It’s been linked for different sources. I reckon most of you have seen some version posted. Often, but not always, the heading provides a reference to Christianity in the introduction. Why, I really don’t know. Well, I guess I do since to have this story spammed around to this degree, someone realized the need to lie about the author and origination. Sadly, some people harbor the beliefs presented, and it is true that others harbor a mirror reflection of these beliefs. The only difference is to whom does one direct the resentment or need I say hate.
Why am I commenting on an incident which happened about 7 years ago? Via social media and email I have seen an emergence of a speech attributed to Michael Richards which he allegedly gave as part of his defense in court over the comedy club incident. For those who aren’t aware of the incident at the root, it took place on 17 November 2006 in West Hollywood, California, at a place called the Laugh Factory. Michael Richards who played the character of Cosmo Kramer on the television series Seinfeld began spewing racial comments during his standup comedy act. Obviously I was not there, and I have never watched anything beyond the approximately 3 minute clip which appeared on TMZ shortly after the incident. In addition I have never even heard a Michael Richards standup performance other than scenes filmed as parts of various Seinfeld episodes.
This speech being spammed, however, appeared on the internet many times before the Michael Richards tirade at this club in 2006. Some have countered with the idea that maybe he did not write it, but he recited it in court. The problem, however, is that no court trial took place because no charges were filed. If you have been fortunate to have not seen this speech but desire to read it or to learn more of its back story, information can be found on rumor debunking sites such as Urbanlegends and Snopes.
My comments are because several friends, colleagues, and students who I consider intelligent, well informed, and possessing common sense somehow found themselves caught in this spun web of lