November 20, 2006

"That's what happens when you interrupt the white man!"

Kramer -- Michael Richards -- freaks out in the least funny comedian melt-down I've ever seen.

Coincidentally, just last night I happened to catch the scene from the movie "Lenny" where Lenny Bruce (played by Dustin Hoffman) spouts racist epithets directly at people in his audience before mellowing into an explanation about how if we'd only use these words all the time they'd lose their force. Richards, however, never mellows... and Bruce's theory was a new theory when he tested it out, not a long-argued, tried, and failed one.

IN THE COMMENTS: Someone posts the text of the Lenny Bruce routine. I and others continue to distinguish what Richards did from what Bruce did. Some people get sidetracked into a discussion of how some people seem to be permitted to use racial epithets while others don't. To them I say, watch the video. This isn't a question of using the word. It is the entire sad, angry, sorry context for which there is no decent excuse.

UPDATE: Richards is on Letterman tonight, explaining himself. Here's a report on what he said:
"I'm a performer. I push the envelope. I work in a very uncontrolled manner on stage. I do a lot of free association — it's spontaneous, I go into character. I don't know. In view of the situation and the act going the way it was going, I don't know. The rage did go all over the place it went to everybody in the room.

"I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this."
ANOTHER UPDATE: I've watched the show now, so let me make a few observations.

1. Poor Jerry! Seinfeld was the scheduled guest, there to promote a new DVD collection of the old sitcom, trying to make the best of the situation, with Richards having degraded the value of the product.

2. Richards seemed calm -- and his deadpan delivery caused some clueless audience members to laugh -- but he also seemed deeply broken up and in need of help. At one point, he questioned whether to be talking on the show was the right place for him to be, and he seemed really stunned. Maybe he was on tranquilizers.

3. The stupidest part of Richards' performance was when he shifted from admitting to his own rage to talking about needing to get to the bottom of rage generally, including the rage that takes nations to war. He also tried to connect the offense that the black people in his audience took toward him to the effect Katrina had on black people.


reader_iam said...

Wow. Just: Wow.

vh: pfghh

paul a'barge said...

Not to be justifying or anything, but has anyone noticed how all the black comedians (and comediennes) almost always do a segment belittling white people? You know, where the comedians enunciate words and talk about how ineffectual white people are.

So, my question is this ... are they racist? And, if so, how come their careers are not in the dumps because of it?

Or, are we on some kind of comedy affirmative action, double standard, quota thing?

MnMark said...

He already has his tens of millions of dollars from Seinfeld, so he can pretty much afford to say whatever he really feels like saying. Which was this case, I guess.

MnMark said...

Or, are we on some kind of comedy affirmative action, double standard, quota thing?


Ann Althouse said...

Paul: That question might make sense if he had some kind of comedy routine that was making a point of some kind. This is a pure-melt down, devoid even of an attempt at humor. He's simply freaking out, Mel Gibson style.

Anonymous said...

I chose the same statement as a headline when I posted this this morning. A pretty obvious choice, considering it's really the only part that highlights the insanity while not having any objectionable words. Watching this made me feel incredibly awkward although I thought it was very interesting the way he mentioned "it shocks you, this shocks you." Did he think he was being subversive?

Anonymous said...

Also, why does motherf*cker get bleeped in that clip, whereas n*gger is heard loud and clear and shown in the subtitles?

Maxine Weiss said...

I don't like profanity.

Whenever I watch 'Lenny', I always watch it with the sound turned down.

Much easier that way.

Peace, Maxine

I'm Full of Soup said...

He will certainly claim it was planned all along and is some sort of inside joke. Anyone know if Richards is (was) good at stand-up?

Paddy O said...

He forgot his own show. Seinfeld had a great episode dealing with hecklers.

What Richards needs now is to find someone who can pose as a black friend for the cameras. Maybe an exterminator or someone like that.

Joe Giles said...

How to lose friends and destroy your career. In three minutes.

Everyone knows a white man can't say the n-word.

dave in boca said...

Yeah, Richards had his "Trent Lott" moment. Lott lost his job. My guess is that George has it right: Richards will be on Oprah's couch soon enough and telling Larry King all sorts of mitigating circumstantial existential things.

Mel mouths off at 3AM to two or three cops and spends months getting pinged from drive-by large-caliber heavyweights like Joan Rivers. No couch for Mel; and he may still be big box office boffo.

rcocean said...

