I half-hesitate to post on this subject, but it is really weighing on my mind. Then again, it has been so long since I posted anything, I might as well take advantage of my behoovement to blog at all.
Michael Richards. *sigh.* What is UP? I was so disappointed when I saw the footage of his Laugh Factory flip-out. I have never understood how anyone, black, white or otherwise, could so easily bust out the "N" word. I mean, the word just never even enters my consciousness unless someone else says it; it is hard for me to believe that it could be so close to the tips of peoples' tongues that they might find themselves speaking it aloud.
If you are one of the 2 people who have ever read my blog, you know me pretty well. You know that considering my background, where I grew up and attended school, etc., I was not raised to be a racist. I hate to sound cliche, but "my best friend is black!" I flew up to Tacoma to hang out with her and her family for our birthdays two weeks ago, and she and I were just talking about how fortunate we were to be surrounded by such extreme diversity during our upbringing and education. I hate to admit it, but I felt like I needed to state this caveat before I proceed to the next part of my post.
There is an element of racism that is sorely unrepresented: reverse-racism. It is the double standard of racism. White people are afraid to talk about it for fear of appearing racist. CNN is reporting that prior to Richards' rant, the "heckler" was pulling out all the stops with the anti-white epithets. Now, while this was no excuse, why has this element of the story failed to enter most reports? Because it doesn't matter? Because black-on-white racism isn't really racism?
I would contend that racism in America will never be truly eradicated until we can actually discuss this part of racism openly. No eggshells.
Granted, Richards was the one with the microphone. He obviously had a greater responsibility when it came to the noise pollution in the room. But did a bouncer attempt to remove the offending heckler for his remarks, prior to the escalation brought on by Richards? Evidently not. Richards, on the other hand, was forced to leave the stage by an audience that grew increasingly hostile toward his conduct. Had the roles been reversed, how long would Richards have sat in the heckler's seat, throwing around "that offensive word" before a couple of heavies lifted him by the elbows and showed him to the door? Not long, I wager.
Having experienced reverse-racism many times first-hand, I know intimately the dilemma. Do you stand up for yourself, or do you keep your mouth shut, reassuring yourself that since your ancestors contributed to hundreds of years of oppression, you are due a few lashings? What do you do when the racism is underlying, even passive aggressive? I once stood in line outside a Hollywood dance club with about four of my black girlfriends. The black bouncer came up to us and motioned to my friends to head on inside. He then stopped me and without ever making eye-contact announced, "we have enough of your kind inside, but since you're with some sisters, I'll let you in." I was floored! I know this kind of stuff goes on all the time, but at that time in my life I was under the delusion that our culture had made a wee bit more progress. The significance of this experience to me wasn't that the bouncer was trying to keep some kind of racial balance or whatever inside the club, but that he felt the need to point out to me that having black friends was my only redeeming quality that night.
Growing up during the post-civil rights busing era of the 70's and 80's was a blessing, and put me in the position of having many special teachers, mentors and friends from other racial backgrounds. The unfortunate dark side of that period (that I experienced pretty regularly) were racially-motivated threats, snubs, bullyings and put-downs. Much of these, I grant, were simply stupid schoolyard indignities. I now view my experiences differently than I did then, hopefully with more maturity and experience, but it occurs to me that while we celebrated Black History Month and Dr. King's birthday long before they were recognized nationally, there perhaps could have been more reinforcement of "let's get over the hatred on both sides, folks."
As for Michael Richards, it seems that people are finding it easier to just call him a racist than to explore the issue. We'll never know if his tirade was indeed triggered by racist remarks directed at him, or if he is simply a plain, old-fashioned racist himself. I am just so disgusted with the way he handled what happened to him. Disgusted and disappointed. There is just no excuse.
I now live in a place where I am not often confronted with this issue. So why do I expend so much energy thinking about it? Probably because I have tried to raise kids that would appreciate diversity and multi-culturalism. Probably because I can see that they are indeed colorblind, and that they haven't yet had any experiences to negatively influence their views of those different from them. And, I'm sorry to say, I am almost relieved that in their current environs they don't have to deal with the reality of it all. How disappointing.
I hope I don't regret this post in the morning.