Monday, November 27, 2006

Racism

Michael Richards said last Monday and again over the weekend that he spewed racial epithets during a stand-up comedy routine because he lost his cool while being heckled and not because he's a bigot.

Pardon me? Say what?

Come on, Krammer (you recall that Richards starred in the hit comedy series, Seinfeld). You can do better than that, surely!

Maybe you heard his "apology" on the Late Show with David Letterman via satellite. Over the weekend he was talking to Rev. Jesse Jackson. Maybe I missed something in the news (tell me if I did), but I'm wondering why he hasn't met the young people he attacked to ask for their forgiveness?

Have you noticed? Stories like this one keep coming up--remember Mel Gibson?

What is interesting to me is the fact that so many folks act so surprised. Richards' remarks were particularly offensive not only because of his selection of words, but also because of the manner in which he used historical references to America's violent, racist past.

Make no mistake about it, racism is alive and well in the U.S.A.

Admitting that is essential. Living in reality, no matter how disappointing at times, is a prerequisite for progress, genuine connection and authenticity.

So, we need to face the facts. Richards' tirade was filled with the language of hate, racism, anger and divisiveness--all forces still very much at work in our society and nation.

Progress in urban, community development depends on our commitment to continuing the struggle to address, acknowledge and move beyond the racism that has dominated our national life and story for far too long.

My faith tells me that the words of Jesus continue to have much to teach us in regard to events like this one.

On one occasion, Jesus told his closest followers, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' . . .But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean'" (Matthew 15:10-11, 18 NIV).

11 comments:

greg said...

Larry,

Not trying to defend what Richards said, but it is my understanding that he does want to meet with those he addressed directly in his rant. That was mentioned in a report this morning regarding his appearance on Jackson's radio show. He also stated (perhaps on Letterman, I can't recall) that he tried to find those people after the show, but they had already left. How sincere he is in all of this is difficult to say, I suppose. He could be trying to save his career, or he could genuinely be repentant.

I saw a report last week regarding several Muslim clerics who were removed from a plane in MN because some passengers were worried. Their apparent offense was being Muslim, praying in the airport before boarding, and not all sitting together. They removed them and weren't allowed back on the plane, or even to buy tickets from the airline the next day. Pretty sad.

Chris said...

What's even sadder is the goal of radical Muslims is to crush America.

travis stanley said...

I think Richard's sincere in his apologies, but he's just naive as to the nature of racism. To say the things he said, and then to say he is not a racist, is quiet ignorant.

Too many people think racism is only some extree behavior that involves actually hating or physically harming someone of another race. In reality, racism is more often subtle, under the surface, and unspoken. Just because Richards didn't know where what he said came from, doesn't mean that it was not in him, and in many of us. We need to stop denying we are racists, and start searching into our own hearts to see what racist feelings exist quietly there, just waiting to burst forth.

We still live in a racialized society and many of us still have racism lingering in our hearts. To admit this and try to heal ourselves is far less shameful than to say on national TV, after spouting racist hate speech, that you are not a racist.

Charles said...

Chris,

So is the goal of radical Russians, probably radical Germans, and certainly many radical Americans want to crush one part or another of the country that defines America to others. Many Christians seem adamantly opposed to portions of the Constitution.

Most Christians I know (presumably Russians and Germans, too, but I don't know them) don't want to crush America - funny thing, neither do most Muslims I know.

Generalizing blame and suspicion makes it easier for the people who are actually trying to commit crimes to hide in those larger groups. Keep the blame on the perpetrators, not on a convenient characteristic that you happen not to share.

Chris said...

Charles,

Most Muslums do not want to crush America. However, radical Muslums do. There was a prime time special Saturday night on this very subject. I hope they show it again, it's frightening.

Larry James said...

Thanks for the posts!

Radical versions of all the major religions make life tough for everyone. And, they seem to spur one another on to more extreme acts of violence and hatred, all in the name of "God."

There is an amazing essay in the December 2006 issue of Harpers Magazine worth reading ("Through a Glass Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U. S. history," by Jeff Sharlet, pages 33ff.). The combination of biblical prophecy/lieteralism, a commitment to a "revisionist" view of the Constitution and to capitalism is creating a significant movement of people in the U. S. Bizarre and frightening stuff.

Chris said...

If anyone wants to revise the constitution it's the liberal judges.

Larry James said...

Thanks for the post, Chris.

Revisionists are found all along the ideological spectrum. The Harpers' essay refers to the rather amazing way right wing extremists revise the story of the founding fathers, as well as the inclusive intentions of the framers of the Constitution.

Freedom or speech and thought and relition, as well as the issues pertaining to civil rights should be of concern to all of us who are interested in the development of genuine community.

IBreakCellPhones said...

Larry,

What do you think of this line of thinking?

Deep down, I think we all have an aversion to the "different." It may be because we're unaccustomed to it, and some exposure would help overcome it. This aversion can take the role of racism, sexism, classism, or any other unjustified stereotype. What we have to do is first realize that we do have this aversion and that it is part of our fallen nature. Second, we can recognize that this aversion is a Bad Thing and it needs to be fought. Third, we resolve to suppress this aversion, knowing that we alone will never beat it completely, and being repentant when we fail at that suppression. Fourth, we need to rely on God to completely excise this aversion from us and to perfect us.

The aversion is natural. Natural ain't always good.

Larry James said...

Ibreakcellphones, thanks for the post.

I guess I see this a bit differently. I don't see this "natural aversion" in children or in some people I have known. I think it is more like the line from "South Pacific," "you've gotta be taught to fear and hate," or something to that effect.

What we often overlook in these discussions it that racism is not about simple prejudice. It is about the malignant use of power to impose one's will and hatred on another person or group of people. That was the spirit of Richards' "mistake." He used race as a weapon, thinking he could hurt and dismiss a group of people who had "crossed him," even though unintentionally.

The racism I have known and grown up with was not so benign as an aversion. It ordered an entire culture and placed a huge part of the populace in a position of disadvantage and oppression.

Chris said...

I have a good idea. Perhaps Michael Richards should ask the REVERNED Jessie Jackson for the name of the psychologist he used after his hyme-town remark.