Just a "botched" joke.

I'm sure John Kerry and his supporters would understand.

Can't we just move on?

Mortimer Brezny said...

But it's a question that bears mentioning: why has it become hip for blacks to call each other nigger?

Not only is this phenomenon less common than many assume, it is quite disliked by most black people.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Lenny Bruce's two routines, Nigger Nigger Nigger, and Any Niggers Here?, are classic pieces of comedy. While they were based on what you call a failed theory, they were also very much a part of Bruce's skewering of liberal/leftist orthodoxies, in a class with his The Movement routine.

I'm pretty sure that Richards was riffing off of Bruce.

Al Maviva said...

Well, that does it for me. Anybody tries to nominate him for Senate Minority Whip, and I'm going to have to register some displeasure.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meade said...

Verbal jujitsu. Seven gets it without even watching the clip. Impressive.

But it's all in the context. Richards was expressing his anger with the wrong word in the wrong context. It was, as some in the audience who got up to leave politely said, "uncalled for."

He should be thanking his lucky stars he didn't get his self-identified white ass kicked to hell and back. He was clearly asking for it.

reading for Michael Richards.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I'm puzzled as to why almost every black comedian, rapper, and actor seems to use the word on a regular basis, then.

This was exactly my point. Comedians, rappers, and actors are not representatives of ordinary people. Actors are acting in roles (usually written by white screenwriters). Comedians are entertaining audiences (usually mixed). Rappers are selling product (to an audience dominated by young white suburban males). The fact that you hear it on the radio and see it on the TV screen does not mean that everyday black people like it or do it. Those that do are a very small minority of the black population.

You'd think they would avoid doing something that most of their audiences dislikes.

Most of their audience is white.

Heck, Chris Rock had a whole routine about the difference between "black people" and "niggers".

Actually, he's proving my point, too. Black people are the kind of people who don't call other black people "niggers".

The mostly-black audience laughed its ass off.

Actually, most of the audience visible to the camera was black. As Chris Rock noted during that routine, most of the whites in that audience happened to be in the balcony, out of view of the camera. And you missed the entire point of Chris Rock's routine if you think he was "calling other black people niggers" in the same way that one would do so for purposes unrelated to irony.

Meade said...

What I found most disturbing were the people in the audience who, finding his assault to be humorous, were chuckling.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I think Ann said it best: this was a melt-down. Not an ironic routine.

Joe Giles said...


I don't think Black CEO's or college professors use the word, but among young black men (let'say from 15-30) calling each other "nigga" is like saying hello.

And one of the reason that white folks recognize it so quickly is we know the penalties for using it...and therefore it's stunning to hear it in communication and that's why our head whips around upon hearing the word.

Smilin' Jack said...

Blacks don't own the word. As DookOfURL said above, rural white kids use it for each other. And white urban club kids do, too. It's replacing "dude." Language evolves.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I don't think Black CEO's or college professors use the word, but among young black men (let'say from 15-30) calling each other "nigga" is like saying hello.

Fair enough, but the point is that young black males are not "most black people". Young black males are a minority within the black population. And not all young black males (age 15-30) use it, either.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Are there any niggers here tonight? Could you turn on the house lights, please, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving, just for a second? And turn off this spot. Now what did he say? "Are there any niggers here tonight?" I know there's one nigger, because I see him back there working. Let's see, there's two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kike. And there's another kike— that's two kikes and three niggers. And there's a spic. Right? Hmm? There's another spic. Ooh, there's a wop; there's a polack; and, oh, a couple of greaseballs. And there's three lace-curtain Irish micks. And there's one, hip, thick, hunky, funky, boogie. Boogie boogie. Mm-hmm. I got three kikes here, do I hear five kikes? I got five kikes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kikes, three guineas, and one wop. Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, "I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet," and if he'd just say "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" to every nigger he saw, "boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie," "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" 'til nigger didn't mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

- Lenny Bruce

My OS won't play that video, but I'm pretty sure Richards was riffing on the Lenny routine.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Except Lenny Bruce's routine leaves out the "That's what you get for interrupting the white man" part.

Meade said...

"...I'm pretty sure Richards was riffing on the Lenny routine."

Did you watch the clip? Richards was angry. Lenny Bruce was not expressing anger.

Truly angry comedians are not humorous.

