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Michael Richards, Racist Comedian
November 20, 2006 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Michael ("Cosmo Kramer") Richards loses his mind. On stage at the Laugh Factory in L.A. last Friday, Richards flipped out at heckler and launched into a stream of racist taunts, all caught on video. The Seinfeld Curse strikes again.
posted by jonson (458 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uh-oh. Once again a camera phone captures another unsavory event in L.A.
posted by ericb at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2006


Well, there goes that Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award he was counting on.
posted by jonmc at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


No stand-up routine for you!
posted by clevershark at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2006


Profane and racial? One or the other I could take, but not both.
posted by cillit bang at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2006


Looks like he was trying to turn it into a Lenny Bruce moment but failed miserably.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2006


Giddy-up!
posted by fixedgear at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2006


Video doesn't work in Firefox and Safari (for me, at least).
posted by jack_mo at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2006


Eh, he'll lose work for this, but it's not like he was getting much anyway. And it's a dumb move on his part, and we'll get all indignant, but ultimately, let he who is without sin in this regard, etc. etc...
posted by jonmc at 9:16 AM on November 20, 2006


We're sorry, this feature requires the Mozilla ActiveX Plugin. Click here to install.
Well, the hell with you, TMZ video.
posted by boo_radley at 9:16 AM on November 20, 2006


Bizarre. It barely constituted an attempt at humor. You'd think he'd have dealt with other human beings before, even hecklers.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2006


Andy Kaufman and Lenny Bruce probably could've pulled out of that nose dive but alas Kramer stumbled into shock humor without map or a clue.
posted by StarForce5 at 9:19 AM on November 20, 2006


jonmc, I am usually with you when it comes to the "everyone's a little bit racist, so don't cast stones" but this little tirade was pretty outrageous and nothing at all like a slip of the tongue or some nastiness said in the heat of the moment. It just kept going and going it seemed.
posted by Falconetti at 9:22 AM on November 20, 2006


Jesus, that was messed up. I don't even see him going for anything funny there. He was just a ranting idiot.
posted by mathowie at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


This guy says not to overreact with your knee-jerk political-correctness.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2006


That is one crazy nigga!
posted by four panels at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


It's on YouTube.
posted by lee at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2006


Falconetti: I agree, it was nauseating (and unfunny, I might add. you'd at least expect Kramer to be funny if he's gonna flip out*). But I just have a vision of the usual guardians of propriety getting all 'shocked and dismayed,' which is hard to take.

*and I think that's what might be going on here. It didn't come across a failed inappropriate humor or even a generic rant, more like nutso rambling with epithets tossed in. Maybe he needs some meds
posted by jonmc at 9:29 AM on November 20, 2006


This guy says not to overreact with your knee-jerk political-correctness.

Contest: come up with a context in which the following comment would be appropriate:
"Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass."
posted by goethean at 9:29 AM on November 20, 2006


30% to 60% of the people I know are terrible, awful people. I think it surprises people when this is true for "celebrities" as well.
posted by four panels at 9:30 AM on November 20, 2006 [3 favorites]


let he who is without sin in this regard

ok, i'll bite... i've never spewed a "nigger"-laden tirade while onstage at the laugh factory (or indeed, at all) and therefore i feel comfortable saying "michael richards is out of his fucking cracker mind and reasonable people everywhere are right to condemn this appalling act of blatant racism."

there's no evenhanded response to this one, mr. mc.
posted by Hat Maui at 9:31 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he'll blame substance abuse like Mel. That Hater-Ade is a popular mixer these days-- it's the new Red Bull.
posted by hermitosis at 9:31 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Contest: come up with a context in which the following comment would be appropriate:
"Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass."


If one is addressing a suckling pig.
posted by jonmc at 9:31 AM on November 20, 2006 [3 favorites]


So that's what happens when you interrupt the white man, seems sorta anti-climactic.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2006


Hecklers are hard to deal with. They can ruin a stand-up appearance, so in that respect I feel sympathy for him -- but Christ. Even in the comedy world going after race like this is a big don't. What the hell was going through his mind? I wouldn't call it racist, as much generally idiotic.
posted by geoff. at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2006


ok, i'll bite... i've never spewed a "nigger"-laden tirade while onstage at the laugh factory (or indeed, at all) and therefore i feel comfortable saying "michael richards is out of his fucking cracker mind and reasonable people everywhere are right to condemn this appalling act of blatant racism."

So you've never had a racist (or misogynisy, or homophobic) thought or utterance in your life? I sincerely doubt it. It's just a matter of degree.

there's no evenhanded response to this one, mr. mc.

Why is any response necessary at all? If he wasn't a washed-up celebrity, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on November 20, 2006


I can't get the aol video to load. Anyone got a youtube link?
posted by orthogonality at 9:35 AM on November 20, 2006


"i've never spewed a "nigger"-laden tirade while onstage at the laugh factory (or indeed, at all) and therefore i feel comfortable saying "michael richards is out of his fucking cracker mind"

Ayup. Racism is an ugly thing.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2006


Nevermind.
posted by orthogonality at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe he was trying to be like this or this?

Only he totally failed.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2006


Actually from the clip, it's nothing like as bad as is being made out. It does start at least start off as a joke, as a routine, but he seems to forget that towards the end. The race stuff is kind of irrelevant, he's just losing his shit at a heckler.
posted by cillit bang at 9:38 AM on November 20, 2006


What does "we'd have you upside down with a fork up your ass" even mean? Did they used to eat black men back then? Am I completely missing a reference to something?
posted by textilephile at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


The race stuff is kind of irrelevant, he's just losing his shit at a heckler.

I have to agree with this. Too bad for him, that he isn't an icon of show business wealth and power like Mel. Otherwise, he might have gotten away with it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2006


Thank you mr_crash_davis
posted by Pecinpah at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2006


Jerry Seinfeld weighs in on the controversy: "What's the deal with niggers? I mean, who are these people?"
posted by gigawhat? at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2006 [10 favorites]


Contest: come up with a context in which the following comment would be appropriate...

Metafilter: Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass
posted by mazola at 9:43 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Eh, I wish he hadn't gotten racial, but people who talk during live performances should have forks stuck in them.
posted by orthogonality at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2006


So you've never had a racist (or misogynisy, or homophobic) thought or utterance in your life? I sincerely doubt it. It's just a matter of degree.

first of all, that's not what i said at all. your tendency to equate the slightest racist impulse with ugly, over the top rhetoric (it's only a "matter of degree!" well, the same is true of a lynching) is really tedious. you know better, but your aversion to what you perceive as the p.c.-brigade causes you to give free passes to all sorts of nasty behavior. but more to the point: WE KNOW YOU FEEL THIS WAY, JON! you ask why we're even having this conversation. i think that's a good question. why do you feel the need to pop into any thread, EVER, that's about race, and go on ad nauseum about how racism isn't really a big deal because everyone is a racist?

why don't you chime in when you have something more interesting to say?

as for the difference between "cracker" and "nigger," crash, i sincerely hope that you understand it and are just being disingenuous. but in case you really think that it was racist of me to use the word "cracker," perhaps you should bone up on the etymology and uses of racist terms.
posted by Hat Maui at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


Jerry Seinfeld weighs in on the controversy: "What's the deal with niggers? I mean, who are these people?"

I remember when Seinfeld was on SNL with David Bowie, and Seinfeld gave him a really bizarre response when Bowie mentioned his black wife. Bowie had the most confused look I've ever seen. I guess Jerry's not big on interracial marriage, or something.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:49 AM on November 20, 2006


From Richards's Wikipedia entry, emphasis added:
He was drafted during the Vietnam war and stationed in Germany as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show. He produced and directed shows dealing with race relations and drug abuse; "This was a successful, educational operation, boosting the morale of our men and incorporating the arts into the service."
posted by Creosote at 9:49 AM on November 20, 2006


Contest: come up with a context in which the following comment would be appropriate:
"Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass."


A John Wayne-like human paramilitary leader, speaking fifty years from today to a guerilla unit of genetically enhanced turkeys that have achieved self-awareness and rebelled.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:50 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


What does "we'd have you upside down with a fork up your ass" even mean? Did they used to eat black men back then? Am I completely missing a reference to something?

And if they are upside down, wouldn't the fork be down their ass?
posted by wabashbdw at 9:52 AM on November 20, 2006


Man, there's just no telling what that crazy Borat will say next!

...Oh wait. That was Kramer?
posted by Kronoss at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


I guess Jerry's not big on interracial marriage, or something.

no, he just likes underage white schoolgirls
posted by matteo at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2006


Odd. I just called a black guy a "cracker". He didn't seem to care.
posted by tkchrist at 9:55 AM on November 20, 2006


michael richards is out of his fucking cracker mind"

Ayup. Racism is an ugly thing.


Black people must be burning crosses over your lawn a lot, huh?
posted by matteo at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2006


Slow newsday...
[Filter set accordingly to "not very"]
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2006


more to the point: WE KNOW YOU FEEL THIS WAY, JON! you ask why we're even having this conversation. i think that's a good question. why do you feel the need to pop into any thread, EVER, that's about race, and go on ad nauseum about how racism isn't really a big deal because everyone is a racist?

Not to go all, well, meta on you, Hat Maui, but why bother to engage him on this point, if his schtick is this old and impervious to context? ("After all, who among us hasn't shouted "nigger" in a crowded theater?")
posted by ibmcginty at 10:00 AM on November 20, 2006


The race stuff is kind of irrelevant, he's just losing his shit at a heckler.

It is not irrelevant. Had he merely insulted or raged at the man in a generic way, by say, calling him stupid or ugly, then the man's skin tone would have been irrelevent. But he did not. This was a specifically racist and very disgusting performance.

It probably sounds naive to say this, but I am surprised. I always found Kramer the least funny member of the Seinfeld foursome because I don't care for his style of physical humour, but I always thought there was a certain appealing sweetness to his character. And maybe there was, but this episode indicates that if so it came from Richards' ability to act, rather then being a glimpse of his own character.

He'll never live this down, and rightly so, but unless he stupidly squandered his Seinfeld income he has no need to work, and as has been said he wasn't working much anyway.
posted by orange swan at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


If you're upside down, can the fork truly be called "up" your ass. Wouldn't it be "down"? Perhaps I should start an AskMe thread.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:02 AM on November 20, 2006


What does "we'd have you upside down with a fork up your ass" even mean? Did they used to eat black men back then? Am I completely missing a reference to something?
posted by textilephile


I'm assuming he's referring to pitchforks?
posted by NationalKato at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2006


("After all, who among us hasn't shouted "nigger" in a crowded theater?")

Like I said, it's all question of degree. Everybody (myself included) has bigoted thoughts of one kind or another.

why do you feel the need to pop into any thread, EVER, that's about race, and go on ad nauseum about how racism isn't really a big deal because everyone is a racist?(emphasis mine)

No, I never said racism isn't a big deal. I just question whether our usual approach of getting indignant whenever somebody says 'nigger,' or 'faggot,' or whenever some Great White Dope make a public ass of himself, then returning to a society where it's business as usual is really working out all that well.

Why's that bug you so much?

as for the difference between "cracker" and "nigger," crash

Well, I can't speak for crash, but hearing 'cracker' and 'whitey' from white people always strikes me as lame attempt to show black people how 'down' you are with them, plus it's implying that somehow you aren't white or something.
posted by jonmc at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2006


Even when he first sayed the N word he had time to turn it out funny, but the is a simple stupid one.
posted by zouhair at 10:09 AM on November 20, 2006


This is what happens when you talk smack about Stanley Spadowski's mop.
posted by designbot at 10:10 AM on November 20, 2006


Lol by the way, I thought that playing a stupid guy in Seinfeld was just acting :)
posted by zouhair at 10:13 AM on November 20, 2006


The only way i could see what he did being slightly justified is if the guy had been yelling "faggot" or "Cracker" and "Honkey" or something like that at him for the last 20 minutes. We don't know what lead up to the outburst.

Even then, it was a colossally stupid thing to do.
posted by empath at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2006


Back when I lived in L.A. 15 years ago my roommate and I used to go to the weekly free comedy nights at the various clubs. For some reason these shows always featured a roster of mostly black comedians and an audience of mostly black people. We were invariably either the only white people there or two of about no more than 5 or 6 total. Nearly always we were singled out at some point in the show and ridiculed as crackers, honkies, whities blah blah blah blah whatever. Didn't bother us, but I always thought it was cheap. Too easy. So is Michael Richards simply falling back on the too easy way out when faced with a heckler here? Or is it inherently racist rather than cheap shots simply because the target is black and Richards is white? Or is it the actual anger and violence of what he says that goes above and beyond context to make it racist?
posted by spicynuts at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2006


Whether Richards is truly racist or just making a failed attempt at being "edgy" is not clear. What is clear is that he seems to be a washed-up, angry asshole.
posted by brain_drain at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2006


Absolutely, Hay Maui. Equating "nigger" with "cracker" is historically absurd, even though people still attempt the comparison without realizing that a significant power differential is required for an "ism" to have any consequence. Crash, would you rather be a hammer or a nail?
posted by applemeat at 10:18 AM on November 20, 2006


whoah.. that was weird.
posted by ruelle at 10:18 AM on November 20, 2006


I'd really like to know what sort of heckling was going on to start this. Do we have any specific context?
posted by NationalKato at 10:19 AM on November 20, 2006


My favorite part of this whole story is the polls.

What I don't get is why he brought race into it to begin with. There are plenty of ways to beat on stupid people without making yourself look just as stupid.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2006


Has it really been 50 years since we could hang hecklers upside down from trees and stick pitchforks up their asses? Cracker, please! Where does the time go?!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2006 [4 favorites]


So you've never had a racist (or misogynisy, or homophobic) thought or utterance in your life?

have you stopped beating your wife?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2006


always strikes me as lame attempt to show black people how 'down' you are with them

Yeah. Lame.

It's "Cracker Mother Fucker." Do it right.
posted by tkchrist at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2006


Well, I can't speak for crash, but hearing 'cracker' and 'whitey' from white people always strikes me as lame attempt to show black people how 'down' you are with them, plus it's implying that somehow you aren't white or something.

which black people are you talking about?

how did you come to the conclusion that i'm white?
posted by Hat Maui at 10:21 AM on November 20, 2006


Had he merely insulted or raged at the man in a generic way, by say, calling him stupid or ugly, then the man's skin tone would have been irrelevent.

Are you suggesting that even acknowledging the heckler was black makes him a dirty stinking racist?
posted by cillit bang at 10:22 AM on November 20, 2006


have you stopped beating your wife?

c'mon pyramid termite, you can do better than that.
All I'm saying is condemn what Richards said all you want but don't act like some kind of brave anti-racist warrior about it, since we're all guilty.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on November 20, 2006


What a flameout. What an ass. And I bet he was going for the Bill Hicksish Lenny Bruceish outrageous thing too, but failed miserably. I predict an announcement that he's entering rehab. And what is this Seinfeld curse of which you speak? Don't all those actors have enough money to buy small islands and sip Mai Tais for the rest of their lives? Why is he doing standup if he's not funny enough or calm enough to handle hecklers?
posted by tula at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2006


how did you come to the conclusion that i'm white?

This is MeFi, The Whitest Place On Earth.

which black people are you talking about?

any black people. sorry but that's what it sounds like to me, and I'll bet they're not impressed.
posted by jonmc at 10:24 AM on November 20, 2006


c'mon pyramid termite, you can do better than that

that's what she said
posted by pyramid termite at 10:24 AM on November 20, 2006


I couldn't get the video to work either, but that same website does have an interesting photo gallery of all seven prejudiced celebrities
posted by Flashman at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2006


jonmc you should hush up now. Really.
posted by tkchrist at 10:29 AM on November 20, 2006


an interesting photo gallery of all seven prejudiced celebrities

all seven? The other ones are total saints?

jonmc you should hush up now. Really.

Naw. More fun to make people uncomfortable.
posted by jonmc at 10:32 AM on November 20, 2006


Hecklers should be strung up with forks in their butts. Some of my best friends are hecklers so I can say this.
posted by horsewithnoname at 10:32 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Naw. More fun to make people uncomfortable.

i think you mean to say "more fun to annoy people." but i'll let you slide since you seem to have trouble making distinctions.
posted by Hat Maui at 10:35 AM on November 20, 2006


Inside a clean, well lit office in southern California, a harried receptionist is sitting at her desk, clearly exhausted and at the end of her rope. The phone rings and she picks up.

Receptionist: Michael Richards's office, how can I help you?

Jerry: Hey Carrie, this is Jerry... Is Michael available?

Receptionist: Hi Mr. Seinfeld... He's in, but he's a little, uh...

Jerry: Listen, I know, I know, but let me speak to him.

Cut to inside an office where Michael Richards is sitting on the floor in the dark, with the shades drawn.

Receptionist: [over intercom] Mr. Richards, Mr. Seinfeld is on one for you.

He runs over to pick up the phone.

Michael: Jerry, you're the last person I expected to be calling me. Jason and Julia want nothin' to do with me, and it seems like every--

Jerry: Listen, Michael, you fucked up. You fucked up BAD.

Michael: I know, Jer, I know...

Jerry: When we hired you on the show, we know you had... Issues... With black people. But we hired you anyway, because you were the only man who could do it. For nearly ten years, we tailored the production around you and your beliefs. No black cast members. No significant speaking roles for African Americans. You even got to do the episode where you sleep too long in the tanning bed and appear in blackface. But I got you some help--I have the president of the NAACP on the other line, and though I've already apologized profusely in your behalf and have him firmly CONVINCED that you're not a racist, he says that as an act of good faith he just needs a verbal apology from you today, and a written apology in the next week, so they won't raise the issue.

Michael: Great, great, put him on.

Jerry: Ok, let me transfer. *clickclick* Hey Bruce, I got Michael on the other line. He's really eager to do this so let me make it a three way call.

No response.

Jerry: Bruce? *clickclick* Michael, it's me again. He must've hung up, I'll call him back...

Michael: You know, I could hear you on the other line...

Jerry: What are you talking about?

Michael: I heard you say that you wanted to make it a three way call.

Jerry: You heard that, are you sure?

Michael: Yes, I heard you!!

Jerry: Well, maybe he was disconnected.

Michael: Maybe he wasn't! Maybe he heard the whole conversation!

Jerry: Alright, hang on. Let me call Larry and see if you can hear anything. *clickclick*

Larry: Hey Jer!

Jerry: Larry, did you hear about Michael yet?? *clickclick*

Michael: "Larry, did you hear about Michael yet??"

Jerry: Oh no!! *clickclick* Larry there's a problem with my phone! *clickclick*

Michael: "Larry there's a problem with my phone!"

Jerry: OH NO!!!
posted by incomple at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2006 [10 favorites]


Contest: come up with a context in which the following comment would be appropriate:
"Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass."


Eichmann in Jerusalem, after hearing the death sentence.
Saddam two weeks ago, in the same situation.
A KKK member to a non-white person even today in some places.

There's not much to say. As someone said, attacking a heckler is not inappropriate - attacking a heckler with such a racist rant is. To the point that I had some trouble understanding if he was attacking the heckler for interrupting or for being a black. Disgusting. Sick.
posted by nkyad at 10:37 AM on November 20, 2006


MetaFilter: That's what happens when you interrupt the white man, don't you know?
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 10:38 AM on November 20, 2006


I wonder what it takes for some people on this thread to recognize a racist incident as such. The guy may have "lost it," but he lost it by calling someone a nigger. So how does the "race stuff" become irrelevant again? And how does being shocked at shocking behavior negate the shock again?

I'm confused.

Also: what orange swan said.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 10:39 AM on November 20, 2006


"Equating "nigger" with "cracker" is historically absurd, even though people still attempt the comparison without realizing that a significant power differential is required for an "ism" to have any consequence. Crash, would you rather be a hammer or a nail?"

I'd rather not answer racism with more racism, regardless of which is the more historically powerful, thanks. Resorting to epithets is pretty much always a losing move, IMHO.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:40 AM on November 20, 2006


I wonder what it takes for some people on this thread to recognize a racist incident as such.

Who's denying the racism? Not me. I'm just wondering if all our conspicous indignation isn't a little hypocritical.
posted by jonmc at 10:41 AM on November 20, 2006


jon, maui was doing fine hanging himself. You should have just let him. The cracker thing was precious.

After that the inevitable attempt at justifying which racial slur is worse or better than another? Adorable.

ANY racial slur, when slung as a true insult, defeats the goal of trying to create racial harmony. Saying "cracker" nullified hat's point entirely and showed his stripes.

But,, jonmc, when you start going into what black, white or Jew would do, say, or think about one thing or another... um... you leave the minor realm of incidental racism and enter the kingdom of deliberate stupid.

PS. Richards is an idiot both as a human being - in believing using that tactic to diffuse a heckler - and as a comedian. Because dealing with hecklers is stand-up 101. You want to turn the audience against them and have THEM do the work for you. But he made his entire audience hecklers.
posted by tkchrist at 10:43 AM on November 20, 2006


Dear Michael Richards,
I think I can hook you up with a job. Call me.
posted by racist dunk-tank clown at 10:43 AM on November 20, 2006 [5 favorites]


I was at the Laugh Factory a couple of years ago when Michael Richards happened to be there. He wasn't on the bill -- just sort of sitting in the audience when we came in, and the emcee asked if "we should try to get Michael up on stage." Of course the audience cheered wildly.

But here's the thing: He wasn't funny. All he did was a few pratfalls. He didn't even make any jokes. We laughed, because it was Kramer, but in hindsight it wasn't a fraction as funny as the other comedians we saw that night (namely, Godfrey, the guy who replaced Orlando Jones in the 7-Up commercials).

The odd thing, in light of what's happened here, is that while he was on stage, a small group of Black people took their seats in the balcony a bit late. He made some comment about people coming in late, and one of the women leaned over the balcony, waved, and said "Hi Kramer!" He rolled his eyes and we all had a laugh. I wonder what he was really thinking.

And as to the "we're all a little racist under the skin" debate: Yeah, sure. But just because I pick my nose at stoplights doesn't mean it's not gross when someone barfs out the car window.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Are you suggesting that even acknowledging the heckler was black makes him a dirty stinking racist?

Well, there's acknowledging, and then there's pointing and screaming "NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER!"

Obviously, common sense should dictate the answer to your question. Pointing out the heckler in a way such as, "you, the black guy in the middle there," seems reasonable. What he did doesn't.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2006


In preview: what crash said.

But let's see more way's why "honky" is not as bad as "chink", but "chink" is way nicer than "jigaboo." Let's see that.
posted by tkchrist at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2006


"Black people must be burning crosses over your lawn a lot, huh?"

I don't see why that would be pertinent.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2006


As think someone was suggesting earlier, he was probably trying to do a Bill Hicks. The difference is that Bill Hicks' sexist tirade against a female heckler actually worked as humor, because what he was implying was that she thought she could get away with heckling because she was a female, hence (in her opinion) desirable, hence (in her opinion) entitled.

Richards isn't a trace of the comedian Hicks was so it stands to reason he'd utterly miss the point and try to do something superficially similar but at core completely wrong and catastrophically stupid.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2006


Isn't it time for his publicist to issue that statement that says, "he regretfully acknowledges that he said some disgusting things while under the influence of [alcohol/glue/aerosol can of gold paint], and as a consequence he's entering rehab"?
posted by mosk at 10:47 AM on November 20, 2006


When it's Kramer vs. Kramer, Kramer always loses.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:50 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


Who's denying the racism? Not me. I'm just wondering if all our conspicous indignation isn't a little hypocritical.

And the "little hypocrisy" makes it not worth calling out? So... Ken Lay was only being human, I get greedy myself every now and again, and even stole some candy from a friend once! Hey, who am I to condemn him?
posted by war wrath of wraith at 10:51 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


he was probably trying to do a Bill Hicks

More like an Andrew Dice Clay.
posted by maryh at 10:51 AM on November 20, 2006


jonmc, i'm wondering if you ever have another thought cross your head in these kinds of threads except "oh, we all do it anyway"

that's a bit simplistic ... how many people do you know who've actually jeopardized their careers with racist rants while they were ON THE JOB? ... how many people do you know who indulge in this kind of name calling in front of perfect strangers?

and if those questions aren't good enough for you, try this one ... let's say you're at that comedy club in l a and you're seeing this whole scene go down

are you going to stand up there and tell everybody, "hey, we ALL have racist thoughts anyway, so don't be so hypocritical?"

what's next? ... commenting in every iraq thread that, "hey, we've ALL thought about invading some 3rd world shithole ..."
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm just wondering if all our conspicous indignation isn't a little hypocritical.

Giovanni, it's not that difficult, the difference is very clear: when you act like an asshole, one can either call you

a) asshole

b) guinea

"b" means the person is a bigot, "a" we just don't know. same for Jews, etc -- God knows a lot of people find Barry Manilow annoying, but there's a clear difference between calling him a no-talent lamer or a kike. I am sure you know that, so why do you pretend otherwise? The Kramer guy, royally pissed off at a black guy, started yelling "nigger" -- it tells you very clearly that Richards is a racist. To paraphrase soon-to-be-former Senator Allen, being black is not an aspersion.

And the plight of the white American, in such circumstances, is not that horrible -- just don't call names somebody whose ancestors came to your country in chains, and whose parents couldn't even vote or go to a white people's restaurant until 40 years ago. Is it that hard? I don't think so.
posted by matteo at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2006 [5 favorites]


But,, jonmc, when you start going into what black, white or Jew would do, say, or think about one thing or another... um... you leave the minor realm of incidental racism and enter the kingdom of deliberate stupid.

Well, look at us a couple of whiteboys* arguing over what 'they' would think.

*I'll take the liberty of assuming
posted by jonmc at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2006


But let's see more way's why "honky" is not as bad as "chink", but "chink" is way nicer than "jigaboo." Let's see that.

"Nice" has nothing to do with any of this, tkchrist. Namecalling. Isn't. Nice. The issue is whether calling a white person a cracker in America is tantamount to calling a black person a nigger. And if you really think the answer's yes, you live in a much different America than I do.
posted by applemeat at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2006


Let's give some credit to "Heckler A". His first response Richards' verbal assault, "That's uncalled for," was dignified, true, and precisely appropriate to the offense. You can hear from the tone of his voice that his feelings are hurt. Then, of course, the hecklers start cussing back. But the first response was a true and accurate judgement of Richards' nutso outburst.
posted by Faze at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2006


matteo: you seem to be addressing other people's concerns not mine. I make no bones about Richards statements being racist, and deplorably so. And we get to condemn it publicly and feel good about ourselves about it, then go back to completely divided society where people who would never dream of saying 'nigger' at loud are perfectly comfortable living in segregated neighborhoods and locking their doors whenever a black guy walks by. That's what I'm saying.

Giovanni, it's not that difficult, the difference is very clear: when you act like an asshole, one can either call you

a) asshole

b) guinea


They could also call me a mick, a paddy, or a blue-eyed devil. And among friends, I joke in those terms all the time. Among strangers, I usually just consider the source and move on.
posted by jonmc at 11:01 AM on November 20, 2006


Who's denying the racism? Not me. I'm just wondering if all our conspicous indignation isn't a little hypocritical.

How bad does it have to be for us to justify indignation? I guess there's an outside chance that there's more going on here than the video shows, but the dude got on stage and screamed "nigger" at black audience members. It was bad enough that most of the audience left. That seems beyond the pale to me. I can see your "cast no stone" argument as valid for the recent Steve Lyons incident or other instances of racist remarks in casual, yet public, conversation. But I don't think it's hypocritical to be indignant here just because some of us may have locked our car doors when driving through the 'hood.
posted by mullacc at 11:03 AM on November 20, 2006


Okay, gotta jump in with a more serious response. No, jonmc, it's not at all hypocritical. Because you are incorrectly equating thoughts with deeds. I might grant you that we all have racist impulses, but we do not all act on those impulses. Just as we may all have impure, murderous, and neo-conservative thoughts from time-to-time, but that doesn't make us all adulterous, homicidal FOX news anchors. So those of us who refrain from racist words and deeds have not only a right, but also a duty to weigh in when somebody crosses that line and begins actively poisoning the well. And yes - it does make a difference.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:03 AM on November 20, 2006 [6 favorites]


We wouldn't be having this conversation if Chris Rock did this, would we?
posted by Cyrano at 11:04 AM on November 20, 2006


They could also call me a mick, a paddy, or a blue-eyed devil. And among friends, I joke in those terms all the time. Among strangers, I usually just consider the source and move on.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.
posted by applemeat at 11:05 AM on November 20, 2006


The issue is whether calling a white person a cracker in America is tantamount to calling a black person a nigger. And if you really think the answer's yes, you live in a much different America than I do.

come to think of it, doesn't that depend on whether you're the sort of white person who's more likely to be called a cracker or a redneck? ... on what your social class is? ... on where you live?

calling michael richards a cracker isn't that big a deal ... calling tyler from farmtown, ill just might be a big deal

(in other words, some people DO live in a much different american than you do)
posted by pyramid termite at 11:07 AM on November 20, 2006


jonmc:

As God is my witness, I have heard genuinely, raw, racist sentiments like this diatribe fewer than 5 times in my life. I have never thought anything remotely like what Richards is going on about here.

Now, would I swear that I've never had any prejudiced thought in my life? No. You're right, that's the way human minds are programmed to operate.

Yes, you are right, no one is 100% free of any and all bias. Congratulations on achieving this insight!

Where you are wrong is in your apparent view that (1) everyone thinks super racist stuff to themselves in private; (2) criticizing overtly racist expressions and acts is fundamentally hypocritical; (3) it serves no purpose to criticize people who speak and act in a transparently racist manner; and (4) that it is effective or socially appropriate to engage in this compulsive moral equivalence.

Honestly, no one disagrees with you that everyone has some bias.

It's that you insist on flipping out about it every time there's a story about pure, ugly, racism.

As war wrath of wraith put it, "And the "little hypocrisy" makes it not worth calling out? So... Ken Lay was only being human, I get greedy myself every now and again, and even stole some candy from a friend once! Hey, who am I to condemn him?"
posted by ibmcginty at 11:07 AM on November 20, 2006 [6 favorites]


Just as we may all have impure, murderous, and neo-conservative

One of these things is not like the other...

How bad does it have to be for us to justify indignation? I guess there's an outside chance that there's more going on here than the video shows, but the dude got on stage and screamed "nigger" at black audience members.

I think on a certain level we're happy this occured, so we can show how prejudiced we're not. He's a washed-up celebrity, he dosen't make policy, he dosen't power economies. He's an idiot to be sure, but he's a symptom not the disease.

Like I said, I'm not defending him, just questioning whether we're all that great for condemning him, it's kind of an easy way to set ourselves up as anti-racist heroes.
posted by jonmc at 11:08 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Who's denying the racism? Not me. I'm just wondering if all our conspicous indignation isn't a little hypocritical.

Oh bullshit, jon! You consistently do this, as Hat Maui appropriately pointed out. While it's clear that you're being hypocritical when you talk about racism, it's not at all clear that everyone else is. Not only do you consistently make a mistake by flattening out degree in order to suggest that there is no room for indignation in the face of racist behavior, you also seem to think that bad behavior should be overlooked because it doesn't make you uncomfortable.

It's perfectly acceptable to castigate racists, by which I mean people who make racism a public form of demeaning others. It may well be true that most white folks carry around racist thoughts inside their heads, but that's really immaterial to the discussions in which you want to trot it out. I've also thought seriously before about killing someone, although I would never do it. While racist statements are not the same as murder (although part of the weakness of your argument is that you seem unable to acknowledge the extent to which they aren't always so far apart, witness Richards referencing as an explicit threat the history of lynching in the US), the difference between thought and action should be informative enough for a person of your intelligence to acknowledge it. You seem unable to admit that spewing racist epithets is actually action and not thought, and that condemning someone for doing it is not some form of policing thought, it's a reaction to an action.
posted by OmieWise at 11:11 AM on November 20, 2006 [4 favorites]


They could also call me a mick, a paddy, or a blue-eyed devil. And among friends, I joke in those terms all the time. Among strangers, I usually just consider the source and move on.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.


I can assure you I'm not.

Where you are wrong is in your apparent view that (1) everyone thinks super racist stuff to themselves in private;

In our worst moments, I think we do, and if it's not race, it'll be gender, sexuality or class

(2) criticizing overtly racist expressions and acts is fundamentally hypocritical;

Only if it's not backed up by behavior, or at least an effort at examining ones own part in things.

(3) it serves no purpose to criticize people who speak and act in a transparently racist manner;

No, I'm saying that all by itself, it's not enough, especially in a case like this where there's really no risk or danger involved in condemning the action.
posted by jonmc at 11:12 AM on November 20, 2006


INT. JERRY'S APARTMENT. DAY.

KRAMER comes CRASHING through JERRY’s door, hits the couch and falls onto the coffee table, SMASHING it to pieces
JERRY (peeved)


Kramer, what the hell are you doing?

KRAMER


Well, I’m sorry, Jer. But did you see who was moving in next door to me?

JERRY


Oh yeah, Frank. I just met him in the elevator. Nice guy, I think he’s an accountant or something. What does an accountant do all day, anyway? And what’s with those green and white striped sheets? Who got to decide that green would be the color?

KRAMER (irritated)


Never mind that! What about his skin, Jerry? His skin!

JERRY (panicked)


What? Is he a leper? Crap – where did I put my Lysol?

KRAMER


No, he’s not a leper. At least I don’t think so – can’t be too sure with those people. But Jerry, he’s … he’s … (makes strange face and wiggly motion with his fingers near his head) colored!

JERRY


Have you been watching too many old movies again? Hate to break it to you, bud, but the whole world is in color now – kind of like in Wizard of Oz when she opens that door.

KRAMER


He’s a nigger, Jerry. A nigger. (voice cracks). A filthy nigger.

JERRY


Oh.

KRAMER (distracted)


I think I’m going to go find Newman. Maybe he and I will have ourselves a little race riot of our own. I think it’s time we strung ourselves up a black man and stuck a fork up his … well, Jer, gotta go. (crashes into closed door, opens then leaves).

JERRY (disgusted)


Newwwman!
posted by pardonyou? at 11:13 AM on November 20, 2006 [10 favorites]


It may well be true that most white folks carry around racist thoughts inside their heads, but that's really immaterial to the discussions in which you want to trot it out.

Pretty much everybody else too, actually.
posted by jonmc at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2006


I think on a certain level we're happy this occured, so we can show how prejudiced we're not.

Oh, this is such fucking bullshit.
posted by OmieWise at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yeah, jon, you doth protest way the fuck too much. It would be nice to see you condemn racism without all the caveats you seem to find indispensable.
posted by OmieWise at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2006


Here's the thing, jon, I don't think you're being iconoclastic, I think you're covering up for your own bad behavior. While it's certainly possible that bashing the racist does nothing to help the world (something I'm unconvinced of), it's damn sure that trying to prevent it doesn't do a damn thing.
posted by OmieWise at 11:19 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


jon, maui was doing fine hanging himself. You should have just let him. The cracker thing was precious.

After that the inevitable attempt at justifying which racial slur is worse or better than another? Adorable.

ANY racial slur, when slung as a true insult, defeats the goal of trying to create racial harmony. Saying "cracker" nullified hat's point entirely and showed his stripes.


oh, fertkchrist's sake. you can't really be this stupid, can you?

let me ask you something... what do you imagine that someone is referring to when they call someone a "cracker"? is it the centuries-long enslavement, murder and abuse of whites in the transatlantic biscuit trade? or is it perhaps a fairly benign (even embraced by whites in some cases!) pejorative on the level of "redneck"?

which term is more loaded? which term has centuries of hate and murder behind it? if your answer is something along the lines of "ANY racial slur, when slung as a true insult..." then you simply do not get it.
posted by Hat Maui at 11:19 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


Ya got me Omie, in my spare time, I put on a Klan robe and run around committing hate crimes. Better hope my Jewish wife, black cubemates, Arab niece and nephews, Hispanic best friend and gay Puerto Rican boss don't find out.

I'll condemn racism to the cows come home because it's wrong and deplorable, but I can't lie and pretend I'm not part of the problem and that merely calling out easy examples like this one is enough. Saying "Micahel Richards is a racist" is fine, but does it actually change anything?
posted by jonmc at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2006


I think on a certain level we're happy this occured, so we can show how prejudiced we're not.

i think on ANY level, you can start speaking for yourself and not everyone on this site ... and while you're at it, you can drop the requirement that we all confess our racism to you before we dare say a word against the subject of the post

it's sheer arrogance ... you don't get to set the terms under which we are allowed to discuss this
posted by pyramid termite at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


So defending him is bad, and condemning him is bad too. What to do, then? Ignore it?

Look, jonmc, there's a fair point in what you're saying. Focusing too much on batshit celebrity racism could theoretically allow some people to develop an overly narrow definition of racism. "What Richards did is racist, and I certainly don't do that, so I'm clearly not racist." I'm with you up to that point.

But you're taking the argument several steps further and saying that anyone who condemns this conduct is a hypocrite because everyone is a little racist. That is neither logical nor fair. It's not logical because, as others have pointed out, racism (like most other forms of bad conduct) is a matter of degree and there are differences between thoughts and actions. Just because someone has mildly racist thoughts on occasion doesn't preclude them from condemning racist actions. It's not fair because you're calling your community peers hypocrites and not giving anyone credit for having the introspection you believe necessary. Do you really think everyone who says Richards was a racist dick is a smug and self-satisfied secret racist themselves? If so, that's a pretty crappy thing to say about a lot of well-meaning people.
posted by brain_drain at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2006 [3 favorites]


I have to say, that demonic-looking picture of Mel Gibson at the bottom of the page is pure gold.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2006


Racism is one of the three or four topics that invariably turns into jonmcFilter, and does it in precisely the same way each time. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is left as a trivially easy exercise for the reader.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


you don't get to set the terms under which we are allowed to discuss this

neither do you.
posted by jonmc at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2006


I heard his friend Bob Sacamano is black.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2006


He's a washed-up celebrity...

Richards himself may be washed-up in terms of potential for future acting jobs, but the Kramer character and the Seinfeld legacy is still pretty fresh in peoples' minds and culturally-relevant. Especially with Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show that deals with racism on a regular basis, still going strong.
posted by mullacc at 11:24 AM on November 20, 2006



Like I said, I'm not defending him, just questioning whether we're all that great for condemning him, it's kind of an easy way to set ourselves up as anti-racist heroes.


I don't see that anyone's made any claims that they are anything special for being upset at Richard's comments. Are you saying that we secretly believe this? Because then you're just ascribing motives.
posted by 235w103 at 11:25 AM on November 20, 2006


As God is my witness, I have heard genuinely, raw, racist sentiments like this diatribe fewer than 5 times in my life. I have never thought anything remotely like what Richards is going on about here.

You're treating this as an expression of his sincere views and not a botched attempt at edgy performance?
posted by cillit bang at 11:27 AM on November 20, 2006


Why do we care, exactly?
posted by hoborg at 11:27 AM on November 20, 2006


Are you saying that we secretly believe this? Because then you're just ascribing motives.

Well, here (and elsewhere in the media) whenever some white person makes an ass out of themselves around race, there's a mad ruch to say howhorrible it all is. And Richards statements were horrible, but while we're patting ourselves on the back, have we changed anything one iota?
posted by jonmc at 11:28 AM on November 20, 2006


Oh, good, jon, I'm glad to know that some of your best friends are black or I might have suspected that the reason you have such a hard time with simple condemnations of behavior like this is because you're the kind of guy who goes around regularly thinking pretty fucking racist things, and you have a hard time imagining that anyone else might be different. You set my mind at rest, though.
posted by OmieWise at 11:30 AM on November 20, 2006


Yes, we have. We've given you something to do today.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:31 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


in my spare time, I put on a Klan robe and run around committing hate crimes.

Actually, it seemed to me that it was something from further back in your past, like you got drunk and murdered a black family when you were in high school or something.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:31 AM on November 20, 2006


that the reason you have such a hard time with simple condemnations of behavior like this is because you're the kind of guy who goes around regularly thinking pretty fucking racist things, and you have a hard time imagining that anyone else might be different.

Sure, I'll cop to having my share of ugly thoughts, racial and otherwise, and I'll also say that I've never met anyone, of any persuasion who didn't. Those who claim to never think such things about anybody are a big problem, too, because they're refusing to examine themselves. But if you wanna believe that your the great white savior, go right a head. I'm just trying not to engage in hypocrisy here.
posted by jonmc at 11:34 AM on November 20, 2006


I think on a certain level we're happy this occured, so we can show how prejudiced we're not

While you are freely casting aspersions about everyone, we should all be so happy if we don't ever end up acting as irrationally as Richards did.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 AM on November 20, 2006


neither do you.

i haven't tried to ... you have ... you do it just about every time this subject comes up

it's getting old and tired ... we end up discussing you and your pointless and self-serving criteria for how we must cry "mea culpa" before we can condemn the bigot of the day and then we must further endure your justification by description of how diverse all your friends are and how you don't mind if they call you a mick or whatever and then all your sarcasm about how you need to get your klan robes cleaned

every time ... every goddamned time

if our hypocrisy offends you so much, why don't you just fuck off for once and let us wallow in it, mr obsessive/compulsive gotta derail all the racism threads?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:36 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


(2) criticizing overtly racist expressions and acts is fundamentally hypocritical;

Only if it's not backed up by behavior, or at least an effort at examining ones own part in things.

Most of us, whether we have some racist/classist/sexist/whateverist thoughts or not, aren't going around shrieking them at strangers. I think that's a pretty good start at moral high ground. Nobody's expected to have perfectly pure thoughts, but it's nice if people can make an effort to be considerate. If they've got that down, then their criticism of Kramer's bizarre meltdown is backed up by behavior.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:37 AM on November 20, 2006


And Richards statements were horrible, but while we're patting ourselves on the back, have we changed anything one iota?

Actually, yes--if silence is approval. There was a time (possibly within your lifetime, jonmc) when few people would have batted an eye at Richards' outburst. What do you supposed has changed since then? Maybe white people back then were just less ...smugly heroic?
posted by applemeat at 11:39 AM on November 20, 2006


But if you wanna believe that your the great white savior, go right a head. I'm just trying not to engage in hypocrisy here.

The thing is, I can and have pointed to instance after instance in which you cavil about calling racism racism, and you've yet to point to anyone condemning the behavior who's suggested that they might be the hope of mankind. That your argument rests on projection is yet another reason to suggest that it's you who refuse to examine yourself.
posted by OmieWise at 11:39 AM on November 20, 2006


posted by George_Spiggott Racism is one of the three or four topics that invariably turns into jonmcFilter, and does it in precisely the same way each time.

Well, that's what happens when you interrupt the white man jonmc!
posted by fandango_matt at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2006


You're treating this as an expression of his sincere views and not a botched attempt at edgy performance?
posted by cillit bang at 4:27 AM JST on November 21

Why do we care, exactly?
posted by hoborg at 4:27 AM JST on November 21

And Richards statements were horrible, but while we're patting ourselves on the back, have we changed anything one iota?

posted by jonmc at 4:28 AM JST on November 21

Have the three of you been reading this thread at all? 'Cause, you know, people have expressed opinions and stuff.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 11:43 AM on November 20, 2006


it's kind of an easy way to set ourselves up as anti-racist heroes.

Because of how we conduct ourselves in public, what we teach our children, and how we react to ignorance-- despite our backgrounds, secret thoughts, or negative experiences-- I think that most of us here ARE anti-racist heroes. What's wrong with that? Pride in one's standards gives one a self-contained reason to uphold those standards, despite external influences.

People's reactions to Richards in this thread reflect this, and no one has been particularly stuffy or shrill about it so far. So why bother trying to take the piss out of everyone before the blue bladder has even filled?

Now can we all please go back to guessing which of us are white? That's my favorite game.
posted by hermitosis at 11:45 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


That your argument rests on projection is yet another reason to suggest that it's you who refuse to examine yourself.

As a relatively powerless single indivdual, pretty much all I can do is recognize ugly thoughts for what they are and try not to act on them. And I've suggested numerous times in threads on this topic, that along with the usual methods of combating racism, some examination of how prejudice develops in individuals and investigation into what can be done to intedict that process is in order. But that's usually met with thundering silence.

And, OmieWise, FWIW, I've long been an admirer of yours for both your writing skill and your unwillingness to accept pat answers on difficult subjects. It's kind of disheartening that taking a crtical look at something here is resulting in some standard 'you must be a racist!' responses from you.
posted by jonmc at 11:46 AM on November 20, 2006


FWIW:

He told CNN off-camera he felt sorry for what had happened and had made amends.

It seems like he has some issues he needs to work on, but I think this episode is forgivable. I also think racism should be recognized as a part of human nature and dealt with as such rather than in this kind of witch-hunt way. I'm not holding my breath though, humans also have a hugely powerful drive for self-righteousness.
posted by teleskiving at 11:47 AM on November 20, 2006


Well I, for one, thought the routine was funny.
posted by mazola at 11:49 AM on November 20, 2006


Had he merely insulted or raged at the man in a generic way, by say, calling him stupid or ugly, then the man's skin tone would have been irrelevent.

Are you suggesting that even acknowledging the heckler was black makes him a dirty stinking racist?


Are you suggesting that screaming "Nigger!!!" at a black man qualifies as "acknowledging that he is black"?
posted by orange swan at 11:50 AM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


"Well, here (and elsewhere in the media) whenever some white person makes an ass out of themselves around race, there's a mad ruch to say howhorrible it all is. And Richards statements were horrible, but while we're patting ourselves on the back, have we changed anything one iota?"posted by jonmc

Better a "mad rush" to parrot disapproval of a horrible thing than a mad rush to parrot approval.

There would be a helluva lot more to change if we all openly agreed with Richards.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:53 AM on November 20, 2006


OmieWise, amazing last six or so comments--very, very well-put. I think your reasoning is spot-on and solid, and I wish jonmc could get over himself long enough to actually read and take all of this to heart rather than parrot the same open-ended and largely irrelevant argument.
posted by nonmerci at 11:54 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


. . .investigation into what can be done to intedict that process is in order. But that's usually met with thundering silence.

Well, one thing to do is refuse to allow incidents like this to pass without show of reproach. Which this thread is full of. Which makes me wonder where you hear this "thundering silence".
posted by landis at 11:55 AM on November 20, 2006


Better a "mad rush" to parrot disapproval of a horrible thing than a mad rush to parrot approval.

See what I mean by 'patting ourselves on the back.'
Call it what you want, but at least I'm acknowledging my part in things.
posted by jonmc at 11:57 AM on November 20, 2006


pretty much all I can do is recognize ugly thoughts for what they are and try not to act on them

Perhaps you might consider letting the rest of us do this as well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2006


Are you suggesting that screaming "Nigger!!!" at a black man qualifies as "acknowledging that he is black"?

No, but it's a logical extension of that if you're a comedian dealing with a heckler.
posted by cillit bang at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2006


It's on YouTube now for those who couldn't view on the tmz site.
posted by turbanhead at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2006


Like I said, it's all question of degree. Everybody (myself included) has bigoted thoughts of one kind or another.

The difference between a lustful look at a well developed 16 yr old catholic school girl and raping her is just a question of degree.

Degree matters.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:07 PM on November 20, 2006


And, OmieWise, FWIW, I've long been an admirer of yours for both your writing skill and your unwillingness to accept pat answers on difficult subjects. It's kind of disheartening that taking a crtical look at something here is resulting in some standard 'you must be a racist!' responses from you.

And, jon, the same is true of me to you. However, my responses are only "standard" if all such responses are standard. What's actually happened here is that I've seen this response from you ad nauseum, and decided to engage it here. You continue to insist that, while not racist, condemning racism actually reveals bad motives on the part of the condemner, and you insist that on the basis of no evidence. As others have pointed out, by your rules there seems to be no way to actually have a discussion about race. And, you reiterate your position so frequently that it really does call into question your frame of reference. And then in defense, you rely on the standard character reference of proximity to minorities.

None of that adds up to you being a racist, but certainly all of it together, coupled with your inability to let other people have any discussion about it, is the basis for a legitimate question about whether or not your protestations are based on your own racism. You can put that question to rest by explaining more fully what it is that's so offensive about people calling Michael Richards a racist douche. Another way would be to just let people have the discussion that they want to have about it, without vociferously making room for the racism in all of us. Your seeming inability to recognize that this is the internet and therefore the domain of speech, but that people commenting here might have other realms (of action, say) in which they are involved only makes your interventions more annoying. It's your position on this that's creating the confusion, not some knee-jerk PC mafia.

I don't know if you're a big ole racist or not, but I will say that it's a question for me. How could it not be, given your unformed protestations on the subject, and your evident desire to suggest that people who condemn racism in straight, unembellished language do so out of bad reasons and to no or poor results? Even were I to suspect that you and I differ significantly in our beliefs on the equality of the races and our commitment to changing the current racist status quo in the US, that wouldn't mean that I'd condemn you in my mind as a bad guy. But, neither would my belief that you're a good guy prevent me from calling you on the bullshit I see you spouting in threads like this.
posted by OmieWise at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2006 [6 favorites]


I don't understand the fork comment. But in regard to the 'N' word: I think it is a profound insult, and as a 'white' person, I don't believe it is ever acceptable for me to use it. That said, I have a question: IS there an acceptable forum and circumstance? e.g. If it was Bill Hicks-/Chris Rock-ish--as some commenters have name-dropped--and its use and subsequent explication led to some revelation?
posted by spacely_sprocket at 12:09 PM on November 20, 2006


Well, there's acknowledging, and then there's pointing and screaming "NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER!"

Reminds me of the old Patti Smith song...

"Jimi Hendrix, was a nigger,
Jesus Christ and Grandma too,
Jackson Pollock, was a nigger,
NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER!"

I'm currently reading Nik Cohn's latest, Triksta: The life and death of New Orlean's rap. I've grown up with Cohn's work, first reading Awopbobaloobop, Alopbamboom as at age 15 back in 1970. (For those who don't know his stuff, Cohn's the journalist/critic who wrote the article that formed the basis for Saturday Night Fever.)

Now, here I am, aged 51, and his stuff is still as compelling to me as it was back when I was fifteen.

Context: Cohn is in New Orleans, feeling pretty low as a consequence of having Hep. C when he wanders into the Iberville Projects. Take it from here, Nic:

"Behind the abandoned hulk of Krauss's department store, I headed into the heart of the project. A few strides brought me into a blind corner. When I turned it, the sunlight was shut out. A few more strides and a group of youths hemmed me in. None of them spoke or touched me, they simply blocked my path. The brackish smell of bodies was fierce, and I stumbled back against a wall as the youths moved in. Then, just as suddenly as they swarmed, they scattered. A city bus had turned the corner and fixed us with its headlamps.

I had never known worse fear. When I regained Basin Street and was safely in a taxi, I was surprised to find that I hadn't pissed or shat myself. That was how it had felt back there -- everything running out of myself, uncontrollably. And what was most shameful of all wasn't my fear of being robbed or shot. I'd been afraid of blackness itself.

(...)

How could it be? Black music and black culture had been a huge part of my life; so had black friends and lovers. But those, depending on shifting trends and fashion, had been negroes or african-americans. They were nobody's niggaz.

The same friends and lovers had often told me this: all whites, if you cut them deep enough, are racist at core.

I remembered Kerry, a singer I dated some thirty years ago, and how, one stoned morning, after we made love, she mocked my record collection, the posters on my walls, all the black artifacts I thought were part of me. Window dressing, she called them, and took my hand and placed it on her breast. This too, she said. She was in my bed, my world; that didn't mean shit. Drop me off in the ghetto, up against the wall, and see how I felt then. I'd turn cracker in a heartbeat, Kerry said. Of course, I refused to believe her. Other whites, maybe; but not me. That poison couldn't be in me.

