Bil Browning

Kramer vs who?

Filed By Bil Browning | November 28, 2006 7:28 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: bigotry, fundamentalists, homophobic behavior, media, Michael Richards, politicians, racism, Seinfeld, sexism

We've all heard by now about Michael Richard's racist rant at a comedy club. (If not, click here for the video.) The mainstream media has condemned the former Seinfeld star's hateful remarks and water cooler talk across the country has been full of the "Oh. My. God." variety. First we had Mel Gibson's angry spew of anti-Jewish craziness and now Kramer goes off the deep end too.

So what gives? Why are we seeing all of these racist tirades? Why have two men shown the entire country their personal bigotries?

I think the answer has to do with the way our country has been heading as a whole. Are we really, truly, that shocked at Gibson's anti-Jewish comments and Kramer's repetitive "nigger" screams? Every day we have religious figures and politicians using bigoted and homophobic language - without condemnation from either the media or society as a whole. As my friend writes on his blog Proceed At Your Own Risk:

Politicians like Rick Santorum and religious leaders like James Dobson openly and proudly use words that are painfully insulting to gay Americans. Senator Allen laughingly calls a college student "Macaca." Rappers and Reggae singers celebrate rape, murder, racism and homophobia. We pretend that it's humor, Biblical or a political statement, when in fact it is hate language that pollutes our society and even worse the minds and hearts of our children.

Rather than uncompromisingly condemn this behavior and language as disgusting, we debate it. We look for ways to explain it away and allow it.

The collective outrage over Michael Richards' "nigger" tirade rings hollow in a society were politicians are applauded for comparing homosexuality to bestiality, where millions of voters are indifferent to Macaca, where hate-spewing rappers, black and white are given record contracts and Grammy Awards, where openly homophobic Reggae singers are booked for concerts and religious leaders who use words like fag and abomination to describe their fellow Americans are allowed tax exemptions.

While, of course, I also condemn Richard's and Gibson's racist remarks, I'm left wondering when someone will condemn the remarks I hear regularly about myself. When will the American people stand up and say "Enough. We will not tolerate the degradation of our fellow citizens based on your own personal prejudices."?

Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, gay, disabled, straight, whatever - people are people. They have many differences to be celebrated and discussed. But not disparaged. And perhaps when we start speaking up for all people - I'll stop feeling so hollow inside when I see folks all worked up over Kramer.

But until then, I blame the media, fundamentalist Christians and far rights politicians for bringing an ugly part of American history shockingly back to life. After all, you lead by example.

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Wow Bil! You said it all! And I totally agree with you. No one is stopping this train. I remember back in the 60's when we were trying, maybe not successfully but at least trying, to celebrate everyone's differences. We haven't gotten there yet, but people like Gibson and Richards, and certainly Dobson and Santorum, are not making it easy. If people would just remember we are all part of the same human race.......

As my mother says, you should treat everyone like you would want yourself to be treated. Respect for others, no matter their color, their religious beliefs, their orientation, etc., is fundamental to a just and civilized society. I believe that I have turned out just like my parents hoped that I would - a tolerant, caring, and civil person. Just old fashioned, small town American values. You have to wonder just when (and why) the current culture lost track of those traits.

Mark, it wasn't a rapid descent into intolerance and ignorance. It was slow.

The corral of acceptance gets moved outward with each non-corrected action. Little by little, the fence gets pushed out. We wake up 15 years later, and the corral of acceptable behavior is now two acres wide. Teenagers who started "MF-ing" things in school in 1990 are now parents of teenagers.

In 1990, at North Central High School, the rap group Public Enemy was scheduled to participate in some sort of show. It was cancelled when school board members listened to some of Public's rap CDs. The lyrics were remarkably bigoted, homophobic, female-bashing and racist.

Today, that group's rants would be considered mainstream rap or R&B...hell, they'd probably get a Grammy, show up to the ceremony with hood ornaments around their necks, dressed in their best jeans and t-shirts, and sell a million copies in a week.

THAT'S how far the corral has been pushed out.

And so it goes, regretably.

We reclaim that corral's natural boundaries one personal action at a time. Kramer was a symptom. He has retratced his statements and apologized. I accept his apology as sincere and he has shown obvious remorse.

My kids learned from his tirade because we discussed it, and we discussed his apology.
Learning experiences, right in front of us.