| I never watched much of the old "Seinfeld" television show. Somehow, I just felt it didn't apply much to my life. However, who hadn't heard of the zany character Kramer played by Michael Richards. He was totally off the wall, almost a pure stream of unconscious thought and action. His spontaneity was what gave the show its life.
So in some ways, I'm not totally surprised when he started spewing bigoted words -- including the 'N' word at some African American hecklers at his LA comedy act. Richards purportedly questioned himself about where the words could have possibly come from. He continues to emphasize that "I am not a racist" to all the media and African Americans who will listen.
I'm not surprised because I know that Richards is a racist -- he very much might be. But perhaps the real world he grew up in and lived in is like the show "Seinfeld." "Seinfeld" is a very White show with no permanent cast members of color. Perhaps Richards lives in a segregated world very much like Seinfeld.
When you live in a segregated world, it is very easy to say that you love everyone and that everyone is equal without regard to race, class, etc. But if you live in a very segregated world, your conscious racial beliefs may never be challenged and so you are left to believe what you will.
But if you live in that segregated world, you are never challenged to see what is the beast that lies within. America is a racial-oriented society. Heck, the whole world is racially-oriented, religiously oriented, "other"-oriented where people are degraded according to some racial or religious characteristic and then are denied benefits or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally because of their "second-class" status.
Our racial class system is learned at a very early age, even when we are not yet at the age of reason. We are imbued with this notion of racial class and it is imbedded in our subconscious because we are not old enough to even understand what is being said or we absorb the actions and attitudes around us without really understanding their meaning. Hey, look at the prominent use of the "N" word by rap artists.
Richards grew up in a time of rampant overt racism as opposed to the rampant subtle racism that goes on today. I'm sure he absorbed his share of racial epitaphs before he even understood what they meant and they laid dormant like a sleeper cell in his brain all of the years. So when he was up onstage rattling of anything that came to the tip of his tongue, living on the wild side of his subconscious, I'm sure that this sleeper cells of racial slurs just came streaming out without him even knowing it. They lay there sleeping until awakened by his walk on the wild side.
So I don't sit in judgment of Richards too much. He is, after all, a product of hissociety. It could happen to Mel Gibson. It could happen to you and me.
On some levels, I guess I blame it on the conservative, anti-affirmative action environment we've been experiencing these past 20 years or so. All of the hype in the media and the talk shows talking about how prejudice is no longer and America is the land of equal opportunity has really gone to our heads.
There is a divide between media and substance. Our society has blinded itself with the image of equal opportunity and has failed to address the substance of equal opportunity. What do they say about people in power? They are in real danger when they believe their own hype.
As Katrina amply showed us, the effects of racism are still very much with us. We can not lose the remnants of racism in less than a generation simply because it is convenient and self-serving for us to believe so. It will take the hard work of generations to come to rid us of this abdominal stain on our national character.
Just look at the former Yugoslavia. After 40 years of keeping the ancient ethnic grudges under wraps due to the repressive Communist rule, it took less than a decade to descend into the madness that was Bosnia. Just look at Iraq today. After the removal of Saddam Hussein, the ancient feuds of the Sunnis and Shiites are rising to the surface and plunging that nation into civil war.
The Kramer incident should serve to remind us that we all have a ways to go. As the Peanuts cartoon strip once said, "I have seen the enemy and the enemy is us." Who among us can cast the first stone? God forgive us all.
|Vol. I No. 18 November 29, 2006|
Language immersion for all
Nuestro Mundo proves to be a multicultural learning community
The beast within
November 29, 2006
* Fessing up to slavery, the slave trade, and the financing of higher education,
by Dr. Paul Barrows
* 10th Annual Community change Makers,
From Wisconsin Community Fund
*Justice Louis Butler Jr and the Wisconsin Supreme Court: A view from the Bench (2),
by Jonathan Gramling
* Chinese Culture Day 2006,
by Heidi M. Pascual
* Politicas de Hoy: Mexico, un pais divido, dos presidentes?
por Alfonso Zepeda Capistran
* Simple Things: Belize (part 2),
by Lang Kenneth Haynes
* Voices: Al Sharpton, Speaking to and about the idea of democracy,
by Dr. Jean Daniels
* Creative Syncopations: Some accidents needn't happen,
by Ramya Kapadia
* Back to Madison's future,
by Jonathan Gramling
* Random Order: Kramer's a racist...
by Tracie Gilbert
* Propuestas de ley dirigidas a los inmigrantes indocumentados causan preocupacion,
traduccion Elda Gonzalez
* La juventud cubana en la cumbre de ballet,
compilo Elda Gonzalez
* Preschool education, AAEA style,
by Jonathan Gramling
* Singing in the holiday season,
from Madison Symphony Orchestra
* Reporting out on disparities,
by Dr. Linda Denise Oakley
* Melba Jesudason: Health care sensitivity,
by Madison Senior Center
and many more!!