Ann Althouse said...

Much of the discussion here is really off point. Did you all watch the video? This is not a general question of who can use that word -- which is an easy question: don't use it. It is a man totally freaking out, using it over and over, not in any kind of a friendly way or as part of any sort of comedy. It is just flat out ugly and there is no basis whatsoever for finding a way out for him. Let's make that clear.

Ronnie: I just saw exactly that part of the Lenny Bruce movie last night, so it was really fresh in my mind and I was trying to see if Richards was attempting some version of that. I could not see it at all. He didn't go anywhere with it. It had no benevolent ending. And it was reacting to hecklers... just a plain hostile hit back at the hecklers with a decision to use race to make it as hurtful as possible.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

I watched the video twice, and the first time I felt that he's just purely evil. The second time, I tried to look at it from his perspective and see if he could possibly have been doing the meltdown in character, with the intention of revealing the irony at some point. He is shouted down by the audience during the meltdown, so if he meant to reveal that the whole thing was an act, it's possible that he backed down at the last minute and walked off in shame, realizing his act had failed miserably and that there would be no way to win back the audience. Even still, I cannot imagine what the point of it all could have been.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Prof. Althouse,

There are reports from people who were there that the hecklers made the first racial comments, calling him "cracker" and "white boy". It has also been reported that the hecklers said that Richards' mother should have been killed by the Nazis.

Is heckling about gassing Jews less evil than joking about lynching?

Since the video was shot by the hecklers, and only includes Richards' remarks and not the heckling that prompted it, it appears to me that they were trying to set MR up.

Something about this stinks, and it isn't Richards' rant.

Though I've never used the word nigger in anger, and though I have my differences with my mother, if you "joke" about gassing her, you just might hear something about your ethnic heritage.

Joe Giles said...

Cosmo just lost it.

Best he get on with apologizing, then going on Oprah and flaggelating himself. Although I suspect she'll be doing some of that "judging" that we're admonished never to do.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Seven Machos said...

Is heckling about gassing Jews less evil than joking about lynching?

This is a banal question. How many ethnic supremacists can dance on the head of a pin?

I don't know, why don't you ask the folks in your community that endorse "Brown Pride" and MeCHA?

KCFleming said...

Kramer, Whoopie Goldberg, Bill Maher, Al Franken, Rosie O'Donnell, Janeane Garafalo, Jimmy Fallon, Howie Mandel, Maragaret Cho, Tom Green, Carrot Top, Gilbert Gottfried, Chevy Chase, Pauly Shore.

We are truly in the Era of Unfunny Comedians.
Angry, Ranting Unfunny Comedians.

Maybe Kristian von Hornsleth is not a Danish artist after all, but an American comedian.
See? Get it?

Freeman Hunt said...

The fact that the video was shot by the hecklers, and Ronnie Shreiber's allusion to inflammatory remarks by the hecklers left off the tape, leaves me feeling I just don't have enough data here to understand exactly what was going on.

Same here. The rant is crazy, but I can't tell if it was supposed to be a clumsy tit-for-tat thing ("You think insulting me with epithets is funny? I'll show you epithets. How do you like it now? Sucks to be on the other end, doesn't it?") or if it was just a run-of-the-mill insane Hollywood meltdown thing.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Cosmo is getting more buzz in last 24 hours than he has since Seinfeld ended. He does not strike me as a whacko though his Kramer character revealed him to be a one-trick actor; I guess it's possible he was really pushed a little too far and just snapped.

Danny said...

Horrible and sad. But the movie, in a way, made me happy.

Because the famous "Throw the jew down the well" bit by Borat had numerous critics making flippant generalizations about Americans: that we're closet racists or that we're willing to excuse racism when in large groups or that we're so eager to be friendly that we don't mind crossing the line of offensive humor.

This video dispells all those notions, Americans are damn good at knowing when to laugh and when to object. I'm willing to bet that most of those who sang along with "throw the Jew down the well" we're well aware that Borat was making a joke. Never underestimate the power of an HBO editor to create a false atmosphere. The crowd unanimously objects Richards just as it becomes apparent that he truly believes what he says. People are laughing up until the point that he starts picking out black members of the audience and calling them 'nigger'.

Ann Althouse said...

