By now I'm sure you've heard the news, but thanks to TMZ, a video of Michael Richards (better known as Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld) going on a racist diatribe against an audience member during a comedy routine has surfaced and is creating quite the controversy.
It was during a comedy routine at the Laugh Factory where Richards was apparently being heckled by a black man in the audience and Richards lost control. He says "50 years ago we'd have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass!". Obviously referring to decades ago when it was common for black people to be lynched by mobs of whites.
He then calls the man a nigger over and over again and says "This is what happens when you interrupt a white man" when the man says his comments were uncalled for. His rep said the comments were taken out of context when the news first broke, but then the video was put up on the internet and made the context quite clear.
Jerry Seinfeld, his co-star from the mega-hit sitcom quickly stated that he is "sick over this". Additionally he said "I'm sure Michael is also sick over this horrible, horrible mistake. It is so extremely offensive. I feel terrible for all the people who have been hurt."
Richards then quickly scheduled himself to appear on Letterman last night (most likely because Jerry Seinfeld was appearing the same night to promote the Seinfeld Season 7 DVD which releases today) to apologize for the unfortunate incident. His apology, for anyone who's seen it, is laughable. First of all he starts off by calling the hecklers "Afro-Americans". Then he randomly brings up Hurricane Katrina which had me scratching my head and rolling on the floor laughing all at the same time.
I feel sorry for Jerry Seinfeld who had to insert himself into the controversy to keep the DVD sales from tanking, as it seems Richards chose the exact wrong time to decide to showcase his bigotry.
His career was already down the drain, and now he's reached the very bottom of it. The Laugh Factory has banned him from ever performing there again, and aside from the nearest KKK meeting, I can't think of any other venue that would allow him to perform either.
The saddest part of the entire thing, though not too shocking, is how many people are actually defending him. Aside from the hundreds of comments on the videos I’ve seen of people saying “Serves those niggers right,” “I love him even more now. Niggers should die,” and “He’s my hero! Hang ’em all!” there are a lot of people saying this is no big deal. Black people say “nigger” all the time, and black comics like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle make race jokes, so why isn’t it okay for Michael Richards?
Then there are others who are outraged that people aren’t making as big a deal out of the black patron calling Richards a “cracker” as they are about Michael using the word “nigger.” First off, I think it’s ridiculous that those who think it’s okay to use the “n” word simply because a few choice blacks choose to for whatever reason are holding all black people accountable for the actions of some. I don’t use the “n” word, don’t know anyone that does, and I don’t think anyone should – especially when it’s being directed at someone. The same goes for any other racial slurs (cracker, wetback, spic, etc).
With that said, the word “cracker” is not equivalent to “nigger.” There’s a different emotional weight that the n-word carries that makes cracker competely out of its league. When is the last time a white person has had to be scared someone was going to string them up from a tree and burn their flesh simply because they have white skin? When were white people in shackles being whipped by their master as they yelled “cracker” over and over again at them?
Racial slurs are something I think shouldn’t be used at all, but to say cracker is equal to the n-word is just ludicrous. Culturally, the n-word is obviously more offensive because we’ve become politically correct. But there’s a certain hate and fear that the n-word brings to a black person that a white person never has and never will experience with or without the use of the word cracker.
Am I saying it was okay for the man to yell “cracker” back at Michael? No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Had I been in that situation I would’ve simply walked out feeling very shaken up. It seems for this particular man, he was hurt and embarassed by having the word thrown at him in an intimate public setting, and was trying to retaliate to “save face” – for his pride.
It’s sad yet predictable though, that people would jump to attacking the man who was attacked, rather than the professional stand-up comic who just humiliated a group of people during a performance they paid to come see. It’s relatively understandable that after having those words yelled at you, you’d naturally want to say something back. I would’ve possibly chosen a different approach, but I can understand why this one was chosen.Powered by Sidelines