Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When Comedy Isn't Comedy



This is the video of the Kramer incident at Laugh Factory this past Friday in case you haven't seen it. I've highlighted some of the comments below. My friend showed it to some of his friends and they really had no reaction to it. Your input is definitely appreciated.

Here are some comments:

(first the negative ones)

"okay, but then why arent clips from the chris rock show on the news/youtube being ripped apart for being racist bullshit. yeah kramer is an ignorant fool. but im tired of these ppl who are posting about how he is such a pig, when they sure as hell wouldnt post on a eddie murphy clip or richard pryor clip where he rips the shit out of some white dude. keep that in mind"

"Racist remarks are not ok when anyone says it about anyone! Richards handled it wrong. A real stand up comedian would have handled that much better! I hate it when ppl say, "so it's ok for black ppl to say it?" NO! IT'S NOT OK!! As a black person I find it offencive no matter who says it! And why do people want to be able to use that term anyway. Ppl complain about how offencive it is then want to use it like it's some wonderful privilage!"

"Only cos it's a pitiful attempt at getting back at white people for saying the 'n-word'. Problem is black people say cracker as an attempt to be racist, just cos white people don't have a cry about it doesn't make it any less racist. Any white person who can call a black person a nigger should not have a problem being called a cracker, and vice-versa. And when all is said and done.... THEY ARE JUST FUCKING WORDS!!! They are nothing without the reaction that people give when they hear them"

"That's irrelevant. The point is that the heckler meant "Cracker" in the same exact context that Richard's used the "N" word. "Cracker" is probably the most offensive racial slur you can use against whites, and the heckler meant it in the same offensive way that the "N" word is used towards blacks. So don't let the heckler off the hook just because one word has a longer history than the other"

(positive ones)

" Wow! A lot of you guys are really racist. It's so interesting what some will say under the veil of anonymity.
REMEMBER...
Apathy and indifference is all it takes. When blacks were being lynched in this country, it wasn't all whites who participated. Many stood by and watched. Some even thought it was wrong but kept their mouths shut. THEY WERE JUST AS GUILTY AS THOSE WHO COMMITTED THE SINS.
Some stood up and said something, did something. They were men of honor, true heroes."

"Wow. To be honest, I'm not suprised at what he said. Racial tensions still exist and that can make people sour. Consequently, some are compelled to insult blacks simply because they are black. However, what Richards said was irresponsible and if you want to be racist be racist at home because public racism only digs a deeper grave for you the further you push it. Plain and simple, more Americans have stronger fellings against racism than those who don't."

"First of all A comedian is suppose to have jokes prepared for hecklers. HE called them "Nigger" quite a few times as they simply said that "it was uncalled for" while he kept say that horrible word. Second We don't call each other "Nigger" You do. Lynching statements are a reason for him to get his ass beat damn near to death. Some of you say that they went back and forth. When provoked with racial disrespect lets see what you do in the same situation."

Important note, the Laugh Factory allowed him on the stage tonight to "apologize."

The argument that many postings had was the usage of the word "cracker" by the heckler. He referred to Michael Richards as a "cracker ass motherf*****" and called him a "white boy." Now I can see how that is insulting and offensive but there is never an argument that can justify calling someone a "nigger." Never. There is never an appropriate time or any explanation that can defend that. Saying they're both in the wrong is foolish as well. Those two words carry two different meanings and yes there is a double standard. Sorry that's just the way it is. My boy Gyan recently had Talib Kweli come to his school and perform and afterwards he spoke to the audience. He said "Blacks can't be racist.You have to have power to be racist." Which struck me as something I never thought about but something that is definitely true. How much power do blacks really have? That's a whole new discussion that can be brought up another time. The fact of the matter is there is NO history of "cracker" or even "honkey" as being used as a racial slur. Blacks have never been in a situation of power that allows them to oppress white people with such words. Whereas the "n" word was used and is still used (as we seen through this clip) to oppress and demean blacks. That and that fact that he combined it with lynching is enough to categorize his comments are racist.

As for the argument about other comedians, specifically black comedians, using the word "cracker" or "honkey." I ask you this, when has any of those comedians made whites in their audience targets of racial slurs? I'm not sure there has been any instances. Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Richard Pryor have many white fans as well as other races and never have those fans felt threatened by their comedy. Their jokes deal with the subtle nuances and differences between the races. Chappelle's humor is subtle, clever and makes you think. Eddie Murphy used impersonations of white people but never came out and said "You crackers! I hate you!" Chris Rock and his notorious "cracker ass, cracker" bit drew many laughs out of his audience during "Bigger and Blacker" but it was accompanied with how much his old uncle hates white people. But let's face it, there is always going to be a double standard. Those who have been oppressed have more discretion. It's the least they should get. Till this day there have been no reperations for blacks, Jews or Native Americans (all they get are freakin' casinos!). Just now a momnument for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is being built in Washington DC! Black comedians make fun of white people, Latino people, Asian people but do we see the last two group of people shouting out "HATE CRIME!" No we do not. Black comedians also make fun of themselves and black people but do you hear other blacks shouting out "RACISM!" Maybe some find it in poor taste to make fun of the things that are wrong with the black community but it is still comedy and the comedic sphere is one of social satire. There was nothing satirical about Michael Richards tirade.