Slac: I deleted your comment because of what it directed at a named individual, not for the idea expressed. And frankly, I don't like to see the N-word written at all on this blog, but obviously, I haven't deleted it. Still, I think a lot of people are being obtuse and using this post to air an old debate that doesn't relate to the post. It's a tired and trite observation that some black people use that word toward each other. It's not a subject I raised and no one has anything new to say on that old subject. So why is this post being used for that? It seems really out of it to me.

And I just watched the clip again and can say that the hecklers were not the people who made the video. When Richards talks to the hecklers initially they are way over to the side, not where the camera is.

I think it is notable, in trying to guess what the hecklers were saying that as they leave they just keep saying "that was uncalled for" -- which is strikingly polite and thus doesn't support Freeman Hunt's "tit-for-tat" theory.

I do think there is some chance Richards meant to make it a Lenny Bruce type routine, but he lacked the skill to do it.

Danny said...

Yeah, I kept waiting for someone to rush the stage and pummel him. This happened in LA right? Considering what he was saying you'd think he was attempting suicide and looking for an accomplice in the audience.

Jon Swift said...

I am of the opinion, old-fashioned as it is, that comedians should be funny.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Actually, being a misanthropist is better than being a racist, for the same reason that viewpoint-discrimination is more pernicious than prior restraints. It's a matter of equal application. You hear that? It's a matter of equality.

Equality. Why gay marriage should be allowed.


wv: nggaz


LoafingOaf said...

Odd that the video begins right when Richards starts shouting back. I guess we'll never know what they were heckling. In the tape, the hecklers were saying racist and mean things, so they probably were being assholes to begin with.

Sometimes at baseball games I'm shocked at some of the very personal, ugly, and even racial things hecklers will yell at ballplayers. If the player responds in any way, he's crucified in the media. You're just supposed to take it, even when people behave like they have a license to say or do anything to you.

Stand-ups are in a nightclub where the alcohol is flowing, and some of them are expected to be "edgy" and shocking. Also, some people go to those comedy clubs just to eff with the comedians. It seemed to me that he was trying to respond to heckling in an "edgy" manner, wasn't doing very well, but kept going because he felt he had to go with it.

Michael Richards strikes me as a performer who gets himself into a very intense "zone" before performing. On one of the Seinfeld DVDs they talk about how annoyed he'd get if someone broke out of character and had a blooper.

I'm not excusing it. He definitely lost his head and it wasn't funny, just ugly. But if it's an isolated, one-time incident, people should cut him slack.

It's a bit different from Mel Gibson, who has a long record of anti-semitism. Michael Richards just lost it for a couple minutes in the middle of a performance where he was "in character." He doesn't seem like a bad guy. I hope he's not a racist. This tape, given the circumstances, doesn't prove he's a racist. But in this era, when a celeb has an ugly moment, the whole world sees it the next day on the Internet.

LoafingOaf said...

paul a'barge said...
Not to be justifying or anything, but has anyone noticed how all the black comedians (and comediennes) almost always do a segment belittling white people? You know, where the comedians enunciate words and talk about how ineffectual white people are.

So, my question is this ... are they racist? And, if so, how come their careers are not in the dumps because of it?

Or, are we on some kind of comedy affirmative action, double standard, quota thing?

There are white stand-ups who get away with jokes about other racial groups. Sarah Silverman is a current example. She's hilarious, IMO. Because she knows how to do it in a way that it's funny and you know she's not really a racist.

As far as rappers, I've never understood how Chuck D is considered such a righteous dude when his raps are littered with sincere praises for Farakhan. There's no doubt in my mind he's a hater (hates women, too). But they gave him a show on Air America!

LoafingOaf said...

Sarah Silverman is a current example. She's hilarious, IMO. Because she knows how to do it in a way that it's funny and you know she's not really a racist.

Plus she jokes about her own ethnicity more than she jokes about other groups.

MadisonMan said...

Does knowledge of the words that sound racist, and using them in a time of extreme stress, make one a racist? That's something I've often pondered. Certainly using the words, absent any other mitigating context, sounds bad. But who knows what was really going down -- although I tend to agree on the altered mind state suggested by Mr. Machos.

dookofurl: The rejoinder for your son's use of the N word is "Not around me, thank you"

MnMark said...

My feeling/understanding based on what was in the news story and what I saw in the video is that the black men were probably heckling Richards for a while, getting under his skin. And Richards probably does have some racist feelings towards blacks (like most whites do, like most people of all races do about other races), and he got it into his head for a moment that maybe he could push the envelope and get overtly racist and express some hostility towards them and maybe it would go over as a joke. It's the kind of feeling/intuition people get when they're doing an off-the-cugg performance, and normally his superego or whatever would have censored those racist comments and he would have sensed that they wouldn't be funny, but these guys were really getting under his skin and he was getting mad and his judgment got skewed and his id said "go ahead, say it" and his superego got drowned out, and he said it.

And then he was probably internally horrified at what he'd said, had a sick feeling, but figured maybe he could push it further and somehow recover, but he couldn't. And then he figured, this can't be retrieved, and walked off the stage.

So: a combination of rude provocation by the black audience members, actual racist feelings by Richards, and a moment of bad judgment caused by anger.

MnMark said...

Oh, and now he'll have to try to be really convincing that he's not a racist and it was just some kind of edgy comedy gone wrong, and maybe if he's a good enough actor he will sound convincing enough to be believable. And if not, his voice and words and body language will tell us all that he's just saying what he knows he has to say to do an emergency repair on his reputation.

Meade said...

"I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this."

I often hear self-identifying white people make remarks similar to this. But they do protest too much, meoftenthinks.

For a good example of an artist who courageously confronts and transcends the racism, sexism, and misanthropy he, like most people, was infected with during his formative years, see the work of Robert Crumb.

Crumb has put it out there, with superb artistry, for anyone and everyone to see and he makes no bones about it: it is ugly, hurtful, and it is a depressing part of the human condition.

But where Crumb finds (and Lenny Bruce attempted to find) the nearly inscrutable humor in that grim reality, Michael Richards, in this instance, simply failed and let slip, à la Mel Gibson, his own unfunny dark side.

Mortimer Brezny said...

And Richards probably does have some racist feelings towards blacks (like most whites do, like most people of all races do about other races),

I don't know where this like most people do stuff comes from, but I would tend to call it "projection".

Mortimer Brezny said...

My feeling/understanding based on what was in the news story and what I saw in the video is that the black men were probably heckling Richards for a while, getting under his skin.

Yes, but I don't think they were heckling him as black men. They were just heckling. It wasn't "black heckling". It was just heckling. Richards took it to another place. Heckling is par for the course in comedy clubs.

Humorles, angry, hateful racist rants directed at specific audience members are not.

Meade said...

I don't know where this like most people do stuff comes from, but I would tend to call it "projection".

It would be projection if it included "except for me." As it is, it's more like full disclosure.

Maxine Weiss said...

Can we have an update, please?

Has he checked into rehab, when's the cathartic apology, the tearful Oprah confession, followed by book deal ??

Is he booked on Larry King, yet?

I'm sensing a pattern here.

Randy said...

As reader_iam said: "Wow." How very sad. There is undoubtedly a reason (or reasons) but there is no excuse, I think.

Freeman Hunt said...

Anyone else watch his appearance on Letterman just now?

LoafingOaf said...

Hmm. He was kinda weird on Letterman. Did I hear him right that he was comparing his outburst to the Iraq war? He said something about rage, like the rage we have towards other countries.

Whatever, dude!

And now he says "afro-american."

Letterman's audience seemed to think it was all a joke. They must not have checked Drudge before the taping!

Anonymous said...

His career is over.

His only hope now is to run for Senate Minority Leader.

MnMark said...

Watching Richards on Letterman was excrutiating. It reminded me in a way of a sort of communist-style public self-criticism session. "Comrades, I had an incorrect thought, and I wish to understand it and get my mind in the right place, and I ask for your forgiveness."

In the long run, I think this sort of thing is going to lead to bad things. The fact is that people DO have racist feelings, negative feelings, about some things about other races. But only white people are expected to grovel like this when those feelings slip out. For now, social pressure is strong enough that anyone with a social presence like Richards has to try to put on just the right appearance of genuine contrition and horror at himself. But people can't keep that kind of thing up indefinitely I think. It's a lie. Truth can't be suppressed indefinitely.

How refreshing it would have been if he could have just said, "actually, I am a bit of a racist. But that's no excuse for lashing out at the audience like that. I was angry with the hecklers, who had been interrupting me and talking throughout my act. But that has become an expected part of the stand-up comedy experience, and I should have handled it with more grace." That would have been the healthy response. I think people could actually respect that kind of honesty. (As someone who is quite open about my racist feelings, I've been told more than once "well at least you admit it.") Instead we have this ugly, demeaning groveling where we all know he is only saying what he is expected to say. It's horrible to watch a man humiliated like that. And I don't think people will put up with that indefinitely. I think there's already an undercurrent of resentment among white people that wasn't there in this kind of strength in the past.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

The only plausible explanation for him not being a racist is the one that the hecklers were making anti-semitic remarks at him and invoking the Holocaust, and that he, in character, tried to make a point along the lines of, "How dare you make bigoted remarks towards another group of people when your group has been the victim of a great deal of prejudice?" If that's what happened, then, even if it would seem tasteless and offensive, doing a racist "act" could make the point effectively. But then why didn't he explain that he was making that point when the audience lashed out at him? If the hecklers really made those kinds of remarks, he could have pretty easily explained the point he was trying to make. Perhaps he was on drugs or felt he had been shouted down and couldn't win the audience back. But then why not explain exactly what happened during his Letterman appearance? His apology seems to be more like the Mel Gibson apology: I got carried away in a rage and said things I don't really believe. That's not going to convince anyone he's not a racist (even if he says the words "I'm not a racist").

Maxine Weiss said...

A flimsy explanation is worse than even the most superficial apology.

Why does he owe anyone anything?, much less extensive explanations that people will still find a way to question.

That sense of entitlement. ---That this guy owes the public anything.

It seems like Whites are the most upset about this. Blacks couldn't care less--why should I?

Being called a racist is a badge of honor these days.

I'd rather be a racist than a liar.

Peace, Maxine

altoids1306 said...

I agree with Cedarford that it is far more dangerous for a white male to make racist comments than a minority. Minorities can routinely denigrate "white trash" with impunity.

That said, Kramer (forgot his real name), made clearly racist comments, and he should be made to suffer appriopriately.

Kudos to him for apologizing, but skip the "that's what makes it so insane" bullshit. What ever happened to taking responsibility?

Stand-up comedy should just die already. It never was that funny then, and it's not funny now.

Maxine Weiss said...

Oh, with Whites, the litmus test is always ...words.

It's almost always exercising free Speech which leads to the 'Racist' label.

So be it.

Having a Black Prom, Black Pride, quotas...those things aren't racist.

But speech, that You don't like is.

Frankly, I'm proud to be a Racist, and don't care who knows about it!

Love Maxine

MnMark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MnMark said...

Here's a big "amen!" to Maxine.

What's the big deal about being a racist anyway? Yeah, people from different races TEND (not always! but often enough for it to be generally true!) to have certain characteristic differences from other races, and some of those differences rub people of other races the wrong way. It's a matter of taste and preference. Personally, I find most of what comprises modern black culture to be repugnant. That's my right, to have my tastes and preferences. Most black people I've known embody or live part or all of that culture. Therefore obviously I am going to have racist feelings towards most black people. Why is that so evil? Why can't I have those preferences with regard to race-related culture (or even towards race-related appearance) without that being considered proof that I am some kind of degenerate and need to get my mind right and apologize? Who should I apologize to for having an opinion?

I remember asking a black guy once why he was pretty much exclusively interested in dating white women. "It's just my preference," he answered. If it's ok for him to have an aesthetic, explicity racial preference FOR white women, why can't I just as uncontroversially have an aesthetic, explicitly racial preference AGAINST black people? Must one only LIKE or be INDIFFERENT to other races, and never DISLIKE them? Why?

Anonymous said...

I am white and my black husband just heard of michael richards racist episode. As of this very moment he is laying in bed holding the pillow over his face and is telling me that he just wants to be left alone. he looks as if he is going to cry.

We can never watch seinfeld again, its sad... I loved to hear my husband laugh really like that. A real laugh from good comedy.

Ed said...

You know, Lenny Bruce had a point. Maybe it's because of my age (I'm 38) but it never occurred to me that the word "boogie" had any racial connotation at all, much less that it was an epithet. I had to look it up on to find out that it was once a slang word for "black man".

Up until I read that passage from Lenny, I always thought that boogie meant "to go really fast" (as in, let's boogie) or else a type of music characterized by heavy bass and lots of horns, a la Kool and the Gang (Jungle Boogie).

The word boogie has been consistently used for so many other meanings during my lifetime that the racial slur aspect of the word is basically archaic. And that was pretty much Lenny Bruce's point.

