Hey yall, I’ve been preoccupied this past week with an incredible level of drama, but I’ve come out of hibernation due to the following story. Mel Gibson caught a lot of flack for his drunken verbal assault on Jewish people. Well, I’ve found something much worse. A celebrity, on the job and presumably not drunk:

“Kramer’s” Racist Tirade — Caught on Tape


Michael Richards exploded in anger as he performed at a famous L.A. comedy club last Friday, hurling racial epithets that left the crowd gasping, and TMZ has obtained exclusive video of the ugly incident.

This video is horrific, and I want you to watch it right now. Then come back here, and read the rest of this post.

I am fascinated, disturbed, angered and saddened by this incident. Because the video only started after Richards’s responds, I can’t know exactly what sort of heckling the black folks in the balcony were up to, but I’m sure it was nothing on the order of his response.

There are so many problems, I’ll just jump right in.

Michael Richards failed as a comedian in this moment. I’ve been to a lot of comedy shows, and if you can’t take a heckle, you probably shouldn’t be in the business. I know some clubs tolerate hecklers more than others, but turning on your audience with such vehemence rarely benefits the comedian. Either shut them down with something quick and funny, wade through it or get the club management to handle it. Richards, though, opted for Choice D: Pull a Mel Gibson. You can hear the shock in those brothers’ voices, “That was uncalled for!” And they’re right.

I was initially furious with the audience but think I understand now. The first thing we hear Richards say is, “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass.” The implication is clear. Richards is making a joke about lynching black folk. That’s his go-to heckler response? And, disturbingly, the audience actually laughs at this. I think, however, that most people didn’t really hear what he said, or heard the tone of a responding dis and assumed it was something funny. It sounds a bit funny until you think about the context, and then it’s disgusting.

Richards seems to make a weak attempt to excuse his behavior by appealing to some idea of a rogue, shock comedy statement a la Borat, but he fails miserably. With comments like, “You see. There’s still those words. Those words” and “Ah you see? This shocks you. This shocks you… to see what’s buried beneath you stupid motherf*ckers.” But Richards is not stating anything of value whatsoever. In fact, he’s merely revealing what’s buried beneath him, and that is the most foul form of racism and contempt.

I watched the video several times, and the second time, it made me cry. “Those words.” What Michael Richards did was what the poorest, least educated and weakest white Americans have always been able to do when challenged by black folk for any reason, great or small: looking at my woman, not saying “sir,” interrupting my comedy routine. It didn’t matter. He reminded everyone in that room who was in charge. He drew a line in the sand which said, “I am better than you. You’re a nigger!!” And he used his words in such a way that one could only interpret them as a violent attack. He yelled them. He hurled them. He spat them. Over. And Over. Again. And at one point, he acknowledges, with frightening clarity, the power of what he chose to do.

“You interrupted me, pal. That’s what happens when you interrupt the white man.”

Thanks for the painful reminder, Michael Richards. I hope you enjoyed your last moment on stage. What a legacy.

(Check out dKos, digg, Racialicious, and Terrence Says for other blogospheric takes. Now I’d like your take on the video in the comments)

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