Yet it was."

posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2006 [3 favorites]


OmieWise, amazing last six or so comments--very, very well-put. I think your reasoning is spot-on and solid

Absolutely agreed. And let me add that it's so typical of jon to take a whiny little stab at the messenger, indicating his "disappointment" that someone he normally agrees with doesn't see eye-to-eye with him on his pet issues.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2006


Better a "mad rush" to parrot disapproval of a horrible thing than a mad rush to parrot approval.

See what I mean by 'patting ourselves on the back.'
Call it what you want, but at least I'm acknowledging my part in things.
posted by jonmc

I truly don't understand your response to my comment jonmc (my comment in italics first).

For some of us, Richards' racist blather left a nasty taste. So we spat.

Are we meant to sit around saying "yummy"? Or nothing at all? Or to admit with a shame-faced chuckle we have a bit of a weakness for this nasty stuff ourselves?

Are the last three reactions preferable to spitting?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2006


my Jewish wife, black cubemates, Arab niece and nephews, Hispanic best friend and gay Puerto Rican boss

I smell sitcom!
posted by Bookhouse at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Are you suggesting that screaming "Nigger!!!" at a black man qualifies as "acknowledging that he is black"?

No, but it's a logical extension of that if you're a comedian dealing with a heckler.


I don't see how it could be a "logical extension" of a comedian's act when it isn't funny in the least.
posted by orange swan at 12:15 PM on November 20, 2006


my Jewish wife, black cubemates, Arab niece and nephews, Hispanic best friend and gay Puerto Rican boss

oh fucking SHIT, BACK UP, GAY BOSS

jon buddy, it's like somebody said up the thread a ways -- let's hear you say that what Richards did was wrong without qualifying it in the same comment. one time.
posted by radiosig at 12:15 PM on November 20, 2006


I think on a certain level we're happy this occured, so we can show how prejudiced we're not.

You keep using that word "we." You should stop, because your mind-reading skillz really suck. I am not happy on any level that Richards did this. I never watched Seinfeld much, but I remember Richards from the imitation-SNL show Fridays, and he was very funny on that. Now I'm going to remember him for this, instead of for that. It is, at a minimum, very sad. And really, it's worse than sad. That he could think there's any "funny" in what he said is an indictment of him and probably of the state of comedy today.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:17 PM on November 20, 2006


You continue to insist that, while not racist, condemning racism actually reveals bad motives on the part of the condemner, and you insist that on the basis of no evidence.

No. Actually, what I'm trying to say is that a simple knee-jerk 'that racist!' unnacompanied by anything else (especially self-examination) is often self-serving and facile. i don't think that's an invalid observation. Not a blanket truth and definitely debatable, but not beyond the pale.

And then in defense, you rely on the standard character reference of proximity to minorities.

Well, it may be a standard response and probably ill-advised, but I think we've all had our experiences with the cliche of the person who's quick to renounce obvious, easy racism yet dosen't actually have any contact with the people they're putatively defending. I've met more than my fair share of those types, so I probably see them more often than they actually exist.

Even were I to suspect that you and I differ significantly in our beliefs on the equality of the races and our commitment to changing the current racist status quo in the US, that wouldn't mean that I'd condemn you in my mind as a bad guy.

Well, I don't know exactly what your position is, but suffice to say, while inequality is natural, it shouldn't be based on trivial characteristics such as race religion or sexuality. But I also can't deny that in moments of annoyance or anger, ugly thoughts form in my head. I usually beat them back, with the thought 'That isn't you. You know better.' But I'd be a flaming hypocrite if I said I never have them and I doubt I'm alone, and I think publicly saying that might encourage others to do the same.

And I still think investigation into what turns an individual bigoted and what we can do to interdict that process (beyond simple condemnation) is warranted. That's all.
posted by jonmc at 12:22 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


jon buddy, it's like somebody said up the thread a ways -- let's hear you say that what Richards did was wrong without qualifying it in the same comment. one time.

Richards was wrong. he acted like an idiot and he's getting what's coming to him.
posted by jonmc at 12:24 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


(3) it serves no purpose to criticize people who speak and act in a transparently racist manner;

No, I'm saying that all by itself, it's not enough, especially in a case like this where there's really no risk or danger involved in condemning the action.


Well, that's great. Next time I see a bunch of guys in white sheets stringing a black guy up on a tree, I'll be sure to intervene, just so I can feel the acute sense of moral superiority you obviously have attained.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 12:25 PM on November 20, 2006


From now on all of my posts will be brimming with self-examination, in hopes that it will validate my observations.
posted by hermitosis at 12:29 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


posted by cillit bang Actually from the clip, it's nothing like as bad as is being made out. It does start at least start off as a joke, as a routine, but he seems to forget that towards the end. The race stuff is kind of irrelevant, he's just losing his shit at a heckler.

Yeah, but it's more exciting to say he's racist, and then say everyone is racist, including yourself, but that's okay, because you're not as racist as Michael Richards, because your boss is a gay black Jewish Puerto Rican.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:31 PM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


Wow. Michael Richards, huh? I almost didn't recognize him in that video. Maybe it was the lighting or the short haircut. Or the outrageous racist comments. I don't know.
posted by hojoki at 12:31 PM on November 20, 2006


If it was Bill Hicks-/Chris Rock-ish--as some commenters have name-dropped--and its use and subsequent explication led to some revelation?

Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Mark Twain: we accept more outrageousness from great comics because they use situations to enlighten and explore the human condition.

Richards' diatribe was just a vicious, angry rant. It really bums me out to know that people really feel like this, but there you go. And it's not necessary to say he's a white asshole, when he's an asshole, period, suffices.

What he did was a violent act. He used words to attack someone; the words themselves are almost irrelevant. As George Carlin says, "There are no bad words, just bad thoughts and actions."
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:33 PM on November 20, 2006


Anyone who doesn't think this is completely outrageous is off their rocker.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2006


But I'd be a flaming hypocrite if I said I never have them and I doubt I'm alone, and I think publicly saying that might encourage others to do the same.

To what end? So that we can massage and encourage a more racist world? And one in which white people can feel better about ourselves by accepting that a more racist world is, as you maintain, more natural, more honest?
posted by applemeat at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2006


"what I'm trying to say is that a simple knee-jerk 'that racist!' unnacompanied by anything else (especially self-examination) is often self-serving and facile. i don't think that's an invalid observation."

Valid or not, your ongoing presumption that this applies to us, and that we are therefore automatically deserving of your lectures, is both arrogant and insulting. And sadly predictable.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:38 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh, and - for the record? I'm examining myself right now. And I like what I feel.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:41 PM on November 20, 2006


I'm really happy the audience voted with their feet, though. There is some hope, after all.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:41 PM on November 20, 2006


To what end? So that we can massage and encourage a more racist world?

Um, no. Maybe do what I did and take those ugly thoughts for what they are, ugly thoughts that shouldn't be acted on. For some people shaming works, for others it only makes them dig their heels in deeper and get worse, so maybe being judgemental isn't always the right approach, at least with individuals. (and FWIW, I'm not just talking about white people, I've net bigots of every race, creed and color.)
posted by jonmc at 12:42 PM on November 20, 2006


note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand -- not at other members of the site.



What don't people understand about the above statement?
posted by gigbutt at 12:43 PM on November 20, 2006


Blah.
posted by AspectRatio at 12:44 PM on November 20, 2006


jonmc hates white people.
posted by Sparx at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2006


"You put the balm on? Who told you to put the balm on?!?!?"
posted by blue_beetle at 12:47 PM on November 20, 2006


while inequality is natural, it shouldn't be based on trivial characteristics such as race religion or sexuality.

since when are those trivial characteristics?

and here we come to it, i think ... you don't take this seriously enough ... yes, a person's race, religion or sexuality shouldn't matter to us in the sense that we would treat that person differently because of them ... but we should recognize that they matter intensely to people because it's part of who they are ... it's their background, their beliefs, their way of love and who they want to love

and yet to you, they're trivial characteristics ... they're things that you're going to pretend don't exist so you can abstract them away, not so you can engage and accept them

this is one of those cases where a choice of words reveals a lot ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:56 PM on November 20, 2006


since when are those trivial characteristics?

yes, a person's race, religion or sexuality shouldn't matter to us in the sense that we would treat that person differently because of them

I think you answered your own question.
posted by jonmc at 12:59 PM on November 20, 2006


Johnmc, I have a certain amount of sympathy to your position, but I'm wondering if you can elaborate on the evidence behind it. You claim that everyone thinks racist, sexist or classist thoughts. Can you back that up?

I would be very surprised if that wasn't true about many people -- but all people? most people? Maybe, but I'm not quite as sure as you seem to be.

How could you possibly tell? You can look into your own soul and maybe get some close friends to admit to their demons, but it's not logical to extrapolate from that to all or most people.

Your claim reminds me of something I've heard all my life: all people are bi-sexual. My mind aways does a backflip when I hear that, because I'm not. And yet people say it with such assurance that I get temporarily hoodwinked into thinking it must be true. (When I say I'm not bisexual, I mean that I have never in my life -- even for a fleeting moment -- found myself sexually attracted to a man. I actually think this is very sad and would like to have the experience, but I can't force it.) I guess you could say I'm repressing my bisexuality or other people are repressing their racism, but then you're creating an unfalsifiable claim. And if you're doing that, there's no point in continuing the discussion.

More than any other topic, when it comes to psychology, people just KNOW things -- or they feel they do.

"He's jealous."

"How can you tell?"

"I just know!"

Sometimes these guy feelings can be helpful, but lets not mistake them for evidence or even for worthy utterances in a conversation.

But let's assume you're right for a second. Everyone is racist (or misogynistic or whatever). Why should that be? Do you think it's nature? We're all born racist or misogynistic? If so, the "or" is confusing. I would have an easier time buying a hypothesis that we're all born racist -- not racist or something else. Unless you're claiming that we're all born with a need to hate some group of people but that the specific group is filled in later, via upbringing. That's actually a really interesting theory (similar to Chomsky's views on language), but I'd need you to start reeling out the evidence.

A more reasonable claim is that it's cultural. People are racist and sexist because there are many racist and sexist facets of our culture, and these forces are really hard to escape. (This is what we mean when we condone "Merchant of Venice" by saying Shakespeare was a man of his time.)

But there are a couple of things to consider:

1) Some people manage to escape the shackles of their culture: not all 1939s Germans were Nazi sympathizers (e.g. Schindler)

2) Culture changes. Johnmc, you and I are roughly the same age. When we were born, there were still vast areas of America where it was okay to be racist and sexist. That's still true today, but less so -- especially amongst the liberal, hyper-educated, young crowd that hangs out here.

How many kids did you know, when you were small, who were raised by a lesbian couple, a bi-racial couple, etc.? I didn't know any. But it's much more common now, and some of the people who grew up in these environments are adults now -- a very different type of adult that you and I knew growing up.



What IS true is that all people have felt hatred. Or, if not -- if there's someone out there who has never hated another human being, even fleetingly -- then I don't want to know him. I'm not a fan of hatred, but it seems so fundamental that I'm not sure how you can be a mentally healthy person if you've never felt it. But I don't see how you can go much further than that. Claiming that everyone is racist is way too specific.

Me? Well, I'm not sexist. Most of my friends are women and always have been. Classist? Maybe a little in the fact that I'm jealous of rich people. I'm not sure jealousy counts as classism, but if you want to count it, be my guest. Racist? Well, I've been scared and puzzled by people who don't look like me, but that's about the best I can do. Is that racism?

Have I felt hatred of some very specific people? You bet. I'm definitely hated a lot of bosses and teachers.

I do share your distaste of hypocracy. It's irritating to think that many of the people denouncing Michael Richards have thought some of the things that he says out loud. And when I was younger, I used to think the would would be a much better place if it was totally rid of hypocracy. It would be a sort of utopia if everyone was always honest and let all their dirty laundry hang out for everyone to see. The older I get, the less convinced I am of that. I suspect society would crumble without a certain amount of cover. Society is also damaged by too much cover. They very complicated act of living and relating to other people is trying to find the right balance. It's tough and it will always be tough.

And so don't think it's necessarily wrong to think: shame on Michael Richards -- not for thinking those thoughts but for saying those words!
posted by grumblebee at 1:06 PM on November 20, 2006


Reminds me of the old Patti Smith song...

Shit, I was thinking of that too. I had a quick vision from Natural Born Killers.

I vote "edgy bit gone horribly wrong," though I'd have to see the interaction beforehand to make a reasonable call. It didn't seem vitriolic enough to equate to "I hate all you niggers, etc."
posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 PM on November 20, 2006


Was his TV show anything like this?
posted by mazola at 1:18 PM on November 20, 2006


Oh, and - for the record? I'm examining myself right now. And I like what I feel.

Ooo, tell us more!
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:19 PM on November 20, 2006


I don't see how it could be a "logical extension" of a comedian's act when it isn't funny in the least.

But that's exactly the point. Just because it fell flat doesn't make it suddenly racist.
posted by cillit bang at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2006


But let's assume you're right for a second. Everyone is racist (or misogynistic or whatever). Why should that be? Do you think it's nature? We're all born racist or misogynistic? If so, the "or" is confusing. I would have an easier time buying a hypothesis that we're all born racist -- not racist or something else. Unless you're claiming that we're all born with a need to hate some group of people but that the specific group is filled in later, via upbringing. That's actually a really interesting theory (similar to Chomsky's views on language), but I'd need you to start reeling out the evidence.

If I kne the answer to that question definitively, I'd be booking a flight to Stockholm, which is why I explicitly say that more investigation into how people become bigoted is called for.

Me? Well, I'm not sexist. Most of my friends are women and always have been...Racist? Well, I've been scared and puzzled by people who don't look like me, but that's about the best I can do.

Never talked to a woman's boobs as they say? walked away from dealing with a difficult woman and thought "Bitch.' to yourself? never gotten frustrated with a store clerk or tech support person with less-than-perfect English and thought 'learn the fuckin' language.'

I'm not defending or even condoning any of these things, merely saying that, like it or not, we all do them.

Obviously, I'm not inside everybody's head, but simply based on things I've heard come out of people's mouths and actions they've taken, it seems to be a rare person who's not infected with prejudice of some kind or another.

When we were born, there were still vast areas of America where it was okay to be racist and sexist. That's still true today, but less so -- especially amongst the liberal, hyper-educated, young crowd that hangs out here.

I don't consider myself young or hyper-educated, at least not by MeFi standards, but there's even a hidden class message in that statement. It's not us it's only those dumb rubes that are racist, which is a kind of scapegoating.

Like I said, I just think the whole thing is more complicated than anybody imagines and more than platitudes are called for.

And so don't think it's necessarily wrong to think: shame on Michael Richards -- not for thinking those thoughts but for saying those words

Amen. But it isn't ultimately doing much.
posted by jonmc at 1:26 PM on November 20, 2006


i am astounded that 179 comments into this, after richards appologized even, there are still people excusing him for this. "he probably didn't mean it that way"?
how else does a white man mean "nigger" when he screams it at a black stranger?
posted by mikoroshi at 1:26 PM on November 20, 2006


I think you answered your own question.

i think you ducked the whole point of it ... so much for self-examination

but then, it occurs to me that many of us have already given you too much of our time and attention

bye
posted by pyramid termite at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2006


Actually, it seemed to me that it was something from further back in your past, like you got drunk and murdered a black family when you were in high school or something.

Now that's comedy!

Just watched Sarah Silverman's Jesus Is Magic last night, a LOT of racial humor done fairly well. To me, offensiveness lies in who is the butt of the joke.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:37 PM on November 20, 2006


Amen. But it isn't ultimately doing much.

Your 26th comment in this thread is to point out that "it isn't ultimately doing much"? That's frigging hilarious.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2006


"Nigger!" "Dead honkey!"

I'm kind of with jonmc and mrgrimm on this one [ducking, particularly since I'm sort of new here], I don't think it's something to get all up in arms about - but if others want to condemn the guy based on a two minute video, it's up to them. Does one incident make a person a racist? I just found it kind of pathetic and uncomfortable, and it wasn't anything worse than what I've heard before - it's amazing that ibmcginty has heard stuff like this fewer than five times in his life. Not saying he's lying, maybe I've just been living in the wrong places - where we live, anyone of a slightly darker color gets insulted with a word that's perhaps even worse than "nigger' - "l'abid" (slave).
posted by Liosliath at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2006


*gives right the fuck up*
posted by jonmc at 1:44 PM on November 20, 2006


posted by Liosliath Does one incident make a person a racist?

Ask Mel Gibson.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:45 PM on November 20, 2006


have you stopped beating your wife?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:20 PM CST on November 20


Yes, she left me for some black guy.

As I am quite fond of saying to anyone who will listen, your "fellow American" is an ignorant bigot. Why people think this doesn't apply to famous people is beyond me.

And jonmc has a valid point, it is just being swallowed by the deafening howl of people rushing to dogpile on the latest celebrity racist and loud screams of "OMG WHY AREN'T YOU KICKING THE RACIST???"

It was a boneheaded thing for Richards to say. It may have been a terribly misguided attempt at humor. He may be a neo-skinhead and it's just now coming out. We really don't know, and probably won't, ever.

But, jon's argument (as I understand it) is a little more complex than just "he who lives in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

And besides, who cares what jon says, he's just a damn drunk like the rest of those potato eaters. (/hint)

on preview: pyramid, I think you have overreached in your armchair analysis over "trivial" traits.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:47 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Its hard for me to get into Kramer's head, and while I couldn't even see the video very well in my browser, I have to vote for drunk, frustrated, latent racist, plus bad comedy act gone horribly wrong. I think some of those so quick to condemn completely are discounting the comedy act thing. I have seen some outrageous shit in the context of a comedy act, statements, that if taken out of context of the act would be egregiously racist, sexist, whatever. Chris Rock's act is completely racist and honestly, I was offended by it and turned it off, I understood completely that it was only comedy too.

I didn't hear his apology at all, but even if he did, even if it was a drunken rant, and a true one-time occurance, can you blame him for abjectly apologizing seeing as how he is being excoriated on the Internets?

I guess, bottom line, fucked up outburst, but I'd have to seen more evidence of racism off the stage or even the entire vignette, not just a 2 and 1/2 minute clip before I'd tar anyone with that brush completely.
posted by sfts2 at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


i am astounded that 179 comments into this, after richards appologized even, there are still people excusing him for this.

Well, in all fairness 145 of them are jonmc.

It's kind of disheartening that taking a crtical simplistic look at something here is resulting in some standard 'you must be a racist!' responses from you
-jonmc

posted by gtr at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


which term is more loaded? which term has centuries of hate and murder behind it? if your answer is something along the lines of "ANY racial slur, when slung as a true insult..." then you simply do not get it.

Hat. Let me ask YOU, this: When you want to point out RACISM should it be your first instinct to indulge in racial slur right back? ANY degree of racism? What does that say about you?

To quote you:
"michael richards is out of his fucking cracker mind"

You showed YOUR stripes by calling a guy a cracker - in a discussion ABOUT racism. It's a racial slur, m'kay.

I don't care if it's "not as loaded" it doesn’t give you any high ground in the argument. Yes the slur doesn't have five centuries of slavery behind it or not. It is a racial slur. YOU CHOSE IT. You didn’t have to.

There were unlimited options to respond to Richards racist diatribe.

YOU chose a racial slur. Now your hiding on the "it's not as bad" bullshit. SO what. It's not WHAT you said as much as the irony of when you chose to say it.

Your first instinct was to be a racist right back. That defines you my friend. Too late. Cat’s out of the bag.

So. Apologize for saying it.

Or.

Fuck you, you racist piece of shit.
posted by tkchrist at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2006 [4 favorites]


how else does a white man mean "nigger" when he screams it at a black stranger?

he made have been trying to make it funny. seems ridiculous, but i dunno. it's taken rather out of context.

i'm not excusing his behavior at all. neither am i condemning it. i don't know nearly enough about the situation to have much of an opinion at all. i still *guess* that he was trying to be funny rather than purely offensive. whatever.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2006


posted by Liosliath Does one incident make a person a racist?

Being a racist makes a person a racist. The incident may or may not be sufficient evidence thereof; it depends on whether it was sincerely meant or just "misunderstood".

As others have pointed out, screaming "n****r" over and over again at a black person without any readily-perceptible joke being involved doesn't really admit of very many interpretations, though "he's a piss-poor excuse for a standup trying for a little metahumor without really having any core grasp of the comedic principles involved" might just barely do it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:51 PM on November 20, 2006


Fandango_Matt, I still couldn't say for sure whether Mel Gibson is a racist - though I'm fairly positive he's a moron when he's drunk.
posted by Liosliath at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2006


hermitosis writes "That Hater-Ade is a popular mixer these days"

Aw Jesus Christ -- is Fred Durst's moronic banter what passes for wit these days? Stop the fucking world, I want to get off.
posted by clevershark at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2006


You have to be at least as funny as you are cruel. That's ALWAYS been the rule. When it comes to the old N word, the whiter you are, the crueler.
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2006


When we were born, there were still vast areas of America where it was okay to be racist and sexist. That's still true today, but less so -- especially amongst the liberal, hyper-educated, young crowd that hangs out here. (grumblebee)

I don't consider myself young or hyper-educated, at least not by MeFi standards, but there's even a hidden class message in that statement. It's not us it's only those dumb rubes that are racist, which is a kind of scapegoating. (jonmc)

Jonmc,
Are you reading too fast?

You don't appear to be responding to what grumblebee wrote at all. Did you also read right past: "How many kids did you know, when you were small, who were raised by a lesbian couple, a bi-racial couple, etc.? I didn't know any. But it's much more common now, and some of the people who grew up in these environments are adults now -- a very different type of adult that you and I knew growing up."

In other words jonmc, your conviction that "every person has unpleasantly "ist" views about other folk deep down" may be partly a product of your age - a point you may not even face up to.

This gets more stark - I think - when one knows extremely fair minded people in their sixties/seventies who suddenly throw one a curve ball based a strangely unexamined notion from their distant youth.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:56 PM on November 20, 2006


Are people really making the argument that everyone is racist?

And people are actually alledging that it isn't mostly the dumb rubes (of all classes) that do most of the racist heavy lifting.
posted by owillis at 1:59 PM on November 20, 2006


Maybe now that Richards has successfully divorced himself from the kooky, likable Kramer character, he can get work on HBO or somewhere on cable. Was this his plan? Was the black fellow a plant? Are they laughing together somewhere? Eh, probably not.

Ouch. I think I pulled something during that reach.
posted by hojoki at 2:04 PM on November 20, 2006


i still *guess* that he was trying to be funny rather than purely offensive. whatever.

No. He was mentally unbalanced. Look at the body language. The man is known for his posture control and physical shtick. He has years of comedy under his belt dealing with live performance.

He is losing his shit right there. But he has some serious and unhealthy anger management issues.

That was raw anger venting right out. He defaulted to the worst kind of hate he could think of by instinct to wound the source of what he thought of as a threat. Not entirely sure if the man is a white supremacist or anything but he is disturbed in that footage.
posted by tkchrist at 2:04 PM on November 20, 2006


Yes, I'd definitely have to take issue with your suggestion that it's the "dumb rubes (of all classes) that do most of the racist heavy lifting."

I've known many highly educated people who were complete racist/sexist/classist pigs. Education is not a guarantee that you won't have prejudice.
posted by Liosliath at 2:06 PM on November 20, 2006


> Now can we all please go back to guessing which of us are white? That's my favorite game.

Easy. Just ask them what color their spouses are and you got the answer for 99.99% certain. Huge numbers of anti-racist heroes out there when it comes to talking big, but when it comes to something critical like marrying safely within your racial group or not, well, all of a sudden being racist ain't so bad after all.
posted by jfuller at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2006


He is losing his shit right there. But he has some serious and unhealthy anger management issues.

I have been told by someone who should know that he has had cocaine/meth (I forget which) problems since at least the Seinfeld days. This has been your Intertubes Unsubstantiated Rumor message for today.

And people are actually alledging that it isn't mostly the dumb rubes (of all classes) that do most of the racist heavy lifting.

The words of a man who has never been in a country club.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:13 PM on November 20, 2006


Who's denying the racism? Not me. I'm just wondering if all our conspicous indignation isn't a little hypocritical.

Dude, I have stolen things in my life. I still get to condemn Ken Lay without being hypocritical. You seem to be making the argument that the degree of an act is irrelevant. That dog don't hunt.

I think racist thoughts occasionally, yes. That doesn't make me a hypocrite when I condemn a celebrity from going on a long racist tirade on camera. Not even close.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:14 PM on November 20, 2006


Uh, jfuller--I don't think that marrying someone of one's own race makes one a racist.
posted by leftcoastbob at 2:14 PM on November 20, 2006


"Easy. Just ask them what color their spouses are and you got the answer for 99.99% certain."


So you're NOT a racist if you have a postal Asian bride?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:15 PM on November 20, 2006


The words of a man who has never been in a country club.

Yeah. Or at an Ivy League Alum fund raiser.
posted by tkchrist at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2006


Never talked to a woman's boobs as they say? walked away from dealing with a difficult woman and thought "Bitch.' to yourself? never gotten frustrated with a store clerk or tech support person with less-than-perfect English and thought 'learn the fuckin' language.'

I hope I haven't "talked to a woman's boobs" (unless she was a lover and we were both into that sort of thing). Have I lusted after women based solely on the way they looked? Sure. Have I walked away after a fight with a woman and thought "Bitch"? No. I don't remember ever feeling that. Have I been pissed off if a tech-support person couldn't communicate in the language of the people they're supposed to be supporting. Sure.