Who knows? In 40 more years people might look back on Michael Richards' meltdown and not even realize that he was uttering racist words - only that he sure wasn't really funny unless he was letting some kid drink from a fire hose.

Sissy Willis said...

The Katrina connection: Bush's fault!

Mortimer Brezny said...

I remember asking a black guy once why he was pretty much exclusively interested in dating white women. "It's just my preference," he answered. If it's ok for him to have an aesthetic, explicity racial preference FOR white women, why can't I just as uncontroversially have an aesthetic, explicitly racial preference AGAINST black people?

Presumably, he doesn't hate the white women he dates.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Why can't I have those preferences with regard to race-related culture (or even towards race-related appearance) without that being considered proof that I am some kind of degenerate and need to get my mind right and apologize? Who should I apologize to for having an opinion?

Well, if you're going to insist on using phrases like "get yo' mind right" while decrying "modern black culture" you should apologize to yo'self for being a goddamned hypocrite.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Having a Black Prom and talking about Black Pride are clearly racist.

That's insane. "Black proms" usually are formed because the black people aren't invited to the "real" prom, i.e., the one thrown by whites. And anyone of any race can attend the "black" prom.

"Black pride," too, usually is reactionary. Its a response to being degraded by majority culture. While it may be silly when incessantly reiterated, it isn't racist to say "Black is beautiful" if your perception is that the media is rife with images that suggest "Black is ugly".

The black is beautiful campaign is not on par with Nazi Aryanism. That's just laughable.

Victor said...

How was it the "stupidest" part (No. 3)? Far from it, it seemed quite genuine and heartfelt. He could well be right. Either way, it's not so obvious.

Odd that you would consider it "stupid" without offering further explanation. But I guess it reveals something about your biases.

The partisan moderate said...

There is absolutely no excuse for what Michael Richards did. One of the really sad parts about this episode (among many) is that some people in the audience were laughing.

I am not sure why anyone would think that was funny and I am little disturbed by the fact that people didn't start booing Richards or at least walk out on his diatribe.

Meade said...

Can we agree on a few things?

> WHITE is not a race.
> BLACK is not a race.

> racism:
Any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview-the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races,” that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some “races” are innately superior to others. Racism was at the heart of North American slavery and the overseas colonization and empire-building activities of some western Europeans, especially in the 18th century. The idea of race was invented to magnify the differences between people of European origin in the U.S. and those of African descent whose ancestors had been brought against their will to function as slaves in the American South. By viewing Africans and their descendants as lesser human beings, the proponents of slavery attempted to justify and maintain this system of exploitation while at the same time portraying the U.S. as a bastion and champion of human freedom, with human rights, democratic institutions, unlimited opportunities, and equality. The contradiction between slavery and the ideology of human equality, accompanying a philosophy of human freedom and dignity, seemed to demand the dehumanization of those enslaved. By the 19th century racism had matured and the idea spread around the world. Racism differs from ethnocentrism in that it is linked to physical and therefore immutable differences among people. Ethnic identity is acquired, and ethnic features are learned forms of behaviour. Race, on the other hand, is a form of identity that is perceived as innate and unalterable. In the last half of the 20th century several conflicts around the world were interpreted in racial terms even though their origins were in the ethnic hostilities that have long characterized many human societies (e.g., Arabs and Jews, English and Irish). Racism reflects an acceptance of the deepest forms and degrees of divisiveness and carries the implication that differences among groups are so great that they cannot be transcended. See also ethnic group; sociocultural evolution.

>A racist is someone who actively condones and espouses the concept of there existing separate discernible "races" of humans where some are superior to others.

>Maxine Weiss said...
"[...]Frankly, I'm proud to be a Racist, and don't care who knows about it!"

>Michael Richards said...
a number of similar and equally outrageous uncalled for things.

>Maxine Weiss and Michael Richards may or may not in fact be racists.

It may simply be that each is a humorless liar.

But both clearly are fools.

MnMark said...

Mortimer wrote: Presumably, he doesn't hate the white women he dates.

Interesting that you need to caricature my statement that I dislike aspects of black culture as hate. That is dishonest. There is a difference between 'dislike' and 'hate'. But you recognize that you can't very well say a person has no right to dislike something, so you exaggerate it, twist it, into 'hate' so that you can feel justified in condemning it.

