By now many folks know about the anti-Black reports spewed by the American comic actor, Michael Richards, AKA Seinfeld’s Kramer. In response to being heckled at a comedy club by some Black patrons, Richards unloaded anti-Black remarks from the stage for over two minutes. One patron captured it on video. (Those pesky new fangled phones!)
Richards quickly hired a crisis management expert, and went out of his way to assert that he is no racist, even appearing on Jesse Jackson’s radio program to explain that as a child some of his best friends were black. (I am not joking). Lots of white folks have warily come to his defense, and an “discussion” has begun on the airwaves as to whether Richards is racist or just his remarks. Some promise that good will come of all this.
I have heard almost nothing about this issue from the LGBT media/bloggers and from Christian folks, (Oh, other than a piece in the Christian Post where they highlight a Black minister who blames Black culture for Richards’ ugliness. Now that is some responsible Christian reporting)
Columnist Leornard Pitts, Jr., puts cuts through the crap so well. Too often white men (straight and gay oh and women too) go out of their way to assert they are not racist, when in fact, we ARE racist. We live in a society that is racist and part of the privilege that we enjoy is that we don’t have to see it exists. That we deny we have work to do as a society is evidence that we have work to do.
But Pitts brings it beyond simply name calling to the very essence of how racism works in the US.
If so many of my white fellow Americans refuse to recognize racism when it is this blatant and unmistakable, what expectation can we have that they will do so when it is subtle and covert? In other words, when it is what it usually is.
After all, modern bigotry usually isn’t some nitwit screaming the N-word. It is jobs you don’t get and loans you don’t get and apartments you don’t get and health care you don’t get and justice you don’t get, for reasons you get all too clearly, even though no one ever quite speaks them. Or needs to. It is smiles in your face and knives in your back. And it is, yes, a sitcom – like ”Seinfeld” – that presents New York City, of all places, as a black-free zone.
These are complaints blacks have sought for years to drive home to their fellow Americans only to be met largely by indifference, the defensive apathy of those who are free to ignore or diminish any claim on conscience that makes them uncomfortable. At the risk of metaphor abuse, the response to this debacle makes clear that you can’t explain Advanced Racism to those who haven’t passed Racism 101.
The whole article is worth a read: Richards’ meltdown: If not racism, then what was it?