But this is silly. You can go on asking me whether I've felt this or that racist/sexist thought and I can go on denying it. I have just as much anger as the next guy, and I'm perfectly capable of getting angry at groups of people. But I don't tend to order people into groups by gender or skin color. I'm more likely to get pissed off at shoe-store clerks, middle managers or paperboys.

I would love it if you'd define what racism and sexism means to you. Is it possible that you're defining these isms so broadly that we can't help but fall into them?

And what about the person who -- yes -- a few times in his life has thought "bitch!" vs. the person who thinks this on a day-to-day basis? Do you put them both in the same boat and put them out to sea? I agree with you that racism and the like are complex. You seem to honor the complexity on the one hand buy deny it on the other. Surely part of the complexity is the fact that the world is filled with all sorts of people: very racist, somewhat racist, somewhat-sometimes racist, racist once in a blue moon and never racist.
posted by grumblebee at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2006


So does marrying someone of the same sex make one sexist?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:19 PM on November 20, 2006


Fork up your ass?
Like what, a beef fork? Cheese fork? Cold meat fork? Carving fork?
Tuning fork? Dessert fork? Fondue fork? Spork?
I’ve never heard of that.
What happened in 1956 with forks?
And who’s “we”?

Naw, naw, nothing about this adds up at all.
Unless we’re talking some sort of Sartrian inert violence thing. Even then...
posted by Smedleyman at 2:21 PM on November 20, 2006


I have been told by someone who should know that he has had cocaine/meth

That would consistent with level of over reaction and body language Richards demonstrated. Look for him and Mel Gibson on a future car chase episode of COPS - Beverly Hills. Bad boy. Bad boy. Whatcha gonna do?
posted by tkchrist at 2:21 PM on November 20, 2006


Put aside you do this, I do that. This guy is a professional performer.Hecklersare [part of the scene. He could not handle it and went ape. Was he on something? Had he slipped in a racist stupid remark and then moved on, that would be one thing.Buit he went into a tirade and seemed unable to stop.Focus on theaudience.They first giggled, looking for the chortle.Then they wised up to the craziness and finally walked out, leaving no doubt, no tips for the waiters.A parody of this sort of performer-goes-off the -deep -end is the Lenny Bruce Palladium routine, which ends with the Bruce caharacter, bombing, scrteaming about the Irish (name not here used).
posted by Postroad at 2:23 PM on November 20, 2006


Yes, but Ken Lay had a pattern of reprehensible actions, over time. This is just one two minute incident - I can't condemn Richards for that, but I can condemn his actions. I vote with tk - no way to know what he was thinking, but he's got problems.
posted by Liosliath at 2:24 PM on November 20, 2006


The words of a man who has never been in a country club.

Yeah. Or at an Ivy League Alum fund raiser.


Those richers are fucking slime.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:25 PM on November 20, 2006


I too have an opinion about this incident. By sharing it with all of you, I hope for as many of you as possible to judge me in a light that is as close as possible to the same light in which I see myself.
posted by jeremy b at 2:30 PM on November 20, 2006 [11 favorites]


Yeah. Richers. You know I hate 'em. I hate the way they smell. All parfum-ee. Not to mention they are lazy fuckers— always playing polo and shit. I wish they'd all just go back to the South of France where they belong.
posted by tkchrist at 2:31 PM on November 20, 2006


JeremyB, I want to know the MeFi code for "laughing until I choke." Hoping it's something like the dot of silence.
posted by Liosliath at 2:36 PM on November 20, 2006


> Uh, jfuller--I don't think that marrying someone of one's own race makes one a racist.

Maybe not, but restricting the group of people you're willing to consider as marriage partners to your own race does make you racist. Walk down the street some day and figure out exactly how many people that is. In fact it's almost everybody. But large numbers of 'em are willing to talk the anti-racist talk--which nowadays doesn't cost anything, hence is valueless.
posted by jfuller at 2:45 PM on November 20, 2006


[jonmc] Actually, what I'm trying to say is that a simple knee-jerk 'that racist!' unnacompanied by anything else (especially self-examination) is often self-serving and facile.

Whether it's self-serving or not, hopefully you'll agree that there is still some value in calling people out and saying "not cool" when they cross the line like this. There's really no need to wring your hands over some potential shallowness or hypocricy on the part of the critics, because they will be subject to the same criticism when their own unexamined biases slip out.

Your point that it's easy to hurl charges of racism without looking in the mirror is a valid one, but I think the way you introduce it is what's turning people off. It sounds dismissive to say "aw well, he without sin..." when people are criticizing a public figure for tossing out epithets in a public forum, probably because he was pissed off and was groping for whatever he thought might hurt the heckler most (that's my read on it). Whether or not I've done an exhaustive inventory of my own racism, I think it's still fair of me to say "that sucks".

If this were a case of some well-meaning but ignorant acquaintance tipping their hand and revealing some unexamined bias, then I might agree with you if people were really freaking out over it -- hurt and anger are understandable, but it's a shame when people turn the criticism into a disembowelment, because then everyone's defenses go up and nobody hears anything anyway. And it's easier to be one of those disembowelers if you aren't introspective enough to realize that we all carry some of this stuff around.

I don't know if that's what you were getting at or not, but I think the situation here is a few orders of magnitude more extreme due to the overt hostility, Richards' celebrity status, etc. So it's hard to understand why you're so hung up on this.

As to whether it does much good or not, I don't see why the public response has to constitute a complete solution to the problem of racism -- people are just drawing a line in the sand and saying, "We don't think that's acceptable." Why does it need to be anything more than that?
posted by boredomjockey at 2:45 PM on November 20, 2006


jonmc has taken one marginally useful insight, one that requires context and timing to be of any use, and turned it into a monomania. It's a good definition of fundamentalism, although, in his defense it's usually just shtick. (Of course, fundamentalism and shtick have their overlaps; Ann Coulter, for instance.)

"Yes, but aren't we ALL guilty, really" is a college-sophomore sort of insight -- I remember those sorts of debates. I think I may have even acted that role once or twice, although I wince about it now. It's just a device, not an insight. Ironically, it's the device of those determined to be above the crowd and their vanities.

As for the video, it feels like a momentary descent into hell, a hell of Richards' own creation. He knows it isn't funny; he thinks that if he roars and outrages and becomes "edgy" it will turn funny, and it just gets much, much worse. The way he walks off the stage saying "those words, those words" at the end is unnerving. Doubt it means much, but it's hair-raising to watch.
posted by argybarg at 2:50 PM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


Maybe not, but restricting the group of people you're willing to consider as marriage partners to your own race does make you racist. Walk down the street some day and figure out exactly how many people that is.


How can we we assume that someone who does marry another person of the same race ever had such restrictions? Put it another way: I'm a woman. Does marrying a man make me homophobic? Anti-lesbian?
posted by applemeat at 2:51 PM on November 20, 2006


people are just drawing a line in the sand and saying, "We don't think that's acceptable." Why does it need to be anything more than that?

I agree. But some people do kinda go overboard about how much they hate racism more than you. Jon was doing an over-active job outlining that is all. He got silly.

So. We need to take it one step further. From now on when ever we watch a Seinfeld re-run we're gonna shout "racist!" when Kramer is on the set. And then, to drive it home, the last person to yell "racist!" has to chug a beer and draw a swastika on the TV.
posted by tkchrist at 2:57 PM on November 20, 2006


I've read this whole thread, and I wish I hadn't.
posted by BeerFilter at 3:07 PM on November 20, 2006 [3 favorites]


“A parody of this sort of performer-goes-off the -deep -end is the Lenny Bruce Palladium routine, which ends with the Bruce caharacter, bombing, scrteaming about the Irish (name not here used).”
posted by Postroad

Yeah Postroad that’s a damned funny routine! Richards doesn’t seem to have the gift for incitement though. Also the unwittingly racist deep southern lawyer in a new york courtroom - classic: “This ol’ buck nigger and this jew boy....What? What’d I say? It’s a cute story?”
Whatever happened to that direction we were headed there where we were defanging and removing the power of those scary words? I think Lenny was on to something. The ultimate result though - if Richards had been yelling “asshole” or one of it’s profane variants over and over - would have been the same. Even if he simply shouted ‘clean’ language. People can only take so much banality, and they’re paying to see a show. So absent the racist words, same result - he’s being a dick. Although I doubt he would be as villified. Whether it’s justified - his vilification - I dunno. Meh. The die is cast.

“Maybe not, but restricting the group of people you're willing to consider as marriage partners to your own race does make you racist.”

And yet, if you marry outside your ethnic group you’ve got some kind of “fever” - jungle, bamboo, etc. etc.

“Does marrying a man make me homophobic? Anti-lesbian?”
posted by applemeat

Yes, yes it does.
I’ve given a lot of head to guys to just prove despite being straight I’m not anti-gay. I’d totally do an anti-lesbian though. C’mon, baby, you’re not anti-smed are you?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2006


cracker: from 'whipcracker'. yeah, real bad thing to say to a honky.

pfft.
posted by 31d1 at 3:20 PM on November 20, 2006


George_Spiggott wrote : As think someone was suggesting earlier, he was probably trying to do a Bill Hicks.

That was 13killer I guess , with the videos ? Anyway I agree, he probably tried to start a nigger tirade and it went out of control. Few can deliver a Nigga please like Chris Rock

On preview:
jonmc said (yeah new firefox no metafilthy :< ) i> They could also call me a mick, a paddy, or a blue-eyed devil.

Wigga please ! Don't be no bluenigga punching bag, bytch !
posted by elpapacito at 3:21 PM on November 20, 2006


If y'all think this is an unfortunate thread, you should check out the comments on YouTube...
posted by hermitosis at 3:32 PM on November 20, 2006


Hey jonmc: I've never had a racist thought. I'm made up of races from, like, four of the six settled continents, so I have no one to be racist against.
posted by danb at 3:48 PM on November 20, 2006


White people.

::sighs::
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:52 PM on November 20, 2006


In other words jonmc, your conviction that "every person has unpleasantly "ist" views about other folk deep down" may be partly a product of your age - a point you may not even face up to.

what, are you seriously claiming that there are people out there completely untainted by unpleasant prejudices against somebody? I've never met one. It dosen't excuse a damned thing, obvioulsy, but it does change the landcape of things a bit.

And for what it's worth, Jody Tressider, I'm 35, not 60 or something.

in his defense it's usually just shtick
.

I can assure you it isn't. All I'm saying is everybody's gotta step up the blame sandwich and take a bite.
posted by jonmc at 3:52 PM on November 20, 2006


White people.

::sighs::


I know. I can't dance either.
posted by jonmc at 3:53 PM on November 20, 2006


How can we we assume that someone who does marry another person of the same race ever had such restrictions? Put it another way: I'm a woman. Does marrying a man make me homophobic? Anti-lesbian?

Individually, no. But in the aggregate, statistics would seem to dictate a greater occurence of mixed couples than actually occurs if it were the case that we as a society truly had enlightened views about race. I'm still undecided if this is a small stepping stone to better race relations that will occur after we deal with the more pressing concerns of not killing each other over skin color, but I'm inclined to think its actually more of a prerequisite.

The presence of mixed couples, and particularly their children are living testaments to anti-racism. It is also a reminder of how arbitrary and non-binding racial identity is. These divisions exist largely in our minds, since any one of us can breed with anyone else, regardless of race. I speak partly from experience here. I am Jewish, and my girlfriend of 5 years is not, which isn't quite the same thing as a mixed-race couple, but close enough for analogy. What I found to be the best external effect of our dating was the mutual enlightenment we brought to our respective families. Her family certainly knows a lot more about Judaism, Jewish culture, and what my people are actually like than they did before. Likewise, my parents (who, while open-minded, are in an artificial bubble of a large Jewish community) certainly now have a warmer attitude towards "the Goyim." When you factor in our (slightly) extended families, that's a couple of dozen or so people that have a new cultural perspective. Of course, we didn't start dating in order to enlighten the masses, but it is a nice by-product. Of course, most people are not as lucky as we are to have parents that are so understanding and open-minded, but I think the taboo is diminishing.

That mixed couples don't occur more frequently does speak poorly of our society, but I think it is quickly changing. Somebody said that 99.99% of the time couples are un-mixed, but that seems a bit extreme to me. At least here in California, you see mixed couples all the time. It's a generational thing I think. Most of these couple are under 30. I think that the generation before ours fought hard for civil rights and equality, and we are just now beginning to see those ideas really sink in. There's a visceral reaction for most people to see their sons or daughters dating someone outside their culture, but I think it's a reaction that people are (slowly) increasingly willing to confront. I'm hopeful, since I see this resistance as one of the last remaining bastions of harmful racial attitudes existing in a large swath of society that is otherwise open-minded and tolerant, and I see lots of evidence that these attitudes too are slowly eroding. I think it's a bit unfair to decry the homogeneity of most couples as evidence of racism on par with shouting out Nigger or burning crosses. I mean, we do have the inertia of thousands of years of cultures maintaining themselves through exclusive intra-breeding standing up against only a few decades of modern, multi-cultural liberal thought on the subject. Maybe in 100 years if the situation is the same, I'll agree that same-race couples are as implicating as you say.
posted by SBMike at 3:58 PM on November 20, 2006


Sorry, that last post made it seem like I was responding to applemeat, when I was mostly responding to jfuller
posted by SBMike at 4:00 PM on November 20, 2006


I feel that the use of "nigger" can be used by a non-racist purely as a means of generating the maximum anger and annoyance in the intended recipient of the insult. The mere fact that that the word was used does not automatically imply that the speaker believes black people are inferior, reprehensible, or whatever racists are supposed to think. It's just a word, which creates a response.
posted by snoktruix at 4:04 PM on November 20, 2006


I think this may be the reason Richards used the term in this instance. I don't think we know whether Richards is a racist or not from these events.
posted by snoktruix at 4:06 PM on November 20, 2006


are you seriously claiming that there are people out there completely untainted by unpleasant prejudices against somebody?

When you get enough drinks in me I'll sometimes complain harshly about people with certain flavors of ignorance (racists, homophobes and scientologists for example); that's as far as my own bigotry goes.
posted by Chuckly at 4:08 PM on November 20, 2006


tkchrist, you've established yourself as beyond parody.

to whom would you like me to apologize for saying michael richards is out of his cracker mind? you? metafilter? michael richards?

you should apologize to me for being so goddamned thick.

but since i'm a "racist piece of shit" (apparently a self-hating honky) for refusing to apologize for using the term "cracker," here's a dichotomy for you to respond to:

either acknowledge that your mental faculties are lacking to such a degree that you cannot really process what's going on here,

OR

fuck you, you willfully ignorant asshole.
posted by Hat Maui at 4:12 PM on November 20, 2006


I know. I can't dance either.


Well, maybe if you'd get off metafilter....

I couldn't watch the whole thing, partially because it was ugly and partially because Richards seemed to be having a meltdown.

I couldn't read a whole lot of this thread as it seemed to be terribly, terribly important, but about what, I don't know.

My only thought is "Does this explain the lack of black people on Seinfeld?"

Pizza's here, gotta go...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:12 PM on November 20, 2006


If I were in this guy's bind, I'd;

A: Blame illegal stimulant drugs; coke or speed. Promise to "go into rehab"

B: Blame legal drugs, say Prozac or even Sudafed. Find corrupt doctor willing to vouch for this "diagnosis".

C: Blame "Anger Management Issues". Promise to "seek counseling".

D. Carefully scan the DSM IV for a more novel and funnier diagnosis than the first three.

But never, EVER, take personal responsibility for simply being an asshole.
posted by Tube at 4:18 PM on November 20, 2006


I'm no fan of the N-word, but I could *maybe* excuse this guy's use of it as a lame (i.e., utterly failed) attempt to go all Lenny Bruce on the audience. However, the line the clip opens with, about how fifty years ago the heckler would be upside down with a fork in the wrong orifice sounds a *lot* like "in the good old days, we would have lynched you by now"...and *that* just seems way, way over the line to me. The rest seems like a (failed) attempt to salvage the act by saying "hey, I'm being super edgy!" Anyone else see it that way? I've only noticed one or two comments in this thread that seem to acknowledge the implied threat.
posted by uosuaq at 4:19 PM on November 20, 2006


Some of my best friends are washed-up, racist comedians.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:19 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yes, it was stupid and hideous and disgusting. That kind of behavior is unacceptable and ruins everyone's enjoyment of the evening. Only bullies and retards act that way.

But enough about the heckler.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:25 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Funny how heated people get about certain taboo words. The N word itself has no content other than a description of skin color. surely calling someone an idiot is a more substantive insult, were it not for all this historical baggage.
posted by snoktruix at 4:25 PM on November 20, 2006


Using individual crazy people's insane remarks as a jumping off point for a discussion on race and racism? Er, not the best idea.

Would've been a better and more enlightening to talk about the Seinfeld curse *whatever that is* I would think.
posted by cell divide at 4:27 PM on November 20, 2006


Richards apologizes on tonight's "Letterman".

We can all go on to something else now.
posted by wendell at 4:27 PM on November 20, 2006


The N word itself has no content other than a description of skin color.

hahahahahaha. Right.
posted by cell divide at 4:27 PM on November 20, 2006


. . . all this historical baggage

That's a workable definition of most language I'll wager.
posted by Chuckly at 4:28 PM on November 20, 2006


Thnat's true, *were it not for all this historical baggage*
posted by snoktruix at 4:29 PM on November 20, 2006


I have an old Redd Foxx bit where Redd does the same thing. Some dude heckles him and he says "Nigga, pay more and get a good seat!"

(I know, Iknow...but how often do you get to use that)
posted by jonmc at 4:30 PM on November 20, 2006


Well I guess there's a continuum in language from concrete and unambiguous to culturally and historically loaded. Nigger is at the far end of the latter part of the spectrum, one of those most loaded words in the language. It's a taboo, in other words, and shedding taboos is progress,
posted by snoktruix at 4:32 PM on November 20, 2006


Re: "cracker". I don't find "cracker", "honky", "ofay" and whatever other terms there might be for people with my skin condition nearly as offensive as the N-word (or "coon", etc.), and I don't think that's entirely due to white liberal guilt. I think it's due to the fact that one set of terms applies to a historically subjugated group of people, while the other set applies to the subjugators. So the N-word et al. have a whole history of violence, injustice, and discrimination rolled up into them. I'd disagree, then, with snoktruix above, and to some extent I'd excuse the insulted audience member who said "cracker" (as well as those who have defended the term in this thread). It's meant as an insult, sure, but it doesn't carry that same feeling of "you subhuman creature who'd better not look at our women, or you know what'll happen".
posted by uosuaq at 4:36 PM on November 20, 2006


Kramer was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother fuck him and Knight, Wayne
posted by Smedleyman at 4:41 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


The overriding thought that leaps to mind after reading this thread is how sad it is to have such a myopic point of view.

And as for Richards, I hope he gets some treatment.
posted by peacay at 4:46 PM on November 20, 2006


I'm not sure where we disagree uosuaq. I'm not saying it's socially acceptable to use the N-word. Obviously it's not, it's against the rules because of the existing social tension between whites and blacks as a result of our proximity in time and space to the slave trade. I'm just pointing out that it's just a word. A machine could utter it and that wouldn't make the machine racist. In some time the social tension will die down and the word will lose its power. I'm also proposing that people mostly use the word because it has the power it has, not to express their true belief that the recipient of the insult is a "subhuman creature".
posted by snoktruix at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2006


I don't see how it could be a "logical extension" of a comedian's act when it isn't funny in the least.

But that's exactly the point. Just because it fell flat doesn't make it suddenly racist.


What makes it racist is that Richards gives us no reason to believe that he is or is even trying to be ironic and funny. This incident comes across as a real burst of rage and an outpouring of things he genuinely harbours inside him.
posted by orange swan at 4:56 PM on November 20, 2006


Stupid thing to say, but it was in the heat of the moment. We'll learn a lot more about Michael's character in the coming days than we'll have learned from that regrettable foray into loo-loo land.
posted by rougy at 5:01 PM on November 20, 2006


I guess I'm disagreeing with your original statement that "the N-word has no content other than a description of skin color". To me the historical baggage is part of the content, even when the word is repurposed into "nigga". For me the word that has the least content other than a description of skin color/race is "black" (it's inaccurate, yes, but so is "white"). I don't mind "African American", but I tend to avoid it, because people don't discriminate against "African Americans", they discriminate against *black* people, whether they be African, British, Haitian, American, etc. I like the way Lenny Bruce tried to rob the N-word of its power, but I think it may always be a little too early to start calling it "just another word". Like everything in the dictionary, it *is* "just" a word, but in a discussion like this one, that's not to the point.
And again (to repeat what I said in my first comment) I find the reference to lynching to be the truly over-the-top element of the clip.
posted by uosuaq at 5:06 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


I only skimmed, but I gather this thread is about Kramer and jon's shared love of Cracker Jacks. I hate them. Not once did I get a secret decoder ring, just stupid little plastic spiders or some other nonsense.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 5:12 PM on November 20, 2006


Oh. Hat Maui. Your performance in this thread is certainly more comedic than Richards.

You talk of willful ignorance? YOU lashed out. Not me. You used a racial slur. Not me. I'm holding you accountable to YOUR words. You're here. Richards isn't. Your apology should be to ME for calling me stupid for merely observing YOUR irony. That’s all I did. Witness you being racist. However slightly. There it is, dickhead.

A reasonable person would say "Ok. Yeah. Maybe using a racial slur in the CONTEXT of this thread was rather a poor choice. Sorry about that." No. Not you. Instead: Everybody who calls you on it is an idiot? Well. Take solace that being a hypocrite is not the worst thing in the world, Hat.

I don't care how much impact that particular slur actually has. It is secondary to point of principle and context in regards to the subject of this thread: RACIAL SLURS. That you cannot witness the irony makes me question your intelligence.

That an audience member called Richards a cracker AFTER he insulted them directly with relentless refrians of "nigger"? Sure. Understandable.

But here? In a thread about the general subject of racism? C'mon. Sorry. Especially when Hat is painting himself so superior. The irony must be noted.

I maintain Hat Maui is a racist fuck. And, to boot, a hater of us poor stupid people. The last legitimate bigotry. Calling me stupid and all? Dang. That really hurts. I think I do rather well for having one chromosome too many.
posted by tkchrist at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2006


Thanks to the people who took the time to respond to jonmc's ridiculous 'insights'. I'd commend you, but then I'd just be congratulating my pro-anti-racist-hero self.

jfuller, I think you should study logic.
posted by defenestration at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2006


Well played, Smedleyman.

I saw this early this morning, and I just got home so I've only had a chance to skim most of the comments here, so I hope I'm not duplicating something someone else said...

I think what's really interesting is the crowd's reaction. After the "fucking fork up your ass" line, people are still laughing and cheering. Even when he first starts yelling "he's a nigger!" a few people are still laughing, perhaps just at the absurdity of the situation, perhaps because they think Richards is being "edgy." But when everyone completely shuts down is after he says "it shocks you to see what's buried beneath you stupid motherfuckers." To me, that's a very telling moment.

Honestly, from this 3 minute clip, we can't know if Michael Richards sits at home thinking, "God, I hate black people, I wish we could enslave and lynch them like the good old days!" or some less extreme version of those statements. I somehow doubt it, if only because I think a small minority of the population ever consciously has such ideas. But who knows, maybe he's a closet KKK member.

But clearly, the occasional racist thought has crossed his mind (maybe more than occasional). As he says, it shocks people to see what's buried underneath. It seems to me that what happened was the he got extremely pissed off at the heckler, and in his anger and desire to get back at them, he took a cheap shot and expressed some things that many people probably think, but wouldn't be likely to say. He knows that one of the most insulting things you can do to an African-American is to call him/her a "nigger," and his social filter was down and so he said it. Does he really think that blacks are inferior to whites? Who knows. He does think that calling someone a "nigger" will get them really upset, though, and he's right.

And I think that's one of the things that makes this so upsetting and/or titillating for people to watch. Many people expect celebrities to be "better" than the rest of us, and are shocked when they turn out to have flaws like the rest of us. Many people enjoy seeing someone rich and famous make a fool of themselves. But what's a little scary about it is that a lot of people, people who we wouldn't necessarily consider "racist" in everyday life, just might react in the same way if we were really pissed at someone, at that someone happened to be black (or gay, or Mexican, or a woman, or whatever). When we want to hurt someone, we go for the jugular. The offended audience member responds in the same vein, calling Richards a wash-up, probably knowing instinctively that that's one of the most insulting things he could say to Richards (please note: I'm not implying any equivalence to their statements, I think Richards was much worse, I'm just pointing out a similarity in their mindset).

We all know the various stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality, nationality, etc. We know that these have power. We may or may not believe them, but when it is to our advantage (or our perceived advantage in 1-upping someone in a battle of insults), we tend to use them. I think that's what upsets a lot of people on a subconscious level. Who's to say that if a black guy pushed you over the edge that you wouldn't call him a nigger? Or if it were a lesbian that you wouldn't call her a bull-dyke? I'm not trying to defend what Richards said (although I do think, like many people, he was trying to be edge and do a Lenny Bruce type thing and completely failed). I think he should make a public apology, show some sign of good faith to the African-American community (a donation? some charity work? whatever), and probably take up his anger and/or racial issues with a psychoanalyst. What I am saying is that we are all presented with certain stereotypes in our culture, and to greater or lesser degrees we may internalize those as truth. When we are faced with situations that test our limits, there's always the danger that we will fall back on that kind of behavior and those stereotypes, not necessarily because we hate any specific group, but because we want to hurt that person any way we can.
posted by papakwanz at 5:29 PM on November 20, 2006


nigger
One entry found for nigger.
Main Entry: nig·ger
Pronunciation: 'ni-g&r
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of earlier neger, from Middle French negre, from Spanish or Portuguese negro, from negro black, from Latin niger
1 usually offensive; see usage paragraph below : a black person
2 usually offensive; see usage paragraph below : a member of any dark-skinned race
3 : a member of a socially disadvantaged class of persons
usage Nigger in senses 1 and 2 can be found in the works of such writers of the past as Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens, but it now ranks as perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English. Its use by and among blacks is not always intended or taken as offensive, but, except in sense 3, it is otherwise a word expressive of racial hatred and bigotry.