I have a feeling that "dislike" will evolve into "hate", though, if self-appointed p.c. police go around demonizing people for their dislikes.

If a black man can prefer white women (which is really such an insult to his own people), then I can prefer white people and white culture too. And I ought to be as free to act on that preference without ostracism as you presumably feel that black man ought to be free to date white women without ostracism.

Ann Althouse said...

Victor: The reason it was so stupid is that it detracted from his apology. Instead of owning up to his own wrong, he shifted into saying everyone has a problem with rage and then tried to turn it into some general political statement. He needed to humble himself at this point, not go arrogant and intellectual or whatever.

MnMark said...

meade: You take it as gospel that race is a fiction and that there are no meaningful physical differences between races.

Obviously there are races and obviously there are differences between races. African pygmies are different from Icelanders, and Australian Aborgines are different from Koreans.

Your argument, presumably, would be that these differences are only superficial matters of skin tone, hair texture, and nose and lip shape.

But no non-black has been in the final of the Olympic 100 meter dash in 24 years. That is because blacks have different red versus white muscle tissue proportions than non-blacks, which gives them an advantage in sprinting.

Medical professionals are well-aware that different races respond quite differently to a variety of medicines. It can be dangerous to give the wrong kind of medicine to the wrong race.

Presumably you would argue that these are still superficial differences, that all that matters is the personality, the character. Let's leave IQ out of it for the moment. Presumably you agree that our personality, our character, is a function of stuff going on in our brains, our physical brains. Most liberals are not particularly religious and many or most do not believe in life after death, so they do not believe in a non-physical, ethereal soul as the source of character. That leaves only the physical brain.

With that in mind, why in the world would racial differences that are very real in terms of physical appearance, muscle composition, and physiology somehow magically stop at the boundaries of the brain? You assert as a matter of settled fact that there are no differences in personality caused by racial differences, but how do you know that? Blacks are better sprinters; if personality is a function of brain composition, then might not races have different personalities or IQs if their brains are subtly different just like their muscles and physiology are subtly different?

Reasonable people are beginning to come forward and agree that there are real differences between races and that they matter. People like Vincent Sarich, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Berkeley, and Frank Miele, Senior Editor of Skeptic magazine, who together wrote "Race: The Reality of Human Difference" in 2004. The book makes the case on a scientific basis that there are real and meaningful differences between the races.

Denying that racial differences exist is the fool's game, meade. It doesn't work in the long term to try to deny what is factually true. It is better to come up with policies that deal with the reality of the situation.

Meade said...

"It is better to come up with policies that deal with the reality of the situation."

It's been done, Mark.

Beyond slavery, apartheid, lynching, genocide, etc., what would you suggest we come up with?

Real and meaningful policies, I mean.

KCFleming said...

Whether there are or are not real differences between humans that are entirely dependent on 'race' (however defined ...e.g. is Tiger Woods cablinasian?) matters very little to our status as citizens, and should matter even less to the basic demand for respect between persons.

Time spent pigeonholing folks by racial superiorities and demerits misses the point. We cannot achieve the status quo ante circa 5000 BC, when racial lines were clearly drawn. More recent attempts cost millions of lives, but achieved nothing.

We must live alongside each other, and idiots like Kramer aka Michael Richards make our lives ever so much more difficult. I think a few days in stocks at Times Square would help. Dammit; what a putz.

chickelit said...

BFD on all this. Remarks from a TV actor made in a comedy club provoke this much emotion?

Wake me up when the heat starts melting down some real people.

Get a life folks!

KCFleming said...

Civilization is a thin veneer. So thin, events like this are disruptive.

It matters, even though it may bore you.

Meade said...

Cedarford said..."The more we study the races, we find the deeper the distinctions are."

Perhaps you are studying the wrong thing then, because the more we map out the human genome, the more we find that it's the biological similarities of the human race that go deep and wide while the "racial" differences become shallow and narrow.

Nevermore said...

Does this make him a racist? I don't think so. I think some people need to be less offended when they go to the comedy club.

Track Back:

KCFleming said...

Asians are supposed to be bad drivers?
Never heard that.
Now Iowans, them are some baaad drivers.

Or is that a statist thing to say?

LoafingOaf said...

Funny how Maxine ends her messages about how proud she is to be a racist with "peace" and "love".....

Those pointing out that race doesn't really exist are correct.