Lynching, Forks and Michael Richards

Ack. So even when I’m vacation I can’t stay away from the drama. I had just been thrown off kilter, reeling from the whole Pluto scandal– (I mean, how you gonna just toss Pluto out when its been a planet for a zillion years? and what do the Plutonians have to say about this? and who is this theythat gets to decide when my 2nd fav planet is not qualified?)

and BAM! dammit, more race stuff?

By now I”m sure that all of you have heard that Michael Richards aka “Kramer” on Seinfeld had a meltdown on stage while doing stand-up in West Hollywood a few days ago. Here are some links to his meltdown and the obligatory “apology” he attempted on Letterman Monday night.

(sigh) 

A couple comments from me here – and hopefully I’ll have more time later.

– Its interesting that Jerryei is on the show with him. Why was it necessary for him to have backup that ‘everyone likes’?

For me, the sentiments are not surprising, and what I mean by that is that I am never surprised when white folks ‘show they ass’ and reveal hidden racist feelings. I think this video is a perfect illustration of how deeply painful the ‘n-word’ is for black folks. And how no matter what the rationalization – white folks and many people of color who aren’t of African descent – never need to say it. This incident also illustrates how deeply racist ideology goes. What made Richards think that he could get up on stage and say any shit like that? Does he feel like the line that many comics walk is a line that makes them impenetrable to critique?

What was up with the line about lynching? WTF was up with the line about lynching? WTF? WTF? Are you kidding me? How dare he?

The wack ass apology. Did anyone actually buy that? and.. “Afro-Americans”? huh? Did he even get any coaching before he went on screen?

I am not angry or disapointed or any of that, what I am is disgusted.

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14 thoughts on “Lynching, Forks and Michael Richards

  1. I was physically sick when I read that in the paper. I can’t even think about following your links to see more. I used to like him – his character on Seinfelf anyway. I am really horrified that he said that. How dare he. I can’t bear to watch him anymore. It is frightening and shocking to think that language and thinking is just below the surface for some people. Ugh.

  2. Unfortunately I saw the tape and that made me even more appalled than if I had read it. It’s just in the way his whole body language and his attitude was…it just all looked and sounded so bad, especially the “hanging from a tree with a fork up…” thing. That was disturbing.

  3. His “apology” was the worst apology I’ve heard in a long time. “I’m not a racist.” Uh huh. Suuuure, nobody’s a racist. Circumstances beyond his control just conspired to make racist statements materialize out of thin air and repeatedly come out of his mouth.

    If it talks like a racist and walks like a racist …

  4. I had the same reaction as Andrea to the lynching comment. It was seriously less about him using the Nword and more about how powerfully hateful it was to endure him basically threatening a black man with violence. Lynching has such a horrific legacy, as a terrorist tactic against black bodies trying to create space to live recognized as humans.

    I’m in a strange place of fear when people begin to think that this incident was ‘just blown out of proportion’. Did you know that Richards has been in contact with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? ..tha hell? why? what about this smacks of dirty dealings, back room conversations that argue everyone will forget soon. I’m not forgettin shit.

  5. Me either. It’s really, really disgusting. But I have always hated that guy (AND Seinfeld) and never really knew why. Maybe it was just there under the surface all along. Did you see the link on Racialicious about Michael Richards in blackface, from one of his earlier films? This is nothing new.

    And WHO said it was blown out of proportion? Racists.

  6. I learnt about the incident and was apalled at the outburst – screened to my horror! I also saw the entire 6 minute apology and did not see where ‘Kramer’ apologised and on The Letterman Show?, The audience all thought it was a gag.

  7. The thing that amazes me the most about the public reaction to this is how indifferent everyone seems to the lynching reference.

    I’ve actually decided to make lynching the subject of the next four weeks worth of Race Changers “assignments.” It was upsetting as hell doing the research for this, but I think people need to realize the enormity of lynching, and how deeply engrained it is in American culture.

    Check out the first “assignment” here:
    http://www.racechangers.com/2006/11/27/assignment-8-understanding-the-history-of-lynching/
    or
    http://tinyurl.com/uqtxj

  8. I don’t know about anyone else, but I never saw a black person appear on Seinfeld. And that show was supposed to be set in New York City. What kind of New York is that anyway? Susan, if you never knew why you didn’t like Seinfeld or the Kramer character, that might be why.

  9. I am disgusted too, and scared. I didn’t think that lynching would be so close to the surface. The history of lynching is one of the most horrifying things I can think of. How it could be associated in any way with a “comedy” routine, even a disastrously unfunny one. I have heard reaction to the n-word but no mention of that other.

  10. Thoroughly disgusted here too. It makes me wonder what kind of hatred so many other people may be carrying beneath the surface, just waiting to rear it’s ugly face.

    And, the reference to lynching is just about a low as you can go. Richards is utterly repugnant.

  11. Lisa Marie – I just found your website and fell in love immediately! I’ve had a great, ongoing conversation about the madonna adoption situation and with some coworkers, and your site is a gem. I really appreciate the thoughtful, honest, intelligent approach you’re taking to a variety of issues. These are issues that have an impact on all of us in a society where racism persists in such an ugly way (as you’ve outlined in today’s post), but where – on an individual level – more and more people have various interracial relationships.

    By the way, can I add that, its interesting that people are so “outraged” by Richards’ comments, but the same mass outrage doesn’t seem to have appeared for the young man who was shot 50 times the night before his wedding, though racism (and yes, intra-race racism counts) was likely a factor.

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