Sympathy for Kramer


It's been about a week and half now since I first saw the 'Kramer Video', as it's now being referred to. Although I was pretty disturbed by the tape, I don't think it was the "blatant racism" that really got to me. I think the main reason why the tape unsettled me was because I identified with Michael Richards' vulnerability. When you're angry, virtually anything can come out of your mouth that you don't really mean.

I have to admit that when somebody black gets on my nerves the first word to come to my mind is 'nigger', simply because I'm angry and the first thing you want to do when you're angry with somebody is a) call them names and b) make sure these names offend them in some way. I remember being at the Boston Common movie theater a couple years back, watching "Spiderman". There were these two black men sitting in front of me shouting at the screen the entire time: "Oh, no, kick his ass spiderman! Don't go that way! Look out!" and other stupid stuff in that vain. I won't go into details, but let's just say that if you had heard the thoughts going on in my head during that movie you would have thought you were at a KKK meeting.

But just because I can sometimes think of blacks as 'niggers' when I get mad at them doesn't mean I'm racist, does it? What is 'nigger' but just a word? A name. Don't get me wrong: I truly respect the fact that blacks are offended by this word because of the history of its use, but the word does exist and when I get angry with someone who is black and want to offend them I almost can't help but utter it, at least in my thoughts, anyway. It is offensive, but it's not racist.

So, then, what IS true racism? I simply define it as the genuine belief that one race of people is better than the other - whether it be whites or blacks or hispanics - due to their differing racial attributes, mainly the color of skin. Though the idiot inside me sometimes creates certain prejudices about certain groups of races (mainly out of my own insecurity), deep down I DO NOT believe that any race of beings is better than the other. And I don't think Michael Richards does either.

But even if Richards did genuinely believe that whites were better than blacks, his outburst during his stand-up routine wasn't proof of this. It was simply a case of name-calling and offending those who offended him. At one point he did say something like "don't you know better than to offend a white man???" which implied white-supremist beliefs, but it was clear that, by that time, he was trying to water down his rage with sarcasm, desperately attempting to fool the audience into thinking the incident was "all part of the show" (unsuccessfully, of course).

As he was being led out of the comedy club, the black whom Kramer had called a 'nigger' called Kramer a 'cracker'. Does the use of this derogatory word mean that the black is racist? Most pople would say 'no', because Kramer offended the black first. But, then again, Kramer only offended the black because the black offended Kramer by heckling him during the performance. What I'm getting at here is that the root of all this so-called 'racism' was in rage. It does not stem from the belief that whites are better than blacks or vice versa (i.e. true racism).

People, however, have trouble accepting this. We have this notion that we should all possess the ability to cut ourselves off from our emotions, especially those that, when expressed, will offend others. We see expressing anger as being bad and, in Richards' case, racist. But this is unhealthy. And phony. It is living in denial of what it is that makes us who we are. If we get angry at someone of a different race and call him/her derogatory names, it doesn't mean we're racist; it means we're angry.

Anyway, I think what I'm trying to say is that the fuss over this whole 'Kramer Tape' is a waste of time and energy. It's really only receiving so much attention and so much hype because it makes good copy for the press. Whoever videotaped the outburst knew it had great shock-value and would be something that the scumbags at TMZ would be interested in buying. After all, celeb slip-ups - especially ones involving racist remarks - are really hot items these days, thanks to Mr. Mel Gibson. (Note: TMZ, if you don't know, is basically a video version of Star magazine. They were the media company that first made the Kramer tape public). Richards, in other words, was taken advantage of by the exploitative, money-hungry media at an extremely vulnerable moment in his life, a moment that could easily happen to anyone. And I feel bad for him because of that.

My advice to both whites and blacks is to get over it. It's not worth getting so worked up over a man who was simply just blowing off steam and acting like an idiot in the process (as all of us do when we're angry). There are more important things in life to channel our energy into.

 


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