Why is it that the slang term nigger is both an extremely offensive ephithet, and at the same time a term of endearment? My guess it is in the intent of the person using the word. In the case of Richards it seems hard to believe that he could have been driven to use the word so offensively if he did not have some degree of racism in his heart.

However, when I hear "Nigger please", or "Whatup my nigger" used between friends I have to wonder why one so deeply offended by the word when used as a racial slur would continue to perpetuate its use.

I plan to continue watching both Seinfeld and Def Comedy Jam because they both make me laugh hysterically. If any of you want to get rid of your Seinfeld DVDs in protest to this latest quasi-celeb debacle please feel free to send them to me.

posted by HyperBlue at 5:37 PM on November 20, 2006


Ugh, you are not part of a "mixed couple", SBMike.
posted by nonmerci at 5:43 PM on November 20, 2006


And if a nigga get a attitude
Pop it like it's hot
Pop it like it's hot
Pop it like it's hot


~Snoop Dogg
posted by bwg at 5:43 PM on November 20, 2006


jesus, tkchrist. for a tough guy you sure are throwing a hell of a hissy fit.

and you've gotta be fucking kidding me if you in some way are equating the words 'cracker' and 'nigger'. that's like saying steak and shit are the same thing since they're both kinda brown and lumpy.

well there's a world of difference. and you know it. 'nigger' is code for 'you are subhuman' and invokes all of the abuse that has accompanied it over the years. you KNOW it! you can't live in this world without knowing that. i don't know what "point of principle and context" is, but to me it means willfully ignoring all of that additional meaning.

this isn't a thread about 'the general subject of racism'. this is a thread about a white guy and a black guy in america, where there's a lot of history and tension behind that word. 'cracker' doesn't even come close to being the same thing.

there's black, and there's white, and there's a whole lot of gray in between.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2006


Is being black the new being black?
posted by Balisong at 6:08 PM on November 20, 2006


As a wise woman once said: "Everyone's a rittre bit lacist."
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:19 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


If there's anything this pointless, ridiculous, sad exercise has shown, it's that we can finally put to rest the myth that Metafilter is some kind of bastion of liberals. The number of Richards apologists on this thread, plus all the rest who just don't seem to understand what basic racism is, shed new light on the whole 90-9-1 rule. Basically, the most active of the 1% get to "characterize" a community, but once the floodgates open, all bets are off.

While some of the most appalling viewpoints expressed in this thread is enough to put me off MeFi for good, I choose to see it another way: if it is indeed true that the loudest voices get to set the agenda, then it's even more imperative than ever to make yours heard. Plus there were some spot-on, well-observed, excellent comments from voices of reason (OmieWise, in particular, comes to mind, as do orange swan and ibmcginty).

This feels like a watershed event of sorts. But a slightly sad one.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:20 PM on November 20, 2006


HyperBlue: However, when I hear "Nigger please", or "Whatup my nigger" used between friends I have to wonder why one so deeply offended by the word when used as a racial slur would continue to perpetuate its use.

You might want to read up on reclaiming taboo words and foucauldian reverse discourse in general.

Aaaand, that's the second time in a couple weeks that I've referenced Foucault in a post; I think I'll back away from the keyboard now.
posted by rkent at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2006


Well, I just saw the tirade. How sad. Whatever the reason for this tirade, actual anger, horribly bad taste in humor, whatever, we know we won't have to watch Michael Richards anymore. His career is over. Done. Stick a fork in it.
posted by caddis at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2006


rkent: I'm well aware that people can use an epithet as a form of defiance, but I just clicked on that link of yours to The Foucouldian. It's completely incomprehensible, not a good approach when going for clarity.
posted by jonmc at 6:30 PM on November 20, 2006


'nigger' is code for 'you are subhuman' and invokes all of the abuse that has accompanied it over the years. you KNOW it!

And "cracker" is code for what exactly? Nothing nice. Nothing good. I know people who won't say the word, because it's so awful. It's not some candy-coated joke slur to everyone. It doesn't carry as much historical significance as nigger, but nothing else does. That doesn't mean that all other slurs are somehow okay to say.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2006


Richards apologizes via satellite on tonight's episode of Letterman; Jerry Seinfeld also appears as a previously scheduled guest. To me, the funniest and most depressing aspect of this whole fiasco is in the last line of this TMZ article about the apology:
Audience members in the Ed Sullivan Theater, who were watching Richards on a screen, began laughing at Richards at first, thinking that the interview was a comedy skit, until Seinfeld admonished them, saying, "Stop laughing. It's not funny."
posted by gsteff at 6:31 PM on November 20, 2006



And "cracker" is code for what exactly? Nothing nice. Nothing good. I know people who won't say the word, because it's so awful.


What the hell do those people say when they want something to crumble into their soup?
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 6:33 PM on November 20, 2006


jesus, tkchrist. for a tough guy you sure are throwing a hell of a hissy fit.

Careful. I’ll scratch your eyes out. Or hit you with my crochet needle bag.

Yeah relentlessly being told I’m stupid by a half-racist brings out the “hissy” in me.

So. Sergeant you in no way appreciate the irony? That Hat's very FIRST comment in this thread was calling Richards a "cracker?" Did you not see that? I assume you did not.

Or. Am I in some parallel universe, here?

This is isn't an argument of which frigg'n slur is worse. For the sake of this argument… I don't care!

This is an argument over pointing out the timing of the irony. His default reaction to another persons racism was another form of racism.

So. That’s ok now? We can do this at will? Or what? I didn’t get the memo.

Now that it’s ok, Sarg —you frigg’n hill billy white trash trailer bunny—I’M DOWN!

Sigh, for the record it isn’t. Yes. Yes. Ok. You want me to state the obvious? The N word is the worst word in the entire universe! And anybody who uses it can then be insulted in any way imaginable for EVER.

Good thing I’m stupid. Being stupid I have an excuse to warp logic this way. Also it appears intelligence is indeed relative. As I always thought the appreciation of irony was an example of higher order thinking. Obviously, me being stupid, this was wrong. Though the good news is I don’t have to be smart to win this argument just bigoted in the correct way.
posted by tkchrist at 6:37 PM on November 20, 2006


Warwrath, I think that most of us understand what racism is, but whether Richards is a racist is unclear. It's significant that your "voices of reason" are the ones you agree with. As for orangeswan, I get the point, but how can you possibly know what someone "genuinely harbours inside him?" I'm not excusing him at all, I just don't think that one incident is the measure of a man. Or woman.
posted by Liosliath at 6:38 PM on November 20, 2006


What the hell do those people say when they want something to crumble into their soup?

Feta Cheese?
posted by tkchrist at 6:39 PM on November 20, 2006


Jonmc has jumped the shark.

Ya got me Omie, in my spare time, I put on a Klan robe and run around committing hate crimes. Better hope my Jewish wife, black cubemates, Arab niece and nephews, Hispanic best friend and gay Puerto Rican boss don't find out.

Lol, OK why don't you run this by your black cube mates and see what they think of the whole thing, since you seem to think everyone posting here must be white...

Also, you're making a fundamental mistake about the nature of hypocracy. It's not hypocritical for someone who once drunkenly groped a woman to decry child molestation. It's not hypocritical for someone who once smacked a person to decry another who beat a third person to death. It's not hypocritical for someone who stole change from their parents to complain about people like Ken Lay and Tom Noe.

Come on.

Also you're argument that "Everyone is racist" is idiotic. It's like that argument where Christians say "real" atheism can't exist. Or it's like you're saying no one could be an atheist if they've ever even thought about religion. Have I ever thought about god? Yes, but there is a huge difference between me and Jack Chick.

Also: Is he racist? I'm not sure, after watching the video it seems like it might just be a really, really botched joke. I only watched a few seconds.
posted by delmoi at 6:43 PM on November 20, 2006


What the hell do those people say when they want something to crumble into their soup?

Caucasian crisps?
posted by papakwanz at 6:44 PM on November 20, 2006


You know, just the other day in a music thread, I got into a minor disagreement with somebody who posited Elvis Costello as Mr. Integrity In Music. When I recounted that the incident where he referred to Ray Charles 'a blind ignorant nigger,' wasn't exactly compelling evidence to that effect, I got this response. And truth be told Costello's career hasn't suffered much for the incident, indeed, he's popular even venertaed by much of the same audience that's tearing Richards apart for something similar (delaring 'career suicide' even). Is it just me or does that seem a little odd, at least?
posted by jonmc at 6:45 PM on November 20, 2006


The number of Richards apologists on this thread, plus all the rest who just don't seem to understand what basic racism is, shed new light on the whole 90-9-1 rule.

Dude, there was only one, he just posted a lot.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 PM on November 20, 2006


Jonmc has jumped the shark.

Nah, I swam under him.

I've actually had conversations along similar lines with black friends and they've more or less agreed that a lot of the time, white people's anti-racism amounts to little more than self-serving, if well-meaning, posturing. There's an old Doonesbury where Mike walks up to Calvin (the Black Panther character) and says "Even though Panthers are out of vogue, I want you to know I'm not switching ethnic groups." After he walks away Calvin says "Negroes everywhere will sleep soundly tonight." Sorry, but I see an awful lot of that when the subject of race comes up.
posted by jonmc at 6:49 PM on November 20, 2006


The heckler, referred to in some circles as the interloper, leaves no room for doubt. He intrudes upon a performer's act, often with a decidedly unfunny intervention. Now it's understood by the performer that it's all about him, that an audience's attention straying towards one of their brethren, and that if he doesn't do something dire, peremptory, AND funny and shoot the heckler down, there will be severe consequences. The heckler then is of benefit to the performer and the audience, in the sense that he both tests the performer's talents and the audience's attention span. Even if the heckler is often a pain in the ass, likely a drunkard.

In order to defuse the heckler, the performer must settle for the shortest distance between two points. In this case, Richards settled for a dual approach: testing the audience's notion of racial epithets and trying to defuse the heckler. Richards, however, did not understand that Bruce's famous "How many niggers do we got in the room?" act wasn't directed at anybody in particular and was so rapid-fire in its pronouncements that even those who were offended were forced to confront the act's deeper truth about sticks and stones and all that.

Further, Richards is a physical wit, not a verbal one. And it is mystifying why he would attempt standup comedy along the lines of the latter.

This video is a valuable exercise for performer, audience, and hecklers alike. In 45 seconds, Richards loses the audience, who believes that Richards is going to go completely crazy. And in fact, he does, but not in any kind of way that is translatable to the audience. It does not help that Richards is an ironic symbol, nor apparently confident enough of a performer to rejoin the heckler's query about being washed up. The heckler wins, the audience dissembles, and the performer, in this case, loses big time. There will be no Sarah Silverman-style redemption here, because Richards completely failed to understand the medium, and thus its message.
posted by ed at 6:53 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


it seems like it might just be a really, really botched joke. I only watched a few seconds.

Watch the entire thing. And watch it again. Look at the body language and how his voice starts to sound worn at the end.

It's anger. I think because the guy really is the "loser" among those in the Seinfeld cast he is extremely bitter. That was a guy coming apart for real.

Those feelings are the root of racism for sure. Racism is just one expression of that kind of bitterness. We'd have to interview him on his thoughs about white supremecy to know if it's intellectualized or not.
posted by tkchrist at 6:59 PM on November 20, 2006


mainstream comedy clubs like The Laugh Factory are a circle of hell. Awful, awful places. Never go to them.

Richards is truly not funny. Never has been, never will be, at least not without Larry David writing for him. Stand-up comedy tends to expose unfunny people- there's nowhere to hide. The exposure usually isn't this ugly though.

This video is disturbing. It's not an attempt at comedy, it's a guy completely and totally losing it. Wow. "Racist" or not, he has some serious serious emotional issues.

("I remember my first beer too" is just one of the stock retorts to hecklers you should learn before you first attempt at stand-up. There are more but I cant remember them now)
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:08 PM on November 20, 2006


Easy. Just ask them what color their spouses are and you got the answer for 99.99% certain.

My spouses are invisible-coloured. I so ronery.
posted by Sparx at 7:13 PM on November 20, 2006


drjimmy11: There's also the classic, "Hey, I don't down to where you work and slap the dick out of your mouth!"

You know what Richards should have done?
He should have gone and heckled the heckler at his job. That would have been legendary!
posted by papakwanz at 7:14 PM on November 20, 2006


What the hell do those people say when they want something to crumble into their soup?

I ask for some saltines.

George Allen asks for some macracas.

jonmc asks for some crackers but then he tells the waitperson "I know what you are thinking but that is okay. We are only human." =P

William Shatner says "I would....LIKE some... of those little flat soup croutons!" And then gives a blank stare when the waitperson asks if he means crackers. Denny Crane would do the exact same thing but after a few moments he would point to his head and say "mad cow."

Horatio Cane would comment to the waitperson that it looked like a good bowl of soup and then he would pause for a moment, put on his sunglasses and while looking into the distance he would add (with a touch of menace) "for some crackers."

I love what happens to wikipedia when something like this is in the news.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 7:15 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dude, there was only one, he just posted a lot.

Read through the thread again, delmoi. At near 300 comments and counting, I know it's a bit of a daunting task, but there most certainly isn't "only one."
posted by war wrath of wraith at 7:18 PM on November 20, 2006


posted by drjimmy11 ("I remember my first beer too" is just one of the stock retorts to hecklers you should learn before you first attempt at stand-up. There are more but I cant remember them now)

Steve Martin and Sam Kinison spring to mind as having lightning-fast, hilarious responses to hecklers:

Heckler: "Speak up, man!"
Kinison: "Yeah, that's what your mom said, but I couldn't understand her because my sperm was gurgling in her throat! She was saying, [gurgling voice] 'Saaaam! Saaaaam! Be sure to speak up tonight when you tell that bastard son of mine not to fuck with your act!' You may not recognize her, I shaved her back. [screaming] Still want me to speak up there, pal?"

Heckler: "You're nuts!"
Martin: [looks at his fly, and then looks up in mock relief] "Whew, I thought they were out."
posted by fandango_matt at 7:22 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


jonmc asks for some crackers but then he tells the waitperson "I know what you are thinking but that is okay. We are only human." =P

Heh. I actually ordered in some soup from the diner tonight. They gave me like seven packets of crackers.

This afternoon I had watched only about the first miute or so, because I was at work. Me and pips finally watched the whole thing and came to the conclusion that he was trying to be Richard Pryor or George Carlin and failing miserably.

Using hot-button words and topics is a tricky thing. In the hands of people like Carlin an it can be illuminating and cut through euphemistic bullshit. Even something like G&R's "One In A Million" can be inadvertently illuminating (I still maintain that whatever Axl intended that song is the rock equivalent of Scorsese's Taxi Driver), but you either better know what your doing or be speaking from the gut. This seems like the comedy equivalent of a kid screaming :jonmc asks for some crackers but then he tells the waitperson "I know what you are thinking but that is okay. We are only human." "POOOOP!" at the dinnertable.
posted by jonmc at 7:30 PM on November 20, 2006


what the fuck? sorry bout the editing there. keyboard has been drinking.
posted by jonmc at 7:31 PM on November 20, 2006


Better hope my Jewish wife, black cubemates, Arab niece and nephews, Hispanic best friend and gay Puerto Rican boss don't find out.

Yes, I'm sure they appreciate being trotted out as walkin' talkin' bona fides everydamntime this subject comes up.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:31 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's what this thread needs: more hilarious responses to hecklers.
posted by bwg at 7:31 PM on November 20, 2006


Yes, I'm sure they appreciate being trotted out as walkin' talkin' bona fides everydamntime this subject comes up.

Whatever, adam. you're a better person than me. You want a medal? Cause it's really not much of an accomplishment. And it dosen't change the fact that this bunch of (mostly) white people's 'conversation' about racism amounts to "I'm not racist, that guy over there is!"

Yeah, I harp on my point. Mainly because I think it's a dangerous one to ignore. I used to be as earnest about racism as you could possibly get and I'd be quick to judge or condemn the slightest gaffe. But as I get older and examine things I've seen more closely, I'm not so sure I was being anything but a judgemental jerk.

I used to have two friends in high school: Jim, who was white and Dave who was black. Both came from ragingly dysfunctional fatherless families. Both liked to drink and get high. Dave was into hip-hop and dressed and talked that way. Jim was into heavy metal and did likewise. Both were never anything but cool to me and I hung out with them both a lot.

Jim also used the word 'nigger' constantly. 'Nigger stole my car.' etc. etc.

Jim and Dave were best friends from kindergarten on. I run into them occasionally and they're still friendly now. I once called Jim on the seeming contradiction and he said 'Dave's not a nigger.'

To this fucking day, I don't exactly know what that means, but I'm still working through the contradictions of that relationship and what it all I means, cause damned if I know.
posted by jonmc at 7:45 PM on November 20, 2006


What the hell do those people say when they want something to crumble into their soup?

Honkey Wafers.
posted by Balisong at 7:47 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


cracker: from 'whipcracker'. yeah, real bad thing to say to a honky.

Urban legend. The term was used by whites against Appalachian whites long before it was recorded as a "racial" epithet. Appalachian whites owned few slaves (it's why West Virginia exists).

A lot of people think it comes from "cracking corn" -- making whiskey.
posted by dhartung at 7:48 PM on November 20, 2006


One really shouldn't read a thread like this after watching four straight hours of the Travel Channel. It makes you want to go far, far away...

Where the people who farm with pointy sticks will feel all superior to the people who farm with pointy rocks, but we all have a few Pointy Rocks friends, right? Then one of the damn darkie motherfuckers gets a dial-up connection and you're back to square one.
posted by Cyrano at 7:54 PM on November 20, 2006


I gotta say, the word "cracker" just doesn't piss me off. I can even understand why someone might use it. It comes from an entirely different mindset than the word "nigger." If I had one group of people systematically oppress me for something I had absolutly no say in, I might start to...dare I say it...HATE those motherfuckers. As a rule. If every person who looked one way treated me like black people have been treated for most of America's history, I would not care a whit about "the universal brotherhood of man" or anything like that. I might even inevent a word to encapsulate how furious those people make me and how mean and ignorant I think they are. Hell, the white man did it first by inventing a word to lower an entire race of people to the level of property. If, after all that, the worst that happens to me is I get called a "cracker" I consider myself lucky. There are black people out there who absolutly HATE me because of the color of my skin, and truth be told, I can't really bring myself to hold it against them. I can't honestly say I would feel the same way if I were in their position. White guilt? Maybe. But white people have a lot to answer for in the historical record.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 7:55 PM on November 20, 2006


i've yet to meet a white guy who gets offended by the word "cracker".
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 7:59 PM on November 20, 2006


more hilarious responses to hecklers

At some show in the 70s I went to at the fabled Lloyd Noble Arena in Norman, Oklahoma, John Sebastian (yes, of the Lovin' Spoonful) was the opening act, all by himself. I don't remember what the main act was, but I do remember that the crowd wanted to hear them, and not this guy with the guitar. He finally asked if anybody had any requests, to which a very loud Okie responded "yeah, play Boomer Sooner!"

Sebastian said, "Boomer Sooner, huh - you know, I'd sooner play one of my own songs" and played "What a Day for a Daydream". I do remember that.
posted by yhbc at 8:00 PM on November 20, 2006


A bit off topic now but after watching the meltdown and reading about the apology I wonder if Richards problem might be other than racism or emotional meltdown.

It sounds like he may have a brain issue. Some sort of dementia. Maybe organic or maybe substance abuse induced. I have no real qualifications to make such a diagnoses but he does seem to me to be unwell.
posted by arse_hat at 8:04 PM on November 20, 2006


As for orangeswan, I get the point, but how can you possibly know what someone "genuinely harbours inside him?" I'm not excusing him at all, I just don't think that one incident is the measure of a man. Or woman.

I can't, of course, but that's why it was up to Richards to give us some indication that this was at least supposed to be a joke. He did not, and I cannot get past the impression that this was a genuine burst of rage which uncorked some very ugly stuff already within him. I may be wrong. As someone suggested above, he may have only tried in his fury to say the most hurtful things he could think of to say.

Great comment about heckling as a test of the standup comic, ed. I flagged it as fantastic.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 PM on November 20, 2006


Also, David Cross has been known to drop the occasional N-bomb on stage, and from what I gather he's a bit of a darling over here on the ol' MeFi. So, y'know, it is all about context.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:10 PM on November 20, 2006


PerezHilton.com has leaked the transcript of Richards' remarks on Letterman.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's why it's better to just pull out a gun and shoot hecklers.
posted by HTuttle at 8:12 PM on November 20, 2006


While I disagree with jonmc's point of view and there have been some very solid refutations of his statements, there are a hell of a lot more comments here that just seem to be using this FPP as an excuse to lash out at folks and put a couple more notches on the ol' grudge tally board ("Finally, I can tell Mefite #307263 how much of a douche I think he is, and not have to worry about my comment being flagged and deleted for being noise or a derail! Yays!").

Jonmc has jumped the shark.
posted by delmoi

One of the few times you actually may know what you're talking about delmoi, congrats.

Now, where's my notchin' knife?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 PM on November 20, 2006


Oh please, it’s the “we’re all racists” that is the facile response.

It’s like that Al-Jazeera thread the other day. The easy response – and the one run to when criticisms could not be substantiated – was that it’s “just like other media” and “just another FOX”. Statements that are easy enough to nod along with for those who actually don’t want to actually question anything or bother finding out what AJ is actually about.

The two questions that are foremost in my mind after reading this trainwreck of a thread is: what ugliness must be carried around to take such a blasé attitude about racism, and is it worth a hundred comments bothering to find out?

Do not feed the troll.
posted by dreamsign at 8:27 PM on November 20, 2006


as much as it pains me to respond to you further, tkchrist, i must point out that you're intellectually-challenged enough to be accusing a white man of racism for using the word "cracker" to describe another white man.

in other words, you're proving, repeatedly, that you have no concept whatsoever of what racism is or is not.

perhaps you're thinking of classism? maybe that works here, but if there's one thing for certain, michael richards is a member of the upper class and i am not, so let's put an "x" through that one.

"cultural snobbery"? again, maybe. and if i had said the selfsame about larry the cable guy (himself guilty of honky minstrelsy), you'd be an iota closer to having an actual point.

but no, i used "cracker" to describe michael richards, a wealthy celebrity who is NOT from the southern united states. the only irony here (i'm also pretty sure that you have no idea what THAT word means, either... it's a tough one, i'll grant you -- just ask alannis) is that i used that word to describe someone such as him. you wonder why i would do that and conclude "because he's a racist asshole," somehow missing the incredibly obvious problem with that analysis -- the whiteness of the accused racist.

if we apply your dunderheaded insight into modern usage amongst african americans, we'd be forced to conclude that every black person that used the word "nigger" would in fact be racist against black people. this is prima facie nonsense.

i see your vitriolic replies, and note your anger at my impugning of your intelligence, but you're not doing yourself any favors if you think for one fucking second that for me to use "cracker" could in any way, shape or form be "racist" in any meaningful way. i'll reiterate: i'm certain at this point you have no idea what the word "racism" means and to further belabor that point only makes you look more foolish. you beanbag.
posted by Hat Maui at 8:32 PM on November 20, 2006


You could accuse jonmc of a lot of things, but blasé would not be one of them - at least not in this thread.
posted by Liosliath at 8:32 PM on November 20, 2006


The people at perezhilton.com don't seem to be too impressed with his apology. I wonder what they expect? In all seriousness, folks out there in MeFi land, here's a question that I don't think we've considered:
You've got a celebrity, like Mel Gibson, like Michael Richards, and they do something appalling like this. The act can't be taken back. What is the proper response? How does someone start to make amends for this?
posted by papakwanz at 8:35 PM on November 20, 2006


papakwanz: First you write a book called "If I said it"...
posted by efbrazil at 8:45 PM on November 20, 2006


jonmc: Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:46 PM on November 20, 2006


jonmc: 'I used to be as earnest about racism as you could possibly get and I'd be quick to judge or condemn the slightest gaffe. But as I get older and examine things I've seen more closely, I'm not so sure I was being anything but a judgemental jerk.'

But see Jon, you're 2nd comment in this thread, which was the 8th comment in this thread was:

And it's a dumb move on his part, and we'll get all indignant, but ultimately, let he who is without sin in this regard, etc. etc...


So really what you are announcing is that because you have progressed to this beyond-racism, allegedly non-posturing utopian world where criticism of contemptible behaviour is no longer necessary then it now falls upon you to heckle the metafilter members before they come out with their oh-so-predictable snarks against an overt racist outburst. And certainly you wouldn't want the membership to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to discuss the topic.

In other words, you have progressed from being a judgemental jerk to a pre-judgmental jerk.

For me, getting annoyed with the way you've tried to hold court in this thread jonmc,has less to do with the topic of racism and much more to do with the topics of narcissism and preaching and I will respectfully ask (again I seem to recall) that you don't make any fucking announcements on any fucking topic where it might possibly be interpreted that you are including me in your catchall, downhome, workingclass, friend-of-the-underdog, smug hoiks of deluded wisdom. I'll just make up my own mind thx.
posted by peacay at 8:54 PM on November 20, 2006 [5 favorites]


How does someone start to make amends for this?

First, you issue a brief, non-self-justifying written apology: "I'm very sorry; my behavior was inexcusable."

Then you shut the fuck up, go away for a while, realize that there will be adverse consequences for your behavior, accept those with good grace, indulge in some healthy self-examination, to coin a term [cough], and work on thinking, speaking and behaving more respectfully in future.

In short, you try to amend yourself instead of making amends to those you offended, in this case, most of the general public. As the injured parties, they shouldn't have to put up with your mealy-mouthed attempts to make yourself feel better by making them feel better.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:55 PM on November 20, 2006


And what is this Seinfeld curse of which you speak?

