Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Michael Richards Giving Baby Boomers a Bad Name

His racist comments are a wake-up call on the state of race relations.

My daughter came home from school today and asked if I had heard the racist comments made by someone from the Seinfeld show. I had not. She proceeded to tell me all she could remember from the discussion in her African American History class.

Needless to say, I was shocked but wasn't quite sure what to believe since it was coming from my daughter--who doesn't always pay the best of attention in class.

But sure enough, she was right! Michael Richards, who played Kramer in the Seinfeld series, apparently went off the deep end during a stand-up comedy routine at the Laugh Factory over the weekend. There were some hecklers in the audience. They just happened to be African-American males.

Richards was reported as saying, “Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a [*fucking*] fork up your ass.....You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now [expletive]. Throw his ass out. He's a nigger!” Richards shouted before repeating the racial epithet over and over again.

If you watch the video, you can hear some laughter in the audience as Richards is ranting and raving and then someone can be heard gasping “Oh my God” and people respond with “ooh” after Richards uses the n-word.

You can also hear someone say: “It's not funny. That's why you're a reject, never had no shows, never had no movies. Seinfeld, that's it.”

There is outrage being expressed. Comedianne Mo'Nique has been on the radio urging folks to ask televisions around the country to cancel Seinfeld.

But you know what? Michael Richards did us all a favor. He made us painfully aware that racism is still very much alive and well in America. He said what many of us are afraid to say. His comment about Blacks hanging upside down 50 years ago sounds like it came from something deeply rooted in him. He didn't just come up with that off of the top of his head. It was in his heart and it was ugly.

How far this story will go will depend on how far the media chooses to carry it. As a journalist, I know the make-up of many newsrooms around the country. They consist of white men in suits who make editorial decisions daily without much input from African-Americans because we are rarely hired for decision-making positions.

Yes, Michael Richards did apologize...some 48 hours later...but the damage has already been done.

Thank you Kramer, for keepin' it real!


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