Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Richards' rant: racially irrevelant?

See and hear ---->Richard's Rant

Aaron on the Right

Michael Richards exploded into a racially charged hissy fit a few weeks ago after being heckled by two black male audience members who didn't think he was that funny. This decidedly pedantic meltdown was a constant source of commentary for several weeks. All I can say in response is....YAWN.

This incident was described across the media as "shocking", "disturbing" and several other hyperbolic adjectives. It was shocking that Richards lost control of his mouth in such a spectacular way. But lets be for real, is it really so shocking that he called them the "N" word? Your average black american harbors the suspicion that white people engage in lots of racially insensitive conversation when we are not around. From that point of view, Richard's rant is just what he's thinking coming to light. No surprises here.

The continual assault of coverage of this minor league meltdown grew more pathetically irrelevant by the second. First we were treated to Richard's ill thought out and clumsily delivered apology on Letterman (the obvious forum for racial reconciliation, right?), prompted by his friend Seinfeld who I'm sure out of equal measures of decency and self preservation urged Richards to get out there and say something. Then the media turns to contrarian racial thought leaders Sharpton and Jackson, who declare their respective rejection and acceptance of his apology. Sharpton rails that we must open a new dialogue on race; Jackson, always on the lookout for a new angle for racial corporate extortion, decries the lack of blackness in the primetime lineup and demands redress.

On top of all that, we were treated to the heartfelt outrage of entertainers like Monique who bitterly decried Richards racism and vows she'll never watch Sienfield again, but of course she is likely to be throwing the "N" word around in her next standup routine. And of course, huge segments of black america from the barbershop to the backyard grill will of course be slinging the "N" word back and forth in every day discourse. Paul Mooney, who's vitriolic racial comedy is built on the comedically eloquent use of the "N" word has declared he will no longer use the "N" word in his comedy anymore (I immediately worried his comedy would suffer, but I saw him on a Fox interview and in fact the guy is just plain funny).

The two brothers who were the target of Richard's name calling have lawyered up and are looking to get paid. I heard an interview with them on Fox, and one of them talked about how he felt afraid and humiliated. Get real.

The sad thing about this fake racial media circus is simply that it highlights our loss of perspective on race as a country and for black people in particular, how off base our priorities are. We'll expend prodigious amounts of emotion and outrage over Richards, but the uproar over the state of black educational achievement for example is a pale echo by comparison. Black Americans often work themselves into a frenzy about an incident like this that doesn't mean ANYTHING to their daily lives. So called African American leaders like Sharpton and Jackson are busy turning the story to their own self serving racial profiteering agendas, when they should be focusing on the most critical issues facing black americans. Richard's rant ain't on that list.
Alaine on the Left

Life & Style Magazine has broken the news that Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington has entered a treatment facility in an effort to keep his job at ABC/Touchstone and deal with the behavioral issues that have made headlines for the past couple of weeks. Washington met with leaders from GLADD earlier this week, where members apparently walked away satisfied with the actor's apology and determination to resolve his psychological issues.

Isaiah Washington needs psychological help and Michael Richards mattered for what, a collective 2 minutes. Go figure. The entire cast of Grey's Anatomy is having a collective rant about his behavioral issues, his outbursts and their scorn for his poor choices - but Seinfeld enthusiasts are hawking the latest DVD release with a pathetic "we never saw it coming." Let's be real for a moment. If we can't see the double standard here, who can. The gay power surge is surely stronger than the Black power surge - because Isaiah is trying to keep his job and play by the rules - and Michael gets to visit Jesse, Al and a few of our other favorites. If Michael Richards never worked again it would be far too soon for me.

I have to teach my daughter at age 7 the reality of our world, our society. At a time when we should just be coloring dragonflies and reading about princesses - we are having lessons about the reality of the world we live in. Her life, our life, is filtered through a deliberate and intentional decision to live in multiple societies. Every Black person that I know lives this reality. This reality means that the majority culture can say whatever they want and do whatever they want - until it hits an uncomfortable snag. Enter Michael Richards. Do I have the energy to spend countless hours harassing him for what he obviously feels about our entire culture - nope. I do, however, have enough energy to say - let the civil suit begin. If I were on the jury they would certainly get my vote. Make him pay, and pay dearly.

For decades I have watched the double standard that is America. People would like you to feel bad about the obvious ironies that come to play when money, race, being politically correct and media collide. I simply say - let the same rules apply across the board for foolishness. We live in a society where white college students host MLK parties where black face, gangsta stereotypes and depictions of stereotypical black images are tolerated. More than tolerated they are promoted openly on My Space, Facebook, You Tube... and the like. In a society that accepts anything and excuses everything, I hope the 2 men who heckled a poor performance get incredibly wealthy on the experience. Mental duress - surely they've endured it over the years, and Michael was the final straw. I simply don't care to act as if we should overlook Michael Richards because this is society. His apology is empty. Litigation is our real society too.

The dialogue within the African American community is often colorful, diverse, in-depth and intriguing. We are a diverse people and we represent a multitude of ideas. To articulate that we should just get over it and talk about more meaningful issues - assumes that we don't do that already. Is there room for growth? Of course. Should we be more active in defining our future, education, politics, economic security, wealth - that's a given. We are also entitled to express our thoughts about the trivial. We are entitled to dialogue about what can happen in the year 2006 when a fool displays that he is truly a fool.

While Isaiah has been blasted continually for his inappropriate outburst - Michael Richards has faded into the background with strategic ease. Why work hard to address your issues when you just offended - Blacks. If you offend someone with a different sexual preference however - let's stop the presses. Justice for one means justice for all. Civil rights means we should all be singing We Shall Overcome. Richards is just an ever present reminder of the double standards that exist in America, the television industry and in life in general.

I said I'd give this post about 15 minutes. That's how much I was willing to spare to give voice to the irony of it all. This isn't about the N word, this isn't about a Comedian gone wrong, this isn't even about how Black folks respond to this incident. This issue hedges on the reality that in 2007 we must still be guarded about our views, our cultural leadership, our stance on issues, how we are perceived, how we dialogue about racism - because the expectation is that we have more important things to talk about. We in theory need to put our focus on far more important issues. For me its like saying you must read all of the classics in literature - but skip the trashy novels, they don't add anything.

I say, hail to the trash! Michael Richards is trashy! Two brothers may get paid as a result of it. So. For all of 2 minutes a few chosen Blacks will share what they feel about the situation. And at the end of the day - the "N" word will still be in circulation and Richards will live well on his syndication dollars. He'll probably get a lucrative deal to write about his experience. If for no other reason than Isaiah Washington has to pay dearly for his foolishness - I will continue to bring up the horrific display of insensitivity of Michael Richards, the Seinfeld cast that stayed mostly silent and reminder that overall most of America doesn't really care about the state of African Americans. I have plenty of personal experience with the N word. I have lived that my entire life.

After all - I engage in the literature of life 90% of the time. I too sat at my mothers feet learning why we have to be smarter, work harder, understand more, live in multiple worlds - just to survive. Fluff is an acceptable dialogue for a small part of my existence - and I say again - Michael Richards was trashy. We've earned the right to dialogue about trashy. We don't have to agree on what happens next, but it surely shouldn't just go away. A racist rant should mean something - even if its only 2 more capitalists to fuel the economy. I think I've been injured too.