Would've been a better and more enlightening to talk about the Seinfeld curse *whatever that is* I would think.

"The Seinfeld Curse"

Discuss.
posted by dgaicun at 9:00 PM on November 20, 2006


I think it's cool that a discussion about hate is making MetaFilter Community Members express their hatred of one another.

Behave like adults. All of you.
posted by mistermoore at 9:10 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


He just apologized on Letterman (or kind of tried to). Incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
posted by AwkwardPause at 9:13 PM on November 20, 2006


I just caught Jerry Seinfeld's appearance and Michael Richards' apology on Letterman. Richards came across as shattered and ashamed. I kept thinking he was going to cry. He stumbled around verbally, but it was obvious he was trying to say some really good things, such as that he hoped his behaviour would not exacerbate racial tensions in the U.S., and that he needs to do some "personal work".

Jerry Seinfeld came across as a good friend and a fine man - he told the audience to stop laughing, said he loves Richards, and without excusing him for his behaviour said he knew how shattered Richards was and felt he deserved a chance to apologize.
posted by orange swan at 9:19 PM on November 20, 2006


He just apologized on Letterman (or kind of tried to). Incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:13 AM EST on November 21


It was. There were a few awkward pauses. Like Curb Your Enthusiam in real life. At least it wasn't prepared and rehearsed, it seems, which we get too much of.
posted by juiceCake at 9:21 PM on November 20, 2006


Good description, orange swan - I thought he came across as really ashamed and flipped out by what he had done. The audience was treating him like Andy Kaufmann at first, like he was putting them on about being serious. It was indeed very uncomfortable and a really an unusual Letterman moment.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:25 PM on November 20, 2006


Behave like adults. All of you.

Hatred is a very adult state. Unfortunately.
posted by tkchrist at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2006


Whatever, adam. you're a better person than me. You want a medal? Cause it's really not much of an accomplishment

What a jerk thing to say.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:22 PM on November 20, 2006


He won't be playing at The Laugh Factory anymore.
posted by Duncan at 11:12 PM on November 20, 2006


I literally couldn't watch the apology just now. I started to watch, but it was so awkward that the discomfort reached out of the tv & filled my living room & I had to turn off the television. Seriously.
posted by jonson at 12:08 AM on November 21, 2006


I had to turn off the television.

Well, then, in this case Richards has performed something of a public service, since everyone should turn off their TVs a lot more often!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:28 AM on November 21, 2006


Maybe not, but restricting the group of people you're willing to consider as marriage partners to your own race does make you racist.

You've got to be fucking kidding me.
posted by cj_ at 12:43 AM on November 21, 2006


Who's gotta be kidding? It seems to me that it's impossible to say "I would never marry a person of x ethnicity" without resorting to some pretty serious generalization. I mean, nobody shuts off an entire segment of the population off from romantic love withoutsome kind of reason, and it doesn't seem like there's much of a non-racist reason anyone could give. "I wouldn't marry a black/white/asian/hispanic/whatever person because they _______." I can't think of anything acceptable to put in that blank. Granted it's late and I'm tired, but still. That said, go ahead and marry whoever the hell you feel like. The goal here is to be accepting of people's choices. (isn't it?) It's just a goddamn shame when people cut themselves off from what could be great relationships with their fellow man just because of some nonsense ideology.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:01 AM on November 21, 2006


"I wouldn't marry a black/white/asian/hispanic/whatever person because they _______." I can't think of anything acceptable to put in that blank.

How about: (because they) all - quite rightly - regard me as dull, ugly and wholly repellent.
posted by bunglin jones at 1:09 AM on November 21, 2006


Well, yes, but that's women (and people) in general.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:18 AM on November 21, 2006


cj_...I don't even know what to say. It's like you blockquoted "2 + 2 = 4" and followed it with "you've got to be fucking kidding me."
posted by mistermoore at 1:23 AM on November 21, 2006


You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by cj_ at 1:30 AM on November 21, 2006


Sorry, but can any of you direct me to this grudge tally board I've been hearing about?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:46 AM on November 21, 2006


Does this mean Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse is going off the air?
posted by stenseng at 2:00 AM on November 21, 2006


"I wouldn't marry a black/white/asian/hispanic/whatever person because they _______." I can't think of anything acceptable to put in that blank.

Because it would break my mama's heart? (we want you to marry a good Jewish girl, for example)
Because I'm only attracted to redheads? (freckles and pale skin being pretty much the antithesis of certain ethnic looks)
Because, like a love of Duran Duran or a superfluous nipple, someone of X group would remind me too much of my first love?

Need I go on?

Saying you won't hire someone of X ethnicity for a job and you won't date/marry someone of X ethnicity are completely different things, and the second is none of your business. Racism could be the motivation, but it seems to me that this thread is suffering from a critical lack of imagination when it comes to people's possible motivations.

Back on topic, didn't Richards shout something like "You see what's inside?!" in the early part of his rant? That was the moment, I think, that I decided that he was trying, in some drunk/stoned/stupid way to make some kind of point/joke/edgy bit. And I don't think he was having abuses hurled at him before that tape started rolling. The way he reacted to "cracker" makes me think that it was the first comment of its kind directed at him. I think the targets of this abuse were just being a little loud. But I can't be sure.
posted by dreamsign at 2:26 AM on November 21, 2006


Redheads (rekles and pale skin) are pretty much the antithesis of all that is good and holy.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:47 AM on November 21, 2006


To this fucking day, I don't exactly know what that means, but I'm still working through the contradictions of that relationship and what it all I means, cause damned if I know.

Although the situation you describe is rare, it DOES happen.
Me, I had Cindy (white) and Thelma (black), two good friends. Cindy was the sterotypical white trash (at least at first glance), so one day when she started going off about niggers, the room of all black people except for Cindy got quiet.

Since Cindy and Thelma were obvious close and had been for years and Thelma wasn't trying to tear off Cindy's head (since Thelma was the sterotypical yo girl), I realized something very odd was going on. Some square peg WAS going into the circular hole and was doing it quite easily.

So I asked Cindy "What, EXACTLY, do you mean by nigger?" and Cindy, gum popping, cigarrette dangling, hand on her hand, looks at me like I'm an idiot and says "An ignorant motherfucker who ain't worth sharing a beer with" and the room exploded with laughter.

See, Cindy, for whatever reason, had come up with her own definition of nigger, which was part of her charm. And her and Thelma, who on the outside looked like they'd be mortal enemies, had somhow, through all the shit that society teaches, become very good friends. Maybe that 'caused them to make some mental leaps or re-align their thinking into no traditional ways, I dunno. Maybe they just really wanted to friends despite society telling them they can't or shouldn't be.

So yeah, "Dave's not a nigger" makes sense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:08 AM on November 21, 2006


I sincerely think he was trying to be funny and not at all out of control. But when he realized he had gone too far, he couldn't muster the social grace to get out of it. So he (pathetically) just walked off stage without even a goodbye.
posted by Fotofixer at 4:14 AM on November 21, 2006


Heh. I actually ordered in some soup from the diner tonight. They gave me like seven packets of crackers.

That was a message.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:16 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I sincerely think he was trying to be funny and not at all out of control.

If this is the case, why did he go on Letterman last night and say he flew into a rage and a lot of hatred came spewing out and that he was sorry?
posted by orange swan at 4:20 AM on November 21, 2006


No black cast members. No significant speaking roles for African Americans.

well, there was jackie chiles...
posted by quonsar at 4:26 AM on November 21, 2006


Whatever, adam. you're a better person than me. You want a medal? Cause it's really not much of an accomplishment.

Not about that, jon, and I think you know it.

It's about the fact that "some of my best friends are X" has been so thoroughly debunked as a defense against accusations of racism that it has ascended past cliché to punchline.

It's about the fact that you still, on some level, think of them as "my Jewish wife" and "my gay boss" - that you're ascribing to each one of these people in your life what the sociologists would call a "master status," and in some small way allowing that to define them for you.

It's about the fact that you're using the people you presumably love as human shields - and you'll forgive me the presumption, but I doubt that they'd appreciate it very much. (Hell, I sure wouldn't: "Him? Yeah, he's my Jewish friend" tastes like ashes.)

It's about the fact, ultimately, that you continue to regard (or to pretend to regard) anyone questioning your lacunae on this point as somehow being engaged in a game of scoring points on you, and celebrating their own righteousness, when there's vanishingly little evidence of same.

In the end, your game here reminds me of that strategy beloved of certain French intellectuals, who'll try to enclose their interlocutors' positions inside arcs of a still-greater cynicism. "We're all racists"? Methinks the laddie doth protest too much.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:47 AM on November 21, 2006


I can't help but wonder, how much of Jonmc's words here are colored by his environment? New York City has a long history of ethnocentricity. Even people who don't really ascribe to it will still talk about ethnic stereotypes. Younger folks (where 'younger' is some value < 65 or so) tend not to take it seriously, but enjoy it as humor. Many of the old folks believe it. As a native midwesterner, I found it shocking and weird.

tkchrist: Please go bum a dollar somewhere and buy a clue, mmkay? If you're going to throw a fit, it is wise to know what you're talking about. There is this thing in English, see, called "context". Look it up. 'Cracker' can be racist, but it is far more often classist, especially when used by caucasians. In context, it's tons of fun to call a (assumed) wealthy celebrity a cracker. So, lighten up?

As for crumbling stuff in soup: Some folk prefer croutons, but crackers use saltines...or something like that.
posted by Goofyy at 5:07 AM on November 21, 2006


I'm not down with crucifying this guy who's actually bringing up some OK points. I'll take "everyone's a little racist" over "I'm not a racist! I've never had a racist thought in my goddamn life!" any day of the week. (ed. I'm not accusing anyone of holding this latter viewpoint.) There exists a large amount of institutional racism in American society that us white folk tend to perpetuate. That's not to say that we can't dutifully "tut tut" at the burnout comedian who's screaming racial epithets on stage, I'd like to think we've progressed at least that far. But jonmc is right when he says that that's not enough. Saying "it's a bad thing when white people yell "NIGGER" at a black guy" is relatively easy. Saying, "Wow, the fact that I think an entire ethnic group is completely unacceptable (or the exclusive possibilty) for romantic attachement is a little wierd, maybe I ought not to be using that as a criteria for my interpersonal relationships," is, one would hope, the next step. It's true, jonmc doesn't fully live up to his own goal when he says "my jewish wife" and I don't fully live up to my stated goal when I'll I've ever dated are white chicks. C'est la guerre I guess. I just don't like the idea of somebody (especially a white somebody) trying to say that racism isn't their problem.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:12 AM on November 21, 2006


The guy I saw apologizing on Letterman last night was ruined - both professionally and emotionally.

I give it a week before someone finds him hanging in a motel room.
posted by davelog at 5:34 AM on November 21, 2006


I give it a week before someone finds him hanging in a motel room.

I think most motel rooms are now designed in such a way that it's nigh impossible to hang yourself in them anymore.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:08 AM on November 21, 2006


It's about the fact that you still, on some level, think of them as "my Jewish wife" and "my gay boss" - that you're ascribing to each one of these people in your life what the sociologists would call a "master status," and in some small way allowing that to define them for you.

The comments that led up to that statement were basically fairly disingenuously accusing me of being racist (and not in the 'everybody's a little bit racist' way we were discussing) which irks me since I think about this kind of stuff a lot, and I try to look deeper than facile answers. And I live in New York, at least partly, because it's a diverse place, and while obviously I'm aware of how my associates and friends might differ from me, after awhile it's not really an issue for us. But in moments when people are deliberately trying to get your goat, sometimes your goat gets got. And I think we'd all be lying if people say that wasn't what was going on.

Adam, I believe you're sincere in your beliefs and I believe you mean well. But I don't believe for a minute that you don't also enjoy being the 'rightest' guy in the room. Nobody's motives, even for doing the right thing, are entirely pure, and that's just a stone cold fact. And while you may think you have me completely figured out, you do not know me well enough to make the type of judgements you rather routinely make.

I started coming into this thread with a couple of casual observations: that we're all guilty of prejudice on some level, and that we (on some level) enjoy having people who make obviously bigoted statements around since it makes it easier to ignore our own bigotry. Debatable, sure, but not exactly inflammatory. Actually a fairly obvious observation. But plenty of you took it as an opportunity to ignore what I was trying to say to take an opportunity to take some cheap shots, and what I was trying to say got lost.


As for Richards, it occured to me last night that the guy already has enough money to live luxuriously for the rest of his life without ever working again, so just how much is he really going to suffer for this?
posted by jonmc at 6:20 AM on November 21, 2006


Strictly for my crackaz.

You know, if you end it with the 'az', instead of the 'ers', then it isn't racist at all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:31 AM on November 21, 2006


the guy already has enough money to live luxuriously for the rest of his life without ever working again, so just how much is he really going to suffer for this?

Money can't buy you peace of mind. Witness the enormous amount of fundamentally unhappy rich people in the world. And with thousands and thousands of people now branding him a racist... well, he's gonna suffer.

BTW jonmc, cheap shots, as I'm sure you're aware, are standard fare here at MeFi. Roll with it, man! (You seem to be doing so, anyway).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:38 AM on November 21, 2006


"Wow, the fact that I think an entire ethnic group is completely unacceptable (or the exclusive possibilty) for romantic attachement is a little wierd, maybe I ought not to be using that as a criteria for my interpersonal relationships," is, one would hope, the next step.

How about the next step be "Wow, the idea that "us white folk" perpetuate institutional racism overlooks the facts that most people who are white have no power over most people who are nonwhite, and most young people care less about race than their parents did, so to lump all people of one color (even a color that matches my own) into a box labeled "People Who Perpetuate Racism" is probably not a good idea. I should start evaluating racism on a more personal level."
posted by 23skidoo at 6:40 AM on November 21, 2006


Yeah, and FWIW, I've gotten some food for thought, even if being completely misrepresented by a few people who should know better....rankles, for lack of a better word.
posted by jonmc at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2006


As for Richards, it occured to me last night that the guy already has enough money to live luxuriously for the rest of his life without ever working again

Coke ain't cheap, ya know.

But I don't believe for a minute that you don't also enjoy being the 'rightest' guy in the room.

Then you really don't know me very well. I'd much rather surround myself with people I can learn from.

And while you may think you have me completely figured out

I think nothing of the sort. I barely know you. I do think you should know that your line of argument has been discredited, and that it can easily be read as being rather disrespectful of the people I know you care about.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:44 AM on November 21, 2006


being completely misrepresented by a few people who should know better....rankles, for lack of a better word.

"Rankles" is a perfectly good word. And it rhymes with "ankles".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:53 AM on November 21, 2006


Then you really don't know me very well. I'd much rather surround myself with people I can learn from.

Well, a lot of the comments I see from you seem to argue otherwise, especially when it's you and me.

I do think you should know that your line of argument has been discredited, and that it can easily be read as being rather disrespectful of the people I know you care about.

When I get attacked, I get defensive. Human nature. But they weren't so much arguments as simple observations, and I don't think they're neccessarily incorrect ones.

I think nothing of the sort. I barely know you.

Well, you seem to think you can sum up my point of view on race in a few sentences, so that would seem to say otherwise.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 AM on November 21, 2006


Sure 23skidoo, that's a fine next step.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 7:22 AM on November 21, 2006


jonmc - "We're all guilty"

Nope. It's wrong to assume that negative assumptions based on race play a part in everyone's thoughts.
posted by algreer at 7:23 AM on November 21, 2006


I remember when Seinfeld was on SNL with David Bowie, and Seinfeld gave him a really bizarre response when Bowie mentioned his black wife. Bowie had the most confused look I've ever seen. I guess Jerry's not big on interracial marriage, or something.

I think, actually, he was trying to make light of when Chris Rock made a strange deal of the fact that Bowie's wife is black on an awards show a few years back. I don't remember the awards show, but I do remember Bowie looked pissed, and Chris Rock's bit about it was pretty offensive.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:26 AM on November 21, 2006


Nope. It's wrong to assume that negative assumptions based on race play a part in everyone's thoughts.

That's telling me.

Look, you'll have to offer me something other than just your word on that, since the history of mankind would seem to indicate otherwise. (and if it isn't race, it's gender, nationality, religion, class, politics, haircuts, something).
posted by jonmc at 7:30 AM on November 21, 2006


and if it isn't race, it's . . . something

At the mall I won't let my kids near folks I've seen walk out of Lemstone books.
posted by Chuckly at 7:35 AM on November 21, 2006


Fascinating to watch the apology. You really do want to laugh, because it's motherfucking Kramer, come on! But wow does it get awkward fast.

Guy should take a page from Bob Saget. If you want to be a lovable TV character, then go completely blue, you gotta amp up the child molestation jokes. Just saying "nigger" over and over doesn't do it anymore.
posted by fungible at 7:39 AM on November 21, 2006


You guys didn't hear it right. He was saying "hipster." That makes it OK.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2006


The apology just reinforces my belief that he's gone nuts.
posted by grouse at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2006


MetaFilter: BF Skinner would be proud.
posted by phaedon at 8:23 AM on November 21, 2006


Maybe this was a grown-up's version of what jonmc was trying to get at:
There is much discussion about Richards' essential nature—is he or isn't he a racist? This is supposed to be a binary attribute, like being Armenian, homosexual, or club-footed: you either are, or you aren't, a racist. That seems to me all wrong. Every normal person harbors some identification with his race, as he does with his family, his nation, his mother-language group, his bowling league, etc. Group identification is a perfectly ordinary facet of human nature—though, like others, more intensely felt in some, less so in others, and possibly absent in a very few.

Of course, as with other innate qualities—the urge to help oneself to other people's property, or to be intimate with attractive members of the opposite sex—this one is, among civilized people, circumscribed with rules and restraints. Under the system of manners prevailing in current American society, white people may express feelings about their whiteness, or about other folks' non-whiteness, only under a few extremely restricted circumstances, and are in fact taught from an early age to feel that white group identity is an unsavory and antisocial matter. ...

Michael Richards committed a gross breach of those customary rules and restraints—a severe etiquette malfunction, just as much as it he'd started fondling a female audience member. The inner Kramer—the one kept in rein by all those internalized restraints that make civilized life tolerable—just broke out for a moment. To assert that this proves him to be different from you and me in some fundamental, essential way—he is a "racist" and I am not—is just an absurd kind of moral preening.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe this was a grown-up's version

or just a version with more formal language and bigger words. Is that what you mean by 'grown up?'
posted by jonmc at 9:06 AM on November 21, 2006


Just watched the apology. it seems genuine to me, if a bit confused. My guess is that Richards (like many people) is not used to reflecting on these matters and he looked like he was scrambling for words to describe his actions and feelings.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:10 AM on November 21, 2006


Were do you even get a flensing fork in this day and age?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:33 AM on November 21, 2006


Damn. jonmc says the same shit in all these sorts of threads.
posted by chunking express at 9:36 AM on November 21, 2006


a severe etiquette malfunction, just as much as it he'd started fondling a female audience member

Oh god. Are you sure this is the grown-up version?

And, John Derbyshire of the National Review's Corner, ouch... not sure how this helps put a better light on that kind of disingenously tortous position.

And if being racist is not a either you are or you aren't proposition, one would logically conclude it's understood and accepted that it's a matter of degrees, from which one could infer it's also understood and accepted that while an American comedian flipping out spectacularly and pathetically with unfunny racist insults and references to lynchings is not such a stratospherical disturbance in the cosmic balance of race relations compared to other stuff, it's also not on a par with all the people who, while not not-racist in some kind of pure absolute platonic ideal of absense of racism (in other wards, a crappy straw man), have never done such a thing...

Or is it just because they lacked the opportunity, weren't loaded up on drugs and/or inflamed by a massive ego and the righteous anger of reacting at the horror and infamy of hecklers in a comedy club, but apart from that, deep down they're all just as much wankers as this guy?

I don't know. All this insistence that 'he's just like you and me', well maybe one should take that literally as a burning desire of identification with wankers.

The inner Kramer—the one kept in rein by all those internalized restraints that make civilized life tolerable—just broke out for a moment.

Eh, it's like those idiots who go on reality shows and say "I'm being me, I'm being real" as if it was a character quality in itself. What if the real you is a dickhead? Sorry love but it's not internalised restraints of social life that make the difference between the dickheads and the not-dickheads.
posted by pleeker at 9:36 AM on November 21, 2006


Just watching the beginning of the apology, when Jerry is talking, reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when George is worried that Jerry's sense of humor will make him look bad in front of his date.

Elaine: You can't not be funny.

Jerry: (exasperated) Am I being funny now?

Elaine: (smiling)... a little...

Jerry: George, is this funny?

George: (angry) It's very amusing!

The guy just makes me want to giggle, no matter what he's talking about.
posted by papakwanz at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2006


Hey Goofyy, you're totally right. I took the time to look up 'context.' Wow.

Context IS all. And. It's HI-larious! Like the context of this thread.

I'm at last free! Thanks to you, you trailer-trash-okee-cracker-gap-toothed-yokel-banjo-play'n-uncle-fucker.

Yup. HI-larious.
posted by tkchrist at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2006


Here's that missing "h" : h. (Because I know you were wondering.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2006


Thanks, The corpse in the library! I was wondering.
posted by cgc373 at 10:27 AM on November 21, 2006



Actually, sometimes handling a heckler can be quite funny .

"Cracker" humor?
posted by Surfurrus at 10:37 AM on November 21, 2006


There's so much self-righteousness in this thread it's unbelievable. So now, I'm going to be self-righteous about how un-self-righteous I am.

I think everyone, especially those people slamming jonmc for the supposed "everybody's racist" defense, need to stop and consider what it *really* means to be racist (and that includes those people who are telling everyone else that they don't know what "racism" is).

Does it mean to actively hate people of a different race, or to wish physical harm upon them? Well, if that's it, then probably not many people on MeFi (and probably a slightly larger %, but still a vast minority, in the US) are "racist."

Does it mean to have certain preconceived notions about what someone with a different skin color will act like, think, believe, etc?

Does it mean to enjoy the benefits of being one skin color, even if you don't perceive or perpetuate the power imbalances that give you those benefits?

Here's a little thought experiment I go through everytime I start getting self-righteous about discrimination: It's 10pm, I'm in my car stopped at a red light. A young, African-American male is crossing the street. Do I check to see if my doors are locked? If the answer is yes, then race is a problem I'm still dealing with.

And of course, I know that there's nothing about his skin color that genetically makes him predisposed to crime. I know that race is socially constructed. I know that crime in the black community is a result of centuries of slavery followed by a century+ of political, economic, and sometimes violent physical oppression. But still, I check the locks on my door.

It's not something I can excuse merely by saying that I'm being pragmatic or safe. It's not something I can excuse by saying that I want the oppressive institutions to change. It's not something I can excuse by saying, hey, my family's not a part of the problem because my dad is from another country (and not white) and my mom's family doesn't go back pre-Civil War. I'm a part of the system just as everyone else is. I enjoy the benefits of being relatively light-skinned and a member of an ethnic group that faces very little discrimination (or positive discrimination) in a country where being dark-skinned is a liability. What am I doing to change it? Honestly, not much (at least, not much more than the average voting, somewhat politically involved citizen. I'm not an activist, is what I'm getting at). What is everyone else in this thread doing to change it? Who knows. That's something you have to ask yourself. But the fact of the matter is that our society is racist on an institutional level, and just because you don't personally hold any sort of racist beliefs doesn't mean that you're not also a part of the system and part of the problem (note: I'm addressing US citizens here).

We can all agree that Michael Richards said some horrible shit and that he deserves to be condemned for it. But pointing your finger at him and thinking that you're so much better is lazy thinking and avoids asking the hard questions about race in this country. The Racist/Not-Racist binary is false; it is impossible to be truly "not-racist" when you are part of a system that is itself racist. I'm babbling at this point, but hopefully I've made some sort of sense here...
posted by papakwanz at 10:41 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


What I've learned:

Racism is not a black and white issue.
posted by mazola at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2006


"...he looked like he was scrambling for words to describe his actions and feelings."
posted by eustacescrubb

Funny, I felt forgiving towards him too.

There's no particular template for these things (though Mel Gibson's offensively arch attempt at an apology showed how it shouldn't be done).

Yeah, it seemed Richards had genuinely rattled his sense of sense with that outburst.

It's more of an admission than you get with most celebs in a jam.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:55 AM on November 21, 2006


Blast

"sense of self" not sense!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:58 AM on November 21, 2006


papakwanz: I tried your thought experiment and altered it to fit my world:

Here's a little thought experiment I go through everytime I start getting self-righteous about discrimination: It's 10pm, I'm in my car stopped at a red light. A young, African-American male human is crossing the street. Do I check to see if my doors are locked? If the answer is yes, then race paranoia is a problem I'm still dealing with.
posted by ?! at 11:07 AM on November 21, 2006


I guess ?! is just far beyond everyone else.
posted by papakwanz at 11:10 AM on November 21, 2006


or maybe just me.
posted by papakwanz at 11:12 AM on November 21, 2006


I think papakwanz just laid out the difference between prejudice and racism. I think when people say "everybody is a little racist" most of them mean that everybody is prejudiced. Pre-judging somebody based on appearances is a completely natural thing to do. It only becomes racism if we aren't open to changing our pre-conceived notions about people. There is room for prejudice in a functioning society. There is never room for racism.
posted by SBMike at 11:13 AM on November 21, 2006


Do I check to see if my doors are locked? If the answer is yes, then race is a problem I'm still dealing with.

This is a good thought experiment, as-long-as you're clear as to its goals. papakwanz, this may have been unintentional, but I your post included a subtle language-shift: you began by talking about defining racism. But then, when discussing your thought experiment, you shifted to "race is a problem I'm still dealing with."