Lastly, about the usage of "nigger" and "nigga" one argument that I am sick of hearing. "Well black people use the 'n' word, why can't anyone else?" You're not black. It's that simple. Sorry but that's just the way it goes. The only explanation that I can give is: We (blacks) took a word with so many hurtful feelings and meanings. A word so deragatory and painful to hear. A word that brings back so many memories of oppression. We took it and made it something for US. Something that can be used as a term of endearment: "You're my nigga!" or "You're a wild nigga." Or even a word to describe someone's actions "Don't be a nigga." Different black people have different feelings about the word. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the word. I use it at times and I dislike using it at times. I can't describe it any better than that. Just like there are words in Latino culture and Asian culture that are exclusive, the word "nigga" is exclusive to black culture. That's just the way it is.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Seinfeld's "Kramer" gets angry at audience, calls Black patrons "Niggers"
Seinfeld's Michael Richards gets angry at audience, calls Black patrons "Niggers"

Brother Spotless said...

Ok, let's get something straight: the term "cracker" is not the same as the term "nigger." They don't come from the same history of suffering, and therefore they don't carry the same meaning.

As for the availability of the "nigga" term for blacks as opposed to whites: for as long as I can remember I have taken the stance that Brother Darkness has taken: we as blacks have taken a word used to dehumanize and changed it to be (in certain instances) a term of endearment. It's an example of the strength and determination of our people, and in theory, I believe this to be just.

But theories don't always translate to real world application, and in the real world, to allow people to use some words and not others is a problematic excersize. While the word is vile and disrespectful, it is, at its base, a word.

Anytime words are used to disrespect or dehumanize a group of people (which is exactly what Richards did), it should not be allowed. And this also goes for calling a Jew "Smokey Bones," calling an Arab a "Towelhead," or calling a Mexican a "Cockroach" or a "Fenceclimer," even if the person making the comment is of the same racial or ethnic persuasion as the victim. When those words are used, they disrespect the individual and his/her ancestry, and the individuals guilty of such crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But I'm not naive enough to think that these terms will ever fade from our collective languages; they are here to stay in this world that we live in.

To sum this up, in theory all derogatory words, both direct and indirect, should be banished from the vocabularies of all of our collective tongues. In the world we live in, the derogatory use of a term should be legislated against, but that is all that can be done. A white person who recites a rap song with the term "nigga" in it has the right to say it. I don't like it but I find it more problematic to carve out terms that some people can use and some people can't.

Some may feel more about the term "nigga" in its entirety than I do. For those people, I would simply advise you to make it clear that you feel uncomfortable hearing the term.

Brother Spotless said...

The "White Power" blog makes a good point: I wonder if some of our Jewish readers could comment on what (if any) collective response would, could, or should come from the Jewish community.

An interesting element to this issue is that "Seinfeld" caught some flack from the black community because of the lack of black actors on the show...

Deyon.Johnson said...

While I am highly insulted and currently appalled by Kramer's reactions, I am more appalled by the comments and reactions I heard on the radio yesterday, when it was bought to the rest of DC's attention on WPGC 95.5 and WKYS 93.9. Granted I could get mad because a white man chose to call me a nigger, shoot, I could even hop on stage and whoop his ass. However, it wouldn't fix the problem. In fact, I could do a lot of things to a lot of people if I felt like it, after all, white people tend to think its ok to use the "N" word anyway. After all, movies like White Chicks, almost justified it as right to say, when blacks aren't around. Even though this wasn't meant to be interrupted this way, it does shine a light on a different view.

In spite of it all, like I said, I could be mad at that and I could throw a fit. However, my real problem isn't with him constantly shouting out nigger, after all, there are tons of things that he could have been called. My problem with the scenario is the first thing out his mouth!! It was at his initial opening of his mouth, "50 years ago...lynch...upside down..." THIS IS THE REAL PROBLEM!!! NOTHING POSITIVE COULD HAVE BEEN SAID OR FORSEEN AFTER THIS!! THIS WAS THE TRIGGER AND BOMB DROPPER. However, no one seems to realize that it was at this point that people became offensive. And when listening to people's reactions yesterday, NOT ONE SOUL MENTIONED THIS!!! Everyone appeared to be stuck on name calling and derogatory terms. Not saying that those weren't wrong as well, however, let's address the root of the problem first. This is why it was wrong!! This is what placed everything in its context. For a white person to attach anything to such an atrocity of a past, which was as serious as a genocide, is what pissed people off and makes this racist and what would have caused me to act "niggerish!!" YEAH I SAID IT!!

For me, I am disheartened that Kramer could say and do such a thing, because I was a "Seinfeld" fan. However, it does not shock me completely, because people are people and they will remind you of their true colors. It's just a pity that the ugliness was shown as a last resort! I mean if you whack! YOU WHACK! There is no need to get mad at people for talking during your show, because you’re lame.

And one last point, as far as unnecessary comments, "Oh I'm going to get locked up for calling a black man, nigger" this was an unnecessary comment! And I haven't heard anyone voice an opinion about it. I guess it got swept under the rug, next to the cobweb of the lynch remark. Because the "N" word cut the list as number one. I am disappointed that this isn’t fully being discussed! However, I am pleased that it is being broadcasted all over the US because not for one minute should anyone believe that racism does not exist. It just has new forms!!

To wrap this up, I have many other opinions; however, I believe that a lot of what I feel and believe was already articulated profusely! And that I would like to commend those who have voiced their opinions and generated thought to the current matter.

qwerty said...

" '50 years ago...lynch...upside down...' THIS IS THE REAL PROBLEM!!! "

And that, right there, is what's up.

I don't know whether people were laughing and clapping because they couldn't believe they were watching the end of a man's career or because that's how they trully feel... but that was disturbing. As was the Laugh Factory letting him stay on stage for over 2.5 mins.

People focusing on the black man's use of the word "cracker" and "white boy," thereby neglecting the MORE THAN A MINUTE LONG tirade is using the "straw man" argument.

But since every else is playing along: Steve Harvey had someone walking out of his show mid-routine [no, he wasn't bombing] and he turned that situation into some funny stuff. Even the subject of his jokes was laughing. Michael "But Every One Still Calls Me Kramer" Richards was bombing. He knew it. He thought he'd be shocking, a-la Stern, and failed. That's what I see in the video. That was a piss-poor comedic performance... but he sure did do a spot on impression of a biggot!

The way he was saying "nigger," though. It was as though he was simultaneously insulting and mocking black folks. Anyone feel that as well? Or is it just me? Black folks use it in such a casual manner that I now associate it with a segment of the black culture, effectively adding another layer of insult for me.

I don't use nigga or it's root, nigger (none of that "n" word nonsense), in casual conversation. Don't know why anyone wants to use it. Well, I do. I just happen to think that neither argument is smart or based in reality.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see if the same level of contriton is demanded of Michael Richards as was Mel Gibson, public apology, Diane Sawyer interview etc...

Brother Afrocan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brother Afrocan said...

Great post, brother darkness, there is no pussyfooting around the issue, thats just the way it is, if you are not black dont use the word nigga, nigger, negro or any other form of it! To add another instance of words not for everyone, though I have no problem with homosexuals I know better than to use the word f@g even though I have homosexual friends that use it amongst themselves. Some words are just not for everybody to use.

Khab said...

I mean it was even a joke, he was attacking the african american heckler in the crowd. It wasn't even apart of his stand up, he was mad dude was heckling him, so he said what he felt. I don't think you can compare it to someone with a routine, and even if it were a routine it was still way too far over the line. So it wasn't a joke, it was a speech because he was directly talking to the black guy in the audience. The black guy even responds and says your going to get it. I mean your going to get people that boo and talk trash he is in the entertainment industry. You can't compare it to chris rock using cracker because

#1 cracker doesn't have any history behind the word, it doesn't hold as much power as nigger would

#2 he wasn't even telling a joke he was responding to the black guy in the audience

Maybe if it were a joke it would be alittle less as offensive but still offensive. But it wasn't a joke. He even makes light to this while he was on David Letterman, that he shouldnt have responded to the black guy heckling, and reacted out of hand.

khab said...

This issue is only going to be on the news for another day considering Seinfield season 7 comes out today:-/.

I was so mad when I heard the audio on the radio today I was like wow.

Anonymous said...

(RAK here) Here's the response from the ADL:

"We were deeply disturbed at reports that Michael Richards repeatedly shouted a racial slur and made other insensitive remarks apparently aimed at African-American members of his audience.

Richards' repeated use of the 'n-word' and apparent reference to lynching is offensive in any context. There is no excuse for such insensitive and bigoted language. It has no place in a comedy club and no place in America, and must be clearly repudiated.

We hope Mr. Richards will now take a public stand against appeals to racism and bigotry and publicly apologize for his poor judgment in shouting them from the stage."

What's the "white power" blog?!? weird-ass name.

