I feel like I need to add more to my brief post reporting Michael Richards’ (Kramer) racist screed. A respondent questioned my stunned reaction to his behavior. I need to clarify.
Honestly I wasn’t stunned by the fact that he had such racist thoughts. Racism is alive and well in 2006. Of that there is no question.
What did stun me was the fact that he had the cojones to spew his lynching, n-word tirade from a public stage to a mixed audience in Los Angeles. What the hell was he thinking? I mean, come on. In this day and age, how does someone say such words (and not just think them) on a stage in a public venue, without considering that he is committing career suicide? How did he not grasp that a line had been crossed? There is just no explanation, no excuse, no ability to work his way out of that hole that he dug himself into during his rant.
If, however, his words had been said in his home, at a private party or some other non-public venue, I would have been offended but definitely not stunned. But to spit such undisguised hatred on stage? It was mind boggling. Was he having a psychotic break? Was he on the pipe? Was he just terminally stupid? What in the name of heaven possessed him?
Of course, the message boards have been abuzz after this incident. There have been a bunch of interesting questions raised that I think need to be considered.
First, why were people laughing when Richards started his tirade with a reference to one of the most heinous crimes to befall a black person: lynching? Was it nervous laughter or were people in the audience actually amused by his statement that 50 years ago the hecklers would have been lynched? Is lynching fodder for a joke? Even the media has focused more on his use of the n-word than the lynching reference.
Next, what about the use of the n-word? Is it really wrong for Richards to use it when seven zillion mumble-mouthed rappers use this word every other breath as if it was nothing? When b-boys refer to their friends as “my n—gga?” My opinion is that no one should be using this word…period. We shouldn’t be giving a wink and a nod to blacks using the word but go apeshit when someone white does.
Some people say that it is just a word that shouldn’t have so much power. They say that when the actual word is changed to the defanged euphemism “the n-word” we give this one word more power than it deserves. I cannot agree. There are some words that just have too much emotion and history tied up in them. I’m with Oprah on this one. The last word black men heard before they were lynched was “n-gg-r.” I cannot ignore the history or the pain of this 6 letter word.
Another topic: Is there more or less public outrage over Richards’ rant when compared to Mel Gibson’s anti-Jewish meltdown? The jury seems to be somewhat divided by race. My Jewish AdoringHusband feels like Richards’ incident is worse than Gibson’s. “Most of America understands that you cannot use the n-word and talk about lynching like that in public, but everyone hates the Jews.” However the blacks of Black Ivy are of the opposite mind. They feel that there is much more to do over anti-Jewish speech than over anti-black speech. For me this is a hard one. It is difficult to quantitate furor very easily. I do think that Richards had much more to lose in that he barely had a career left in the first place.
The last question raised is a tough one. What should be done in response to Richards’ behavior? People have mentioned boycotting Seinfeld. Will that have any real effect? I will say that after viewing the video it is difficult for me to watch Seinfeld reruns that I used to love. But is there anything else more meaningful that can and should be done?
Anyone up for sharing thoughts?