Thank goodness for modern technology.
Without the small digital camera that filmed Kramer I mean, Michael Richards, his racial tirade might never have been revealed. If nothing else, our camera-phone obsession should provide a deterrent effect that may help eliminate such acts of racism.
A white man calling an African-American nigger over and over is bad enough, but the same guy taunting black people about lynchings from another era transcends stupidity.
Dont worry, no matter how many times Richards apologizes, he has received his punishment his career in entertainment is over. Richards typecasting as quirky Kramer has been replaced by the notoriety of the most notoriously racist outburst in film history.
The Michael Richards incident is proof that racism is still pervasive though looked down upon by most Americans. That hasnt always been the case.
Ill never forget an infamous story of Ty Cobb, the greatest baseball player of all time and maybe the most hated. In the early 20th century Cobb was a noted bigot and generally vile person.
When Cobb jumped into the grandstands during a game to pummel a severely handicapped heckler, the league suspended the Hall-of-Famer for several games. Though his Detroit teammates hated Cobb too, they refused play during his suspension in support of Cobb. You see, the heckler had done the unthinkable for that era; he called Cobb a nigger-lover.
Nigger isnt even listed in the official Websters Dictionary I use, but it has to be the most interesting word in the English language.
As a white man, I am not only uncomfortable discussing the N-word in this column, it makes me uneasy to say the word aloud at this moment while alone. Why? Because of what nigger represents.
Nigger means whites snatching Africans from their families and homes and being shipped thousands of miles away in chains. Nigger means being whipped, shot, or lynched without regard to any basic human dignity. Bottom line, the word nigger represents blacks being forced into slavery and treated as animals or worse.
On the other hand, African-Americans often use the N-word when describing each other. Rap songs sung by blacks frequently use the word when discussing their friends.
Black athletes sometimes refer to each other as nigger with a positive meaning of strength and courage.
Several years ago, CMUs white coach asked and received permission from his black basketball players to use the word nigger with its positive meaning during practice. Someone overheard the white coach using the word with his players and he was soon fired.
The moral to the story seems to be that racial and ethnic slurs may be negated if the historic victims use the otherwise inappropriate insults. If you are a white Anglo-Saxon man, you wont get away with saying anything remotely racist. And rightfully so.
In the case of U.S. Senator George Allen, justice prevailed again when a racist was exposed in an unguarded moment on film. As a Caucasian, Senator Allen referred to a filmmaker of Indian descent covering his campaign as macaca (monkey). Allen also welcomed him to America (the filmmaker is a native of Virginia). From the time of his racist slip, Allens popularity dropped from a double-digit percentage lead over his challenger in the Virginia polls to losing the election by an eyelash.
Ironically, Republicans lost control of the U.S. Senate in the recent election by one seat and Republican Allens razor-thin loss was the last Senate seat to be decided. Whoever said one person cant affect the outcome of an election?
Amazingly, one word on film was enough to change the course of history.