Also, I think this is the type of thing that isn't a Jewish issue, but a white issue. As a white man, I'm disgusted. As a Jew, I'm extra disgusted because we have words of similar power that can be used against us (starts with a k...ends with dwight eisenhower's nickname) so we should be extra aware of how unbelievably f*cked up words can be.

And above posters are right--a joke about lynching is as bad, if not worse, than the use of that word.

But to put this on the Jewish community is to excuse it from the rest of the white community, and his religion isn't where the race issue comes in, its his race.

Brother Afrocan said...

The sad reality is that racist feelings are harbored by many. Not only do the Kramer and Mel Gibson examples come to mind, I dont know how many of you Williams Alums remember the incident that forced the College to reform the terms of use of the WSO board, banning annonymous postings. It was during queer week when some of the most homophobic and racist comments were being posted on the board. I remember reading the board and being shocked and saddened that people in such a highly selective liberal arts college. People of very high intelligence and definately wellread with worldly knowledge would post such nasty stuff. Everything from I hate gays and niggers! because they are dirty to KKK-esque bible thumping and condemnations.

khab said...

What I dont get is that yea the detriot pistons fans will go crazy and act like idiots because ron artest went after a dude who he thought threw a drink on him. Who was probably one of the fans yelling racist remarks. Yet you got michael richards acting like a nut and no one in the audience doing nothing, I mean some people left yea. But you can hear the guy tryin to tell him he is wrong. I just don't get it. I mean the people in the crowd are chilling, a couple of "o mys" and a few laughs. Then on dave letterman people are laughin too. I just don't get society. Well atleast he had the balls to admit he was racist:-/.

Brother Spotless said...

The White Power blog I mentioned is the link that the 1st "Anonymous" responder wrote (at the top of this page).

RAK said...

now that's something new. I never thought I'd see stormfront linked to by browneph and then used to ask a question of Jews.

Brother Spotless said...

True, I was suprised to find something of use on that site. However, I think they raise a relevant point, in spite of the fact that I consider the site to be racist. If I offended anyone I apologize. My intention in using the site as background for my question was only to bring up what I thought was a relevant point.

Brother Darkness said...

To everyone that has chimed in with your opinions they have been very much appreciated. Unlike the majority of America that laughs this off as just a guy having a a bad stage performance and quickly forgive him, we're here discussing the relevance of it in the scheme of things (the big picture if you will). It's sad that this will all be forgotten after the weekened (after everyone has fattened up on turkey and such Thanksgiving delicacies). What will I be thankful for? I'll be thankful for an incident like this not happening in the public's eye again but that is reaching a bit far. What I'll really be thankful for is Michael Richards really learning from this incident. Although he is relatively old, he has a lot to learn about racial sensitivity as well as dealing with adverse situations. Then the next thing I'll be thankful for is more or a reaction from people witnessing such an act. Just like I posted earlier, during the times of lynchings there were whites that tired to intervene and were hurt or even killed in the process. That's the kind of reaction we need as a people when other's are being discriminated against publicly. It is hard to stand alone. If you have a voice stand up and let it be heard. Let's not be passively aggressive and sit in our seats saying "oh that's not right." Let's be right up there in the front row with the guy/girl that was called (insert any racial slur) letting him/her know that we have her back even if we're not black, white, asian, jewish, middle eastern, european, african, canadian, austrailian...Our country is plagued by complacency. All it takes is one person to go against the tide to start a new trend.

Brother Darkness said...

To everyone that has chimed in with your opinions they have been very much appreciated. Unlike the majority of America that laughs this off as just a guy having a a bad stage performance and quickly forgive him, we're here discussing the relevance of it in the scheme of things (the big picture if you will). It's sad that this will all be forgotten after the weekened (after everyone has fattened up on turkey and such Thanksgiving delicacies). What will I be thankful for? I'll be thankful for an incident like this not happening in the public's eye again but that is reaching a bit far. What I'll really be thankful for is Michael Richards really learning from this incident. Although he is relatively old, he has a lot to learn about racial sensitivity as well as dealing with adverse situations. Then the next thing I'll be thankful for is more or a reaction from people witnessing such an act. Just like I posted earlier, during the times of lynchings there were whites that tired to intervene and were hurt or even killed in the process. That's the kind of reaction we need as a people when other's are being discriminated against publicly. It is hard to stand alone. If you have a voice stand up and let it be heard. Let's not be passively aggressive and sit in our seats saying "oh that's not right." Let's be right up there in the front row with the guy/girl that was called (insert any racial slur) letting him/her know that we have her back even if we're not black, white, asian, jewish, middle eastern, european, african, canadian, austrailian...Our country is plagued by complacency. All it takes is one person to go against the tide to start a new trend.