I don't buy that anyone who sees the black guy and checks his locks is racist. If he's in a high-crime area (where a huger percentage of the criminals are black) then he IS just being practical. But I would agree that NEED for this practical decision is unfortunate. WHY is there so much crime in this neighborhood? Probably for racist reasons.

I can be aware of those reasons; I can be upset about then; I can actively try to change them -- and STILL check to make sure the door is locked. I SHOULD make sure the door is locked if I care about my own safety.

I agree 100% that anyone who reaps the fruits of their culture has a responsibility to help solve that culture's ills. And racism is a huge ill. And when I'm checking my locks, I should think about that ill and wonder what I've done lately to help cure it. I agree with all of that and I think it's pretty much what you're saying (correct me if I'm wrong).

But I think you have to be very careful not to imply that anyone who checks his lock in a high-crime area (largely populated by X race) is a racist.

That's dangerous talk, because (a) it's untrue and (b) it leads people to think they'll be misunderstood no matter what they do -- which is a good way to get people to throw up their hands and quit trying to solve the problem.
posted by grumblebee at 11:22 AM on November 21, 2006


A young, African-American male is crossing the street. Do I check to see if my doors are locked? If the answer is yes, then race is a problem I'm still dealing with.

If your example is solely about race, then why "young" and "male"? Would you lock your doors if it was an old African-American woman?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2006


Ah, good point, Armitage.
posted by Specklet at 11:29 AM on November 21, 2006


Would you lock your doors if it was an old African-American woman?

Yes. She might have a pie and force me to have a piece.
posted by jonmc at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I disagree with papakwanz in that I think it’s possible to be essentially un-racist, but I can’t see a way to easily argue this. I can, however, see a way in which Richards’ comments might not have been racist, but first the disclaimers: I’m not giving him any “benefit” of the doubt, trying to defend him, etc. I just think it’s important to explore human sillyness (what have you) in all its glorious manifestations.

Here’s another thought experiment: The heckler is a dwarf (not the World of Warcraft kind) and excites Richards into the following tirade:

“What’s that you midgit fucker I can’t hear you? Want the staff to fetch you a booster seat? We’ll see how big that little mouth of yours is once you get where I can see you.”

As a far as I know there aren’t many people who feel negatively toward dwarves other than juveniles. In this instance I wouldn’t guess that Richards has always hated dwarves. What I would guess is that Richards is trying to grab power in the easiest possible way.

Analogously, I could imagine Richards using racist ideas and language as a means merely to grab power and not meaning to express contempt for blacks in general. I could see someone doing this even if they were ardently anti-racist and sympathetic otherwise.

In general, people might use any language whatsoever in an attempt to grab power regardless of what that language tends to imply. The power of language is abstracted from its content.

Again, I don’t care to conclude what’s going on in Richards’ mind.
posted by Chuckly at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2006


Here's a little thought experiment I go through everytime I start getting self-righteous about discrimination: It's 10pm, I'm in my car stopped at a red light. A young, African-American male is crossing the street. Do I check to see if my doors are locked? If the answer is yes, then race is a problem I'm still dealing with.

Personally I think you've kind of got it backwards. Would you check your locks if the young black man was wearing a suit? Would you check your door if it was a white man with a mohawk and leather clothes? How about a young black man in a sweater and slacks?

Perhaps what is racist is the questioning, not the checking the doors? The fact that you assume that fear of a young black male dressed a certain way is racism, perhaps shows a deeper problem in society? I'm not trying to judge you but I have had this same debate with an older friend of mine who posed the same thought experiment.
posted by cell divide at 11:42 AM on November 21, 2006


My car doors lock automatically as soon as I shift out of park. Clearly, the automakers are prejudiced against the lesser gears. I guess it's just Reverse Discrimination.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


Yes. She might have a pie and force me to have a piece.

Since statistics show that the majority of unprovoked pie proffering in minority neighborhoods is instigated by old African-American women, it might be reasonable to lock your doors if you saw the pie first.

But assuming she has a piece of pie for you because of her race, that's just wrong.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2006


Here's video evidence of Derbyshire beating up Chinese people.
posted by horsewithnoname at 11:55 AM on November 21, 2006


Who's going to turn down pie from an old African-American woman?

It's hot, it's fruit filled. It's delicious.

It's very refreshing.
posted by SBMike at 11:55 AM on November 21, 2006


I realize that my thought experiment is extremely oversimplified and that a lot of other variables go into it, as many have pointed out. Age, race, clothing, geographic location, etc. etc. will all condition someone's response. Maybe the example is too oversimplified to be of use. I'll grant that. My point, though, was more about the insidious pervasiveness of racism, or as SBMIKE says, prejudice (I disagree with Mike in that I don't see the 2 as necessarily different phenomenon). What I was trying to get at is that we live within a society that conditions people to hold certain views of others that are, in part, determined by race. We can accept them to a greater or lesser degree, or maybe even tell ourselves that we reject them completely (although I feel that while we may consciously reject them, there's probably an unconscious remnant where they still exist in some small way, I just have not yet gotten to the point where I can argue that intelligently). Anyway, even if I am 100% not racist I still live and act w/in institutions that are. Pointing fingers at one person and saying "you're a racist prick and I'm not" doesn't really address the systemic problems of race, and may even make them worse.
posted by papakwanz at 12:06 PM on November 21, 2006


Chuckly: In general, people might use any language whatsoever in an attempt to grab power regardless of what that language tends to imply. The power of language is abstracted from its content.

Thank you for articulating in a more intelligent manner something I tried to say earlier.

cell divide:
I get your point, and as I said in my last post, there are a lot of variables I intentionally left out.
Young white guy with a mohawk: probably check the locks.
Young black guy in a suit: not gonna check the locks.
Older black guy: not gonna check the locks.
Older white guy dressed like Mad Max: probably check the locks
etc. etc. etc.
In simplifying the thought experiment, I was trying to isolate one issue (race) out of many others. It seems from people's responses that I didn't really do that, and perhaps rightly so, because it may be impossible to isolate race, gender, class, etc...
posted by papakwanz at 12:12 PM on November 21, 2006


This is such a deep-seated issue that most people don't even think about it to the point that they can discern their own fears, prejudices and motivations. Personally, I've explored this issue as it plays out in my own head for the last year.

For the record, I'm 45, white, college-educated, with a wife and six-year old son. I have always taken pride in my "liberal" attitude and still wear two feet of (graying) hair. A year ago, I relocated and bought a house in an area where my family is one of just a few whites in a predominantly African-American community.

I knew that moving in and, honestly, it didn't enter into the equation. We liked the house and the color of the neighbors mattered not. When we first moved in, race was something I thought about many times a day as I interacted in the community. I had never been a minority before, and I admit there were times I felt out of place.

But,over this past year, race has become something I really don't notice day-to-day. My neighbors and my community, by and large, are nice, considerate, average Americans. Some issues are hard to break and need to be confronted and dealt with - the car lock situation above is a real issue in my life, much to my shame. I have come to learn that the problem, however, lies mainly in my head; like most prejudices it is a (mostly) irrational fear borne of ignorance.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:50 PM on November 21, 2006


Here's (one of the reasons) why we won't solve the problem of racism:

If I sometimes have racist thoughts and I don't like that aspect of myself, I can't admit it. Well, I can, but I have to be an unusually brave person to do so.

It's interesting to me that several people here are claiming that everyone -- or most people -- are racist. That's an interesting way of putting it. If you think that everyone is racist then you are racist (since you're part of everyone). So why not simply say, "I have the occasional racist thought and I think I'm very typical."

I don't blame you for not saying that. If you say it, you'll be pounced on.

I have found this to be true over and over again. I'm not going to admit to being a racist or a sexist, because I don't think I am one (maybe I'm in denial, but if so ... well ... I'm in denial), but I have often confessed to bad qualities. Whenever I've done so -- whenever I've confessed to a sin that I know is pretty common -- and I expect other people to say, "You know, I do that too sometimes, and I feel terrible about it." I am disappointed. Instead, people jump all over me and tell me that I'm a bad person.

If you're racist and are happy being racist, they you're not going to change. But if there's even a small part of you that feels like it's bad to be racist, you MIGHT change. But you'd be more likely to do so if you felt like you could confess to your sins without a zillion people immediately calling for you to be thrust into hell.

When Mel had his meltdown, I was hoping that, during his apology, he would say, "I feel terrible about it, and I'm trying to change, but I do sometimes have antisemitic thoughts." And I was hoping Michael Richards would say something similar (maybe he did; I haven't seen his apology yet). But of course Mel didn't, and I doubt that he would have, even if part of him wanted to. Most people aren't brave enough to face the sort of flack you get if you out-and-out admit to racism.

It saddens me that, as a culture, we seem more interesting in labeling racism and distancing ourselves from it than we are from embracing it (as a common human failing) and trying to solve it.
posted by grumblebee at 12:53 PM on November 21, 2006


I can, however, see a way in which Richards’ comments might not have been racist

No, look, maybe you're just mixing up two different questions, and I admit I'm not tuned in to the subtleties of race discourse in the US of A, but come on, there is no fucking way 'nigger nigger fucking motherfucker nigger 50 years ago we would have you up a tree with a fork etc.' is not racist, it is deliberately so, the man must be so sad and full of himself he did probably try and go for the ooh provocative comedy 'I'm always pushing the envelope' angle to express/justify his unhinged rage (and it is unjustifed rage, as I cannot imagine the rest of his show being any funnier, so the heckling was likely very deserved), but exactly like the guy who answered him said, it was 'uncalled for, unfunny, and that's why you're a reject'.

That's all you need to say, but doesn't mean the choice of words was accidental or simply an unfortunate "etiquette malfunction". Sure he wasn't speaking at the UN, but he wasn't at home cracking un-pc jokes with his mates either. He was performing at a show and the audience was paying.

Now, the 'is he or is he not a racist' as a whole, as a person, that's the other question and I think it is being framed in such a ridiculous fucked up way as to make it pointless.

One minute it's accepted racism is a matter of degrees, the next it seems that unless you have a full membership with the aryan nation then nooo let's not call you a racist or we'd only be sanctimonious self-righteous witch hunters.

It is a matter of degrees, so it is indeed possible to be a lousy racist wanker even for one moment and one unhinged utterance, even if you don't actually hold a set of signed and stamped and systematic capital Racist beliefs with matching flag in your ordinary unhinged state of mind, whatever that is, if any.

It's just words but you have to take responsibility for them, no matter what drugs you were on and how big your ego is and how funny and provocative you thought you were being, since you failed at it so spectacularly. And perhaps I'm also missing the subtleties in the definition of self-righteous being applied here, but seems to me at least in this case the people who stated they never acted like that and it wouldn't occur to them to act like that are not claiming to be some superhuman level of non-racist hero immune from any prejudice whatsoever. They're just claiming they're not such dickheads. It isn't that impossible...
posted by pleeker at 12:59 PM on November 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


papakwanz, how about this for a thought experiment:

You're at a party; you don't know anyone, and you've decided that you'd better hurry up and talk to someone or you'll look like a wall flower. There are two guys who look approachable: a black guy and a white guy. Other than their differing skin color, there's really no major difference between them (e.g. from what you can tell from their clothes, they seem to be of the same economic class). Which one do you approach? (Remember: no one -- except you -- will ever know why you chose one over the other or even that you DID choose one over the other.)

Make a mental checkmark if race played ANY part in your decision, including a positive one. Here's an example of a positive one: you (a white guy) talked to the black guy because you feel you don't have enough black friends.

I'm not saying that's bad. I am simply saying that, in that case, race DID play a part in your decision.

Me: all other things being equal, I would probably talk to the white guy (I'm white). But I really mean ALL things being equal. If I found out the black guy was from NYC and the white guy was from LA, I would go talk to the black guy, because I too am from NYC.

Why would I choose the white guy? Because I would assume that -- culturally -- I would have more in common with him. I would be VERY aware of the fact that this assumption might turn out to be false, and if it did, I would excuse myself and talk tot he black guy. But one does make assumptions in life, right? I have to approach ONE of the guys first.

So what does this say about me? Am I racist? Is a racist simply someone who EVER makes ANY decision (no matter how trivial) based on the color of someone's skin?

If that's true, fine, but we all know that on this planet people with the same skin color TEND to group together into cultures (often for unfortunate reasons). Not everyone with a particular skin color is a member of that skin color's culture, but often they are.

As a human being, I think it's my duty to learn and interact with as many cultures as I possibly can, but I don't think it's my duty to do that ALL the time. If I'm generally a good person this way, it's okay for me to seek out people like me at a party now and again. Isn't it?

Anyway, what if I'm someone who likes black people, thinks they should be paid the same as white people (or any other people), thinks that black/white marriages and all sorts of integration is great -- but at that party, I would go talk to the white guy? Am I racist? If so ... if you feel you must fix that label on me ... am I seriously racist in a way that you should worry about? Wouldn't your time be better spent fighting the KKK?

Am I seriously racist in a way that I should worry about? My time on Earth is limited. I can either spend it trying to stamp out that tiny bit of skin-color-awareness or I can use it trying to quit smoking or learn a foreign language.

Tying this in with my earlier post: if you don't think my "racism" is that big of a deal (or even if you do), what sort of a response do you think I'd get if I admitted to it?
posted by grumblebee at 1:12 PM on November 21, 2006


But if there's even a small part of you that feels like it's bad to be racist, you MIGHT change. But you'd be more likely to do so if you felt like you could confess to your sins without a zillion people immediately calling for you to be thrust into hell.

Then maybe you are projecting too much of that experience onto an episode that really doesn't have much to do with confessing sins and being chided by people being a little sanctimonious, because it's one guy lashing out in quite an unambiguous disgusting fashion and people reacting in an unambiguous disgusted fashion... Question of degrees, many degrees of difference. Apples and oranges, more like, no?
posted by pleeker at 1:19 PM on November 21, 2006


Apples and oranges, more like, no?

Apples and apple juice maybe. Oranges, no.
posted by jonmc at 1:22 PM on November 21, 2006


pleeker, what do you think Richards should do NOW? (Obviously, he shouldn't have behaved the way he did, but it's too late now.) What should he say or do?

It's possible that he's not racist, by which I mean that he said what he said for whatever stupid reason (maybe even momentary racism), but that NOW he doesn't have any racist thoughts and that he generally doesn't have any.

But even though that's possible -- and even though I've argued with Johnmc's universalism -- I do think the more likely explanation is that Richards is, to some degree, a racist.

Let's assume that he is but would like to change. What should he do? And should he admit to this? Should he say, "I said what I said, because I sometimes have racist thoughts." If he said this, what do you think would happen to him?
posted by grumblebee at 1:32 PM on November 21, 2006


...Age, race, clothing, geographic location, etc. etc. will all condition someone's response...

Culture. You mean culture.

Remember when Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby were both famously blasted and protested for simply stating the truth of how they feared elements of black youth culture? Heaven forbid that Jackson even quoted accurate crime statistics. All Jackson and Cosby were doing was paying attention to what was happening around them.

Some dismissed it as them simply being old and out of touch. But others claimed they were racist sellouts, or uncle-Toms and turncoats.

This is how ugly honesty gets about race gets in this country. Even from the people who SHARE the same experiences and wear the same skin as you. How sad is that?

The fact is we tend to group with people who not only look like us but act like us and like the same expressions we like, etc. Culture. Race is only one part of that in a complicated society like the US. Socioeconomics is only one part. History is only one part. And we are as defensive of our culture as we are about our own identity. Even though culture is so fluid.

What we often fail to recognize and deal with well is that some sub-cultures really are kind of dangerous. They embrace dangerous, self defeating, and dysfunctional ideas and behaviors. But when taken as individuals often they are neither dangerous or worthless to society at large. But seeing everyone as an individual is a hard thing to do all the time. And often impractical. We are programmed to generalize as a survival mechanism. It's easy. And most often smart.

I think real racism comes when we confuse the direction society is taking us with the impact other individuals whom we don't identify with really have. Then we collectively determine to make our irrational frustrations and anger influence our institutions. That is when racism really matters and evolves damaging historical inertia.

So far we have made strides at dealing with institutional racism. But not so much getting people to deal with each other as individuals. Culture just gets in the way. That's why we have duplicitous ideas of what is racist language, what context is appropriate etc.

We have failed to teach a simple thing. The golden rule.
posted by tkchrist at 1:39 PM on November 21, 2006


Should he say, "I said what I said, because I sometimes have racist thoughts."

But, hello, does he really need to say that? Everyone heard his tirade already, it's quite obvious he didn't see a problem with what he was saying as he was saying it - even tried to blab on about justifying it as he was saying it - and him being a comedian, public figure in entertainment, actor in a popular tv series that still has to shift those dvd's, you will never be able to tell a 'honest' apology from PR damage control anyway. So, whatever. It's his problem how he deals with it. He's a grown up.

I don't really care what he says because I don't care about him, never heard about this guy before. Glad I didn't miss much.

What I care about is the ensuing discussion and I'm still trying to understand, where is all this annoying self-righteousness in the reactions to this specific incident, not all the other hypothetic or real incidents that occured or might have occurred to someone else in a completely different situation.
posted by pleeker at 1:52 PM on November 21, 2006


You hit the nail on the head, tkchrist: culture gets in the way. But it always WILL get in the way. As you point out, "We are programmed to generalize as a survival mechanism." That's not to say that we can't overcome our programming, but it IS to say that we can't get all people to overcome their programming all of the time. If we're going to overcome it, it's going to be a lifelong struggle. It's similar to keeping fit. You can't just do ten pushups and be fit for life. You have to keep doing pushups all your life to stay fit all your life.

So what do we tell our children? We might as well be honest with them, because they'll find out the truth whether we tell them or not. So here's the truth:

-- If you generalize about people, you will make all sorts of unfair assumptions about individuals and wind up treating them unfairly.

-- If you don't generalize about people, you will miss out on a major survival tactic. In any case, you probably can't stop yourself from generalizing about people -- at least sometimes.

-- So you must sometimes generalize about people and sometimes not generalize about people. The rules of this game are tough and subtle, and you'll spend many years learning them. If you're lucky, you'll be good at the game and find the perfect balance. But you may not. Not all people are good at it.

-- If you screw up, you'll get in trouble.

I think the complexity of this truth (admittedly my version of it) is why we rarely hear about it: why we tend to fall back on shouting at each other. The truth is just too complicated.

Unfortunately, there isn't a chance in hell of improvement unless we face the truth.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on November 21, 2006


All this insistence that 'he's just like you and me' ... the difference between the dickheads and the not-dickheads.

pleeker, there are a couple of different personality types who clash in these discussions, and I think the clash is often more about misunderstandings than right and wrong.

You seem to be -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- the type who likes to "call a spade a spade" There are people who are not assholes and there are people who are assholes. Let's call the assholes "assholes" and be done with it.

I'm not in that camp, but I sympathize with it. Presumably, to people like you, the "apologizing", "explaining" and "navel gazing" that goes on in these discussions is really aggravating.

Worse, it may seem like people are excusing bad behavior! And perhaps some people are -- and that's too bad -- but not all of us "explainers" are doing that.

I just don't think in that "call a spade a spade way." (My way of thinking isn't superior -- nor do I think it's worse. It's just a specific sort of thinking). I can't solve a problem by classification. I can go ahead and call Richards a dickhead (he IS a dickhead), but that doesn't do anything for me. My brain immediately goes, "Okay, he's a dickhead. Now what?"

The only way I can deal with issues like this is to break them apart, discuss them, dissect them, etc. I really don't care whether or not Richards is a dickhead. I care about why he did what he did, how he could have stopped himself from doing it, what he should do now, and how we should tread people like him. And none of this is because I care about Richards. He's not important to me, but people LIKE him are, because I have to deal with them -- we all do.

I believe that all humans share some similarities. We also have unique differences, but the first step I take in trying to understand someone -- even someone loathsome -- is to try to put myself in his shoes. It's not that I think "he's just like you and me," it's that I'm trying to connect with him as best I can in order to understand him.

I think I (and people like me) fuck up in these discussions by refusing to use labels. We don't use them, because they don't mean much to us, but they're important to other people. So -- for the sake of unity -- we should remember to say, "I want to start by saying that Richards is a complete fuckhead!" Only then should we go on to our navel gazing -- if we care about keeping some harmony in the discussion.

On the other hand, people like you should recognize that people like me are just as committed to stomping out racism as you are -- we just go about it in a different way.

I've put many words in your mouth, and I apologize about that. I'm not really talking about you, I'm talking about "you."
posted by grumblebee at 2:18 PM on November 21, 2006


I'm sorry, I don't mean to dismiss the points about general issues of perception and prejudice you're all raising now, but honestly, I don't get it, how did this go from 'fucking niggers fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a fork up your fucking ass that's what you get for interrupting the white man ooh now I'm gonna get arrested for calling a black guy a nigger' to 'sometimes generalize about people'?

And that's not apples and oranges? ok then...

But yeah, after all, who among us hasn't shouted 'nigger' in a crowded theatre... well actually I've had 'fucking niggers' shouted at me & others in a crowded train in London once and not one of these self-deluded self-righteous anti-racists in sight. I wouldn't have minded their chiming in no matter how rhetorically, but they were probably all here on Metafilter arguing with jonmc, the bastards.
posted by pleeker at 2:31 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Pleeker, Richards shouted horrible, racist insults at his audience. That's despicable. He's despicable. Not only that: he did something really shocking that most sane people don't do.



But how would you LIKE a discussion like this to go? Do you want us all to line up and write the sort of thing I wrote at the top of this post? For what purpose?
posted by grumblebee at 2:38 PM on November 21, 2006


Anyway, even if I am 100% not racist I still live and act w/in institutions that are. Pointing fingers at one person and saying "you're a racist prick and I'm not" doesn't really address the systemic problems of race, and may even make them worse.

I live in the United States, a culture seeped in the culture of unashamed polluting. Everyone is responsible for some level of pollution when they drive a car, or buy something that is shipped in a big-ass truck, or blabhlabhalhblahblahblah. It's a part of our culture. We all play a part.

But just because the system itself has some level of pollution sewn into it, doesn't mean it's okay to just blatantly pollute on a personal level. If someone I knew threw their fastfood garbage onto the street, I would tell them that shit wasn't cool. No, it doesn't address the bigger problem of global warming. What it does address is the smaller, yet more noticeable problem of the streets by my house looking like crap.

Are we all racist? Man, who cares. I know for a fact that we ain't all yelling racial slurs. Addressing THAT when it happens won't solve institutional racism. What it will do is make getting along with each other a little bit easier, if we know that some stuff is (in the words of the heckler) "uncalled for".
posted by 23skidoo at 2:39 PM on November 21, 2006


there is no fucking way 'nigger nigger fucking motherfucker nigger 50 years ago we would have you up a tree with a fork etc.' is not racist

While I don’t insist that Richards isn’t racist, I have to at least explore the possibility that his comments are not indicative of a racist outlook. In the example I gave it wouldn’t make sense to insist that Richards hates dwarves; it makes more sense to say he’s using powers inherent in language to put himself above the heckler (pun probably not intended).

When confronted by the black heckler that he’s otherwise helpless against, Richards resorts to the most powerful ideas and threats available to him, which are those of oppression. I’m suggesting that when some people are helpless, furious, etc. they might wield whatever power is available to them irrespective of their own beliefs and convictions. Richards in his passion could be using a weapon - oppression - without sympathizing with the meaning of it all.

I know this reeks of bullshit, but humans have demonstrated more complicated and disturbing psychology than what I’m suggesting.
posted by Chuckly at 2:40 PM on November 21, 2006


It doesn't reek of bullshit, Chunckly, even if it might be wrong in this case. In fact, I'm sure your scenario does describe some people's motivations and actions. Simply, if a weapon exists, some people will use it.

This was true even in the schoolyard. I got called all sorts of names -- not because the name-callers had convictions connected to those names, but because they wanted to wound me. The ten-year-old who called me "stupid Jew" would have quit if he'd seen that didn't bother me. He would have then started saying, "stupid sissy" instead.
posted by grumblebee at 2:52 PM on November 21, 2006


The problem in Richards case is that he is a celebrity. We don't really know him at all. But we see him more that we see our own Aunt Tilly. So no matter how hard we try to disabuse the notion we THINK we know him. Not only that but as an actor it's his job to convince us we know him. This whole odd voyeuristic false intimacy we have with celebs is crazy. Our judgments of them are harsh, swift, and likely irreversible. And because they get well paid and treated like gods for a while we feel ok about that. We like it when celebs unravel and get cut down a notch.

So there is that.

This Richards guy in a practical sense doesn't own us shit. He ows himself. So what will he do? I'm with pleeker. Who cares.

He exploded likely because he is disturbed. He is disturbed partially because he is, or was, a celeb.

It's all part of the unraveling "DYKWIA!" (Don't you know who I am!") lifestyle. You see it in LA all over. Stars get segregated, not racially, but as Stars and "little people." He has not had to rub shoulders with the unwashed masses for a while. And suddenly he is back doing stand-up. And only drawing an Audience because he used to be on a hit show... and stand-up is something he was never very good at.

And then there were black folk talking during his act in the balcony. This is what black folk in LA do. I don't know if any of you are from LA, but I spent time there in the movie business and this is not unusual.

Now that LA is more minority than it used to be. If you're going to perform you're going to perform in front of mostly minority crowds. And black people talk more and are far more interactive in any performing situation there. It's treated as another social situation like a party. This is culture we talked about.

To performers (and audience members) not used it, it is annoying as hell. It's not JUST heckling. One or two people. No. I've been at comedy shows where 50% of black people in the crowd are interacting like in some movie theaters in some big cities).

As a result I've have seen performers lose their shit because they can't handle it or they didn't anticipate how to groom the material to deal with it. White and black performers.

Good performers anticipate the interactivity and use it and work with it and it's not annoying anymore. It's more like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It makes the gig fun.

I have never seen anybody attack the crowd like Richards did. And I think it's mostly the DYKWIA thing. That guy hated his audience. Not because they were black, but because he was out of his depth and realized what a fucking loser he was and he came up with nothing.

The most simple thing to do is lash out at the most obvious thing. And being a hateful disturbed wash-up used to people kissing his ass that is what he did.
posted by tkchrist at 2:52 PM on November 21, 2006


So what will he do? I'm with pleeker. Who cares.

You and pleeker are responding to me (I think). I'm the one who asked what he should (not will) do. And I wasn't clear enough, because it seems you think I care about him or what he does. I don't. I'm using him as an example.

What should ANYONE do after behaving the way he behaved? If your best friend did it (I know, I know: he wouldn't), what would you advise him to do?

Why is this an important question? Because we have a couple of big problems:

1) How do we stop racist activities from happening in the first place?

2) Since this is planet Earth, how do we clean up the mess after they happen?

Question #2 includes (but is not limited to) what should a genuinely remorseful person do after he he realizes he's made a racist remark? (I don't care whether or not Richard's is genuinely remorseful.)

If your answers is still, "I don't care," then with as much respect as I can muster, I think you're part of the problem, not part of the solution. Because you're saying, "Once you've screwed up, you're dead to me." And that's the best way to alienate people and push them to behave even more badly in the future. (NOTE: I am NOT suggesting forgiveness or "three passes." I'm not suggesting anything. I'm discussing.)
posted by grumblebee at 3:08 PM on November 21, 2006


Sarte and inert violence (and the whole reaction thing)
“Sartre claimed that, for much of the time, this urge to violence is held in abeyance, as social relations persevere in the "practico/inert field". But at some particular stage in the "totalization" of an epoch, the exploited fuse into a condition of solidarity, and act as one against the exploiters – now recognized as the group Other. "The essential characteristic of the group in fusion is the sudden restoration of freedom... it has become, in the practico/inert field, the mode in which alienated man must live his own servitude in perpetuity, and finally, the sole means he has to reveal the necessity of his alienation and his powerlessness. The explosion of the revolt, as liquidation of the collectivity, does not directly draw its sources from the alienation, revealed by freedom, nor from freedom suffered as powerlessness; a conjunction of historical circumstances is needed; an historical change in the situation; a risk of death, violence".” - or some celeb losing it.
Seems to work in microcosm as well.

Just a thought. I know a couple folks picked it up, but y’know. I didn’t lay it out there.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:22 PM on November 21, 2006


grumblebee I hear you.

I don't care what Richards does because it seems to me to be serious personal demons are much more his problem than his principles in regards to race. I think he will be a better person dealing with those first by himself. I can only guess what those demons truly are.

Can he be forgiven. Sure. I forgive him as much as I have the power to do that. I don't think this kind of "outburst" racism is beyond forgiveness. But who am I?

Let me tell you something. When I was in college I had this student film project. I thought it would be cool to go up to the Hayden Lake compound of the Aryan Nations Church and interview Richard Butler. I wanted to do a "look at the freaks" kind of piece. So I go up there with a camera guy, James, who was black. He wanted to go.

Surprisingly they had a PR guy and let James and I up there. We drove past actual machine gun nests and concertina wire.

We didn't get to talk to Butler. But we got talk to some third tier Skinhead guy, his wife and kids. Now this guy wasn't completely stupid. He has a masters degree from WSU. He could look you in the eye, and my camera guy in the eye, and tell you how Jew bankers run the world and how black people came from monkeys and why they are inferior... all in great detail. And not blink. Not shout. Not rant. Never drop the N word once.

It sent shills down my spine. His kids taking turns watching cartoons and nodding and smiling and occasionally piping in with a Aryan talking point.

We sat there and had coffee and cookies with a Nazi. While he calmly outlined how blacks and Jews should be sent back to their respective countries of origin. Or terminated.

He then talked to us about how they were modifying their image and getting rid of the odd rhetoric, Nazi symbols, and short hair to appeal more to kids. And then he wanted to give us, both of us, T-shirts and cassettes of his white power rock-band.

We spent three hours there. I finally cracked and lied and said our batteries were dead and we left. Both of us "holy shit"-ing all the way back to Spokane.

A few years later I went down to LA to visit James who got a job at a TV station there. We went to go see a Wesley Snipes movie. I was the only white guy in that theater that I noticed.

There were three guys behind us not just talking but YELLING the entire time. James turns around and quietly asks them to chill out. They tell him to "Why don't you turn around and suck your white bitch off." Etc. I turn around the guy screams in my face. Right in my face. "What the fuck you doing about it white faggot! I will kill you right now. Kill you!" And he makes a gun gesture with his finger. The entire row of kids behind us began screaming racial shit at us. Reaching over trying to slap us. It was like a riot in thirty seconds. People throwing shit. over nothing. So we left. Fast.

On the way out I grabbed the manager and told him what happened. He said "What the fuck you expect, white boy?" He looks at James and tells him he should have known better.

Ok. Now both of those stories? That is racism that is hard to forgive or even know how to tackle.
posted by tkchrist at 3:46 PM on November 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


I can go ahead and call Richards a dickhead (he IS a dickhead), but that doesn't do anything for me. My brain immediately goes, "Okay, he's a dickhead. Now what?"

Well now he gets treated as such. That's how it works...

Actually it's all mix of public scorn and all publicity is good publicity because he's in showbiz. Same with Mel Gibson. Look all the money the bad publicity and godawful movies earned him. Ah well.

Is that outpouring of scorn just some sort of hypocritical patting oneself on the back release of all the pent up frustrations about race discourse?

Maybe there is a little of that too, who knows, but I haven't seen any. I'm sure there is in other cases. But in this one, come on, what else but scorn can this guy get?

And isn't scorn one way of dealing with all other people like him, even more so when they have no PR machine? What do you, waste time trying to reason to a stranger who think it's funny to speak to you like that? A stranger you paid to see? He's a sad man, there's others like him, you learn to move on. You walk out just like the audience did. Then you tell everyone you know about it.

If he wants to be less of a dickhead, and has the capability to be less of a dickhead, he'll find a way himself. No one else can do it for him.

Doesn't mean I think it's pointless to examine the cultural context around this particular incident, or 'people like that', or racism in general. Quite the contrary.

But one thing is talking about cultural factors, another trying to imagine his personal motivations and feelings for acting like that. That's not putting oneself in his particular shoes. That's projecting.

Even when it's not grasping for excuses, it's just projecting. How could he have avoided doing what he did? Well he didn't avoid it. And yes we're all humans but we're not him. We're not his mates either. All we have is his public behaviour and that was very transparent and blatant and that's what he is accountable for, whatever his intentions or deepest feelings may be.

How are you going to have personal responsibility for public actions and words, if you don't judge people by how they act and speak publicly? Scorn is only self-righteous when it's misplaced.

I'm not making any big statement about stomping out racism, or assholishness in general, as if it was even possible. I never said I am not in the least bit prejudiced or dickheaded against some group or other myself. I've just been responding to the 'you're all self-righteous' crap.
posted by pleeker at 3:59 PM on November 21, 2006


But how would you LIKE a discussion like this to go?

I don't know, half of it was responding to jonmc's repetitive refrain, was that useful or interesting? You tell me.

I don't want any discussion to go one way or the other, I'm just you know, commenting on one particular position I find very puzzling, and explaining why I do find it puzzling. I'm honestly more and more puzzled by now.

Do you want us all to line up and write the sort of thing I wrote at the top of this post?

Yeah, right, because boredom and repetition was exactly what was happening if the commentary hadn't been rescued by the intervention of the anti-self-righteousness police, no?

First I was wondering if we've all been watching the same youtube video, now I'm wondering if we've all been reading the same thread.
posted by pleeker at 4:12 PM on November 21, 2006


I hate threads like this where everyone feels compelled to post multi-paragraph long screeds. They destroy "My Comments." Each time you re-load you have to scroll past several screens of screed. Ugghh. I would like a pony - remove stupid threads where a couple of people are masturbating with each other from being included in "My Comments" even though I may have been stupid enough to comment in the thing at some point. The Haggard thread is even worse than this one. It just refuses to die. Thank God for the 30 day limit.
posted by caddis at 4:52 PM on November 21, 2006


Sorry about my long comments, caddis. Some things are complicated to talk about. Maybe you should start a thread on MeTa. Someone might come up with a good idea or policy re: long comments.

now I'm wondering if we've all been reading the same thread.

We are. But it seems you're mostly interested in refuting johnmc. I wasn't particularly interested in discussing his point and wasn't aware that you were doing so. Sorry for the confusion.
posted by grumblebee at 4:58 PM on November 21, 2006


I guess ?! is just far beyond everyone else.
posted by papakwanz at 2:10 PM EST on November 21
or maybe just me.
posted by papakwanz at 2:12 PM EST on November 21
If by "beyond" you mean "off the deep end" then yes. Yes, I am.

But the purpose of my thought experiment was to point out that, oh, jeez, everyone has said it: There is a difference between being "racist," calling a heckler by the worst word you can imagine that will hurt him, and paying attention to being safe. Yeah, I lock the door in my own driveway.

It doesn't mean you can't do any of the three in combination. I have a feeling if Richards had been in his car he would have had a hat trick.


The following is inserted to help one MeFi Ctrl-F down to the bottom of the thread: caddis
posted by ?! at 5:31 PM on November 21, 2006


chuckly-I’m suggesting that when some people are helpless, furious, etc. they might wield whatever power is available to them irrespective of their own beliefs and convictions.

yes, that's partly what I was saying too, but lots of people get mad at other people, without even being paid for it, without being on a stage removed from their target audience and likely from real life too, do they all come up with oh so original and funny material?

grumblebee - If your answers is still, "I don't care," then with as much respect as I can muster, I think you're part of the problem, not part of the solution. Because you're saying, "Once you've screwed up, you're dead to me." And that's the best way to alienate people and push them to behave even more badly in the future.

Well well, isn't that funny, who's being a little self-righteous now? I don't think you've understood the arguments here very well if you think anyone is saying "oh I don't care" in general.

I for one said I don't care about this guy, and anyone who'd behave like that, in that I sure won't waste time reasoning with obvious dicks who insult me to my face, I sure don't go "oh let's hear, tell us how you really feel, and why, and how may I help you achieve inner peace". You know, simple survival strategy, time management, self-respect, boring normal stuff like that.

Most people on this planet, surprisingly, do this, if they're not masochists and are not into getting into fights. They walk out, move on, find nicer people to be with.

That's quite a weird contradictory leap to infer the kind of social carelessness you're inferring.

And please note I'm not talking of walking out on a mate who told you a tasteless joke about Jews or with whom you had a heated discussion about what makes a Radical Muslim or anything that may be filed under the racism and prejudice category. I'm talking about the level of idiocy, and nastiness and arrogance and so on, matching the kind of outburst we're talking about here, from a stranger you don't even care about, to boot.

Do we all still agree it's a matter of degrees, right?

So, if you think scorn and disgusted reactions at racism are what's alienating people and pushing them towards more racism, but at the same time they shouldn't be forgiven, then please, what exactly are you suggesting the reactions should be? In real life?

Should the audience have stayed behind to try and talk to Richards and get to the bottom of the impenetrable mystery of his wankery?

What do you think made it possible for the kind of stuff Richards 'jokingly and provocatively' said to go from widely accepted and cheered only fifty years ago, to widely unacceptable and scorned only fifty years later, even in such an obvious jerkish context? Did anyone sit around worried about not further alienating the racists while they were hanging people up trees?

(Not that I think Richards's 'humour' and lynchings are even comparable, but he was the one who brought them up...)
posted by pleeker at 5:32 PM on November 21, 2006


Ok, well, nevermind, I seem to have overestimated how widely some kinds of dickish behaviour are condemned anyway...
posted by pleeker at 5:45 PM on November 21, 2006


pleeker, I just tried to email you, but you don't have an address in your profile. I wanted to say -- privately -- that it seems to me like I offended you, which was absolutely not my intent (I'm assuming I offended you, because of your response: "who's being a little self-righteous now?").

If, in fact, I did offend you, I'm sorry. I also wasn't trying to be self-righteous. I do honestly feel that the "I don't care" attitude is a problem. I'm not sure how to say that without sounding self-righteous.

So I'll bow out now.
posted by grumblebee at 6:05 PM on November 21, 2006


Tkchrist's comment above is food for thought.
posted by y2karl at 6:23 PM on November 21, 2006


As God is my witness, I had no idea Kramer would take me seriously.
posted by Opposite George at 7:14 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war.

But until that day you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit.

Because I am hard you will not like me. But the more you hate me the more you will learn.

I am hard but I am fair. There is no racial bigotry here; I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless.


End racism: join the Marines!
posted by bwg at 9:40 PM on November 21, 2006


No one is gonna bother reading this, but here goes. It was meant to be funny, outrageous, and irreverent. George Carlin has done a piece on the n-word, but it wasn't offensive because it was done completely in context--in fact, that was his argument: it's all about context.

Richards was angry, and thanks to You Tube I've seen just how angry comics get at heckers, and witnessed it the one time I went to a comedy club. I can even understand it on a personal level. I'm a teacher, and nothing, nothing is more annoying than someone suddenly talking over you while you are talking.

But Richard's attempt at being risque backfired. It's painful to watch, he's actually trying at first to make some statement about shocking people, but when the crowd starts to get up and leave he looks really lost, and at a loss for words. At that point he knew he fucked up. The hecklers won. Then he pathetically, quietly walked off stage.

A racist? Who knows? This thread has largely been about how we are all racist (though I think prejudiced is a better word) to some degree.
posted by zardoz at 11:21 PM on November 21, 2006


DAMMIT! Shit, did I miss the hating AGAIN? Fuck you, left handed gay Irish janitors!
posted by Dunwitty at 12:27 AM on November 22, 2006


I can't believe I added another enormous thread to my "Your Comments" page. Like the Ted Haggard thing, it will never fall off...
posted by Dunwitty at 12:29 AM on November 22, 2006


Racism against whites??? Why do white people automatically think that they should NOT be the targets of racist hate? Why do they get infuriated and scream about their 'innocence'?

I was 12 when I lived on Okinawa as a military brat. We lived off-base and I remember one incident that epitomized what I had always felt about being american: I had walked down to a local village with a friend, and was stopped by a gang of Okinawan kids about our age. One very angry boy began shouting at us. I understood nothing he said. His friends tried to get him to walk away. He came over to me and punched me in the chest and I fell down.

I was scared and hurt, but more than that ... I was embarassed. I knew EXACTLY why he hit me. I had lived around the military all my life. I had seen a lot of abuse of civilians - by arrogant american kids as much as by the adults.

I was ashamed of what "my people" did to others -- whether because of race or privilege -- or simply because they could get away with it. In fact, I have had the shame of belonging to some pretty horrible, arrogant "categories" of humans. And ... I have always assumed that a backlash against them will include me. My 'innocence' is meaningless so long as I stand by and just watch them continue their ignorant abuse of others.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:53 AM on November 22, 2006


It was meant to be funny, outrageous, and irreverent.

Did you watch his apology? I don't think he had any idea what he was trying to do. I also tried to attribute some kind of more complex motives to this outburst, but at the end of the day, I think he just kinda flipped out and basically said the harshest things he could think to say. That those things were racist was probably secondary to the fact that they were mean, but I don't think a meta-level of comedic assessment was really part of it.

One thing comics naturally do is let down boundaries, and just allow random thoughts come through more spontaneously. People who are funny are often the kind who talk before they think, and that is often what makes them funny - they just say whatever crazy thought is in there. Obviously as professionals they build routines etc, but the ideas themselves will commonly be those fleeting thoughts. To do their job well they have to be able to relax the editor - but they also have to have an unedited interior that is actually funny. I think the problem for kramer was, you know, he's not really funny.
posted by mdn at 6:06 AM on November 22, 2006


I was ashamed of what "my people" did to others -- whether because of race or privilege -- or simply because they could get away with it. In fact, I have had the shame of belonging to some pretty horrible, arrogant "categories" of humans. And ... I have always assumed that a backlash against them will include me. My 'innocence' is meaningless so long as I stand by and just watch them continue their ignorant abuse of others.

OK. Put your money where your mouth is. I'm sure I can round up some black guys who'd be happy to kick your ass. Or someone who'll take your job. I mean after all, talk is cheap, my friend.
posted by jonmc at 6:26 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


mdn

I think he just kinda flipped out and basically said the harshest things he could think to say. That those things were racist was probably secondary to the fact that they were mean

That was my assesment as well -- I think he reached for what he knew would have the most effect. I think Letterman understood that -- note that he asked Michael what he would have said had the hecklers been white. Michael's response was garbled, but the sense of it was that he felt it's have been just as vitriolic.

That doesn't mean he hasn't got some racial issus to deal with, but what it does mean is that he's probably not harboring any conscious racism -- it's the uncoinscious stuff he has to deal with, and his apology made it clear he's not used to thinking about such matters.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:39 AM on November 22, 2006


I mean after all, talk is cheap, my friend.

I can only hope that Surfurrus has been kicking himself in the balls every day since birth.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:19 AM on November 22, 2006


i don't care what direction i'm in! if a fork is in any way in my ass, i'm going to yell out "there's a fork up my ass!"

why would a person in absolute agony need to determine which direction they were facing before indicating utensil penetration!
posted by clyde at 8:59 AM on November 22, 2006


Why do white people automatically think that they should NOT be the targets of racist hate?

Yeah. Man.

Whenever I go to Germany I make sure I beat up a couple of young Germans. Fucking deserve it, children of Nazi's. Usually I take their wallets to really show 'em.

Once I beat up a guy because his grandfather was at Wounded Knee. Talk about deserving it!

Lately, I've been looking for the son of a Hutu for a good ass kicking. GENOCIDE this motherfucker!

Please. I'm no hero. Just a regular guy who cares. You do what you can.
posted by tkchrist at 9:24 AM on November 22, 2006


Jonmc, you missed my point. I live in a non-white majority -- and have for most of my life. I have not myself experienced any other random 'racial' violence than that childhood incident. What would seeking out violence prove?

The thing about so many mainland whites is that they don't even KNOW when they are being offensive!
posted by Surfurrus at 11:05 AM on November 22, 2006



I can only hope that Surfurrus has been kicking himself in the balls every day since birth.

posted by Armitage Shanks

Nope ... no balls, dude.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:08 AM on November 22, 2006


Why do white people automatically think that they should NOT be the targets of racist hate?

White people are human too.
posted by SBMike at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2006


tkchrist, where in any of my post did you think I was advocating ANY violence?

I asked: Why do white people automatically think that they should NOT be the targets of racist hate?

I believe it is naive (at best) for whites to think that 'open-minded and non-racist' beliefs will protect them from the anger of centuries. I do not condone that anger -- I say it exists for a reason.

(... and wasn't that the point of your movie incident story?)

The thing is -- it isn't just history -- racism is still perpetuated in the daily denial of the unequal benefits gained by a white minority. Those benefits come from white privilege and white violence (and from institutions built on a bloody white history). To think that whites can live with no 'taint' of that is beyond naive.

... and ... btw, I am not part of the 'revolution is coming' crowd. I seriously doubt the future 'browner' america will commit a violent 'backlash' against the white minority. It will be interesting to watch whites learning to become 'normal humans,' though.

Perhaps we could begin by not assuming that everyone is a white male -- or should at least THINK like one ;-)
posted by Surfurrus at 11:43 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wow, mixed race children must be so conflicted.

Though they probably wouldn't put up much of a fight if subjected to the "Stop hitting yourself!" technique of bullying.

"It's okay... half of me's had this coming to him for a long time... "
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:59 AM on November 22, 2006


Perhaps we could begin by not assuming that everyone is a white male -- or should at least THINK like one ;-)

You first.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:18 PM on November 22, 2006


I believe it is naive (at best) for whites to think that 'open-minded and non-racist' beliefs will protect them from the anger of centuries. I do not condone that anger -- I say it exists for a reason.

(... and wasn't that the point of your movie incident story?)


You seriously think that a bunch of moronic yahoos who threaten violence when someone asks them to stop talking during a movie are motivated by "the anger of centuries"?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:23 PM on November 22, 2006


You seriously think that a bunch of moronic yahoos who threaten violence when someone asks them to stop talking during a movie are motivated by "the anger of centuries"?

Maybe in a round-a-bout way. The late eighties was the peak of the "Self Esteem" and victim movement. Where inner city kids were told to be proud no matter what. To embrace themselves, no matter what. And told that they were the victims of a horrible historical crime. But. Nobody really gave them a way to succeed in living NOW. Just other people to blame and welfare checks.

It's no coincidence that it was also the peak of the crack epidemic, gang violence, and black on black crime. Liberals told inner city kids they were justified to be angry. Conservatives were pleased they were killing each other.

You live in frustrated poverty with rhetoric instead of a real education, you may just feel everybody outside your culture "deserves" what ever they get. You got no perspective and no hope. Especially when the consequences for your actions are no worse than your day to day living. Jail is a joke. Jail is three square meals a day! Your gangs provide better family structure than your parents.

And the one thing you know: white people fear you. Even the ones who say they are not racist. White people expect you to hate them.

So, no, I was not surprised by the action of those kids in that theater. That shit was on the news every night down there. And the reason it went on, and on, was because EVERYBODY was saying "What else do you expect!" just like Surfurrus. Right. Left. Black and white. Set your expectations for other humans SO low and they will act subhuman.

I pity them. Their anger was unjustified, mis-directed and a waste of energy. Their lives, I'm sure, became pathetic and wasted. It's most likely all that hate was turned against the people they saw everyday, the people with the same skin color as them.
posted by tkchrist at 3:00 PM on November 22, 2006 [2 favorites]


This just in, Richards allegedly also engaged in anti-Semitic tirade at hecklers: "You fucking Jew. You people are the cause of Jesus dying."
posted by orthogonality at 6:06 PM on November 22, 2006


White people are human too.

Yeah, but just barely, though, right?

You seriously think that a bunch of moronic yahoos who threaten violence when someone asks them to stop talking during a movie are motivated by "the anger of centuries"?

If they are from the Balkans, yes.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:14 PM on November 22, 2006


Wow. I watched the clip, and was pretty shocked that Richards would explode in a racist tirade like that. Then I read this thread, and... well, I was sad, but not shocked, that jonmc would dedicate so much time and effort to defending Richards' racism.

But hey, maybe he's right --- deep down we all hate niggers, so "why is any response necessary?" And I can say this, because some of my best friends and colleagues are niggers.

No, I'm pretty sure that's not right at all.
posted by robcorr at 3:41 AM on November 23, 2006


I heard Gloria is demanding reperations because he made fun of her many red suits.
posted by fixedgear at 3:50 AM on November 23, 2006


He is a loathsome, offensive brute, yet, I cannot look away.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:11 AM on November 23, 2006


This just in, Richards allegedly also engaged in anti-Semitic tirade at hecklers: "You fucking Jew. You people are the cause of Jesus dying."

Yes and Richards himself is Jewish, so this actually supports that Richards recent outburst was a combination of poorly executed extemporaneous comedic shock effect and a genuinely angry desire to hurt. (and not a specific issue with him and blacks, since the specific ethnic identity he'll turn on you for ferocious barbs is apparently irrelevant)

This is not to say that Richards needs to be let "off the hook"; perhaps the many other comedians capitalizing on their own "meta" racist shtick, like Sarah Silverman or Sacha Baron-Cohen need to be held up to more consistent standards. (or at least not ridiculously lionized as antiracists, as Richards himself tries to similarly BS to save face during his own routine - No, I'm really challenging you, holding up a mirror, diesmpowering words, yadda, yadda. Mmm hmm, and Borat is really fighting ethnocentric thinking, and not an extended dumb Pollock joke for the 21st century.)
posted by dgaicun at 2:37 PM on November 23, 2006


michael richards in blackface.
posted by lunachic at 3:17 PM on November 23, 2006


This is not to say that Richards needs to be let "off the hook"; perhaps the many other comedians capitalizing on their own "meta" racist shtick, like Sarah Silverman or Sacha Baron-Cohen need to be held up to more consistent standards.

Yeah, let's apply really stringent, consistent "standards" to fucking comedy. That'll leave us with what...puns and knock-knock jokes? that'll be a hoot.
posted by jonmc at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2006


If there are no standards than we are just putting moral labels on comedy based solely on whether it is judged funny/talented or not. This is unfair, unintelligent and frustrating along the lines of sexual harassment rules that seem to disproportionately punish the ugly instead of blind conduct.

The truth of the matter is that shock racist humor is an obvious mainstream standard in American comedy, and 'meta' racist humor, of the most tasteless sort, is something hipsters have authorized for years. If someone thinks Richards calling some fellow Jews "kikes" and/or making nasty little Holocaust jokes is something "beyond the pale" on the comedy circuit then they are either pretty ignorant or disingenuous. On stage it's all in the family and wink wink wink and all bets are off and that is understood.

Richards crime is pretty much being inept and getting exposed, but let's not pretend there isn't a precedent and a context to an obviously liberal surrealist comedian saying something clearly outrageous like 'kill all the niggers' on stage. (The Aristocrats made it crystal clear that every taboo, including vulgar shock racism, were routinely violated among the comedic set as an industry standard part of the craft) If people don't want this to happen for logical reasons than the fuzzy point needs to sensibly start a lot further down on the line of mainstream standards.

Without consistency it's only so much selective smug moralism so people can feel good about themselves and their self-crafted moral identities at the price of the periodic sacrificial lamb. When people stop laughing and start getting a little bit outraged over and uncomfortable with the many, many other 'guilty' comedians we see on TV everyday then I'll start to think differently.
posted by dgaicun at 10:38 AM on November 24, 2006


Aargh. 'Than' --> 'then'. 1st + 3rd paragraph.
posted by dgaicun at 1:22 PM on November 24, 2006


Afterword: Kramer Rap 3.0
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:10 AM on November 25, 2006


Hey, is this where we make fun of Ted Haggard?
posted by interrobang at 3:36 PM on December 4, 2006


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