's also a lesson about upward mobility: "Can't turn a ho into a housewife."

And geography: "It's a ho wide world, that we live in."

And feelings of abundance:

"There's hos in tha room; there's hos in tha car; there's hos on stage; there's hos in tha bar; hos by near, an hos by far."

Still, even with "hos on a crack pipe" and "horrible, horrendous" hos with "ugly chicks' faces," Ludacris ends with sympathy and inclusiveness: "But hos don't feel so sad and blue, cuz most of us n----- is hos too."

So far, "You'z a Ho" is still playing, and Obama hasn't charged that Ludacris is making it harder for his girls to live in today's America. *

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.