Monday, November 27, 2006

action and reaction

seems like the michael richards incident is another one of those post i-have-a-dream-speech moments where some folks scratch their heads and go, "there're still problems with race relations? how about that! who knew?"

of course, this is unfortunate for jerry. he's got a whole rollout of new dvds of one of the show's seasons, and it's in his best interest that they sell off the shelves with no issues. leave it up to michael richards to threaten the whole deal with one unfortunate outburst. in my opinion, so far as the dvd sales go, it seems to me that from the show's inception, we were never their audience, anyway. despite our hardheaded insistence on promoting and supporting mainstream commerce with our precious disposable income, just like with certain fashion designers or whatever that champagne company's name was, we are expendable customers with negligible purchases to miss from their profits - in their eyes. if anything, they just don't want the fallout to cause them to be rejected by their real target market - other whites -resulting in slumping sales.

richards' numerous apologies are unnecessary. what comedian doesn't know how to handle hecklers? how wack was that? not only for him to lose his cool, which a talented comedian could have avoided, but for him to attack his audience with no punchline in sight.

funny thing is, i believe that it's completely possible that richards reacted out of anger and generally doesn't use that word. in that sense, i think he's no different than the majority of whitefolks, or anybody else. with your back against the wall, sometimes you do things you wouldn't do if you let your cooler head prevail.

thing is, this is what i (and i suspect others) have been told by elders about whitefolks, but thankfully, due to the timeframe of my birth, have had little personal experience testing: no matter how cool they are, no matter how much they're supposed to know better, you never know if their whiteness is the ace in the hole that they'll pull out when they feel they have nothing else.

"at least i'm not a nigger!"

a nigger - the worst thing somebody could be. the ugliest word in the american vocabulary. the lowest thing on the totem pole of american acceptance. dirty, funky, black, stupid, inferior, eye-rolling, spear-chucking, malt-liquor-drinking, fried-chicken-and-watermelon-eating, cotton-picking, welfare-cheese-eating porch monkeys... that's what we supposedly are.

now michael richards may not be a good comedian, or a working actor, or attractive, or even that bright, but in that moment, when those hecklers made him feel inadequate and small, he knew exactly what would tip the scales in his favor. at least he wasn't a nigger. that's what his tirade on that comedy stage was about. he reached for, not the funniest thing, but the dullest, rustiest, crudest weapon in his arsenal of anger.

it's entirely possible that he didn't even know he had that kind of pettiness in him. or maybe he did, and he didn't even know he could ever be so careless as to let his slip show. either way, what's done is done. and that's why his apologies to us "afro-americans" mean very little. it is exactly this kind of racism that we have come to expect in these politically correct times, where overt bigotry is frowned upon by the mainstream. it is exactly this kind of racism that blackfolks believe happens when we're out of earshot. we're not as paranoid as people think when we wonder about the looks, stares, actions, traffic stops, and dubious comments - "is it because i'm black?" it's incidents like these that make me and others remember the advice of our elders to be wary of whitefolks, no matter what century it is. you never know which ones are weak, and you never know when they may need racism to make themselves feel better.

of course, you don't want to think this way. but just like how some white women (who've seen too many movies with violent black men grabbing some blonde as a hostage while robbing a bank) get tense when the brothers step into their elevators, you can't help but to feel a certain way when certain situations crop up, no matter how much you want to be trusting and fair and colorblind.

ask michael richards. sometimes, you just react.