Nov 22, 2006 Michael Richards – Meet Mel Gibson, Andrew Young, and George Allen
Here is a video of Michael Richards’ recent tirade where he repeatedly says the N-word after being heckled during his stand-up routine. Here is an account of Richards’ televised discussion of the incident with David Letterman. Attached below is my August 20 blog entry about the importance of knowing others’ views and comments on race relations and other issues of prejudice.
Michael Richards, as Kramer, was one of my favorites. I had no clue that he would say such words. Often we do not know what feelings and opinions truly lie within others, until they explode or put down their guard in some other fashion.
Bigotry has obsessed me throughout my life. Racial and religious hatred and insensitivity have fueled countless massacres, lynchings, social misery, and the list goes on. I have gone through the portals over the years of being stunned, upset and frozen at hearing racist talk and not knowing how to react; then ranting and raving at the speaker of racist words; and, finally, dealing with it on a case-by-case basis, anywhere from calmly telling the person I think his or her words are dehumanizing or uncalled for, to going into more detail, including asking the speaker what s/he meant, to seeing if there’s any way to turn around the person.
I am inspired by how a local labor organizer and social justice activist handled one particular racist incident quite awhile ago. He and his wife had just moved to a new Maryland town bordering Washington, DC, when one day some neighborhood children rode their bikes past the house calling out "white N’s, white N’s" to the man’s interracial children. Instead of losing his cool at the children, which would have been my first inclination before I heard this story fourteen years ago, this man started talking to the children. He told them he coached a track team, and invited them to join the team. They joined the team, and eventually were fully enamored with him.
This coach caught these children early, who perhaps were parroting back the words of their parents, but who ultimately turned their backs on such ugly words and thoughts.
Lawyers — including criminal defense lawyers — need to be fully aware of issues of racism, including racism among jurors, judges, prosecutors, police, jailers, and lawyers’ clients. Martin Luther King, Jr., talked of seeing the promised land where racism has been substantially eliminated, but we have a long way to go; too long. Jon Katz.
George Allen: Meet Andrew Young and Mel Gibson / Update on macaca-gate.
We need to know public figures’ views and comments on race relations and other issues of prejudice, so that we may make informed decisions at the polls and in our purchasing habits. Without going into further depth on my recent blogs on this issue (see here and here), this has been quite the month for public figures to stick their feet in their mouths on such issues.
Now added to this list is Andrew Young, who spoke such a blunder that I wonder whether he applied to work for Wal-Mart as a plant of those opposing this corporate giant. ABC News’s website reports:
"Young told the Los Angeles Sentinel, a black community newspaper, that those small shops ‘are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. … They’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs. Very few black folks own these stores.’"
"Wal-Mart Watch circulated and publicized Young’s comments. By Thursday night, Young had apologized and resigned as chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart. And Walmart began to distance itself from the man it thought would help it, saying in a statement that "’Young’s comments do not represent our feelings. … We were outraged.’" See http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=2331545&page=1 .
Before this month, I did not know Senator Allen or Andrew Young had questionable views on race relations, and had not concluded from The Passion of Christ that Mel Gibson had anti-Jewish prejudices. People will draw their own conclusions of their recent comments, as they should. In any event, if people are going to hold such views, I much prefer that I know where they stand (and where I stand) than for it to be otherwise.
Finally, regarding George Allen’s macaca-gate, Wise County, Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorney Chad Dotson blogs in favor of George Allen, and claims that this picture of Mr. Sidarth shows a Mohawk haircut. However, this Washington Post picture looks quite different. Neither source provides the date that either photo was taken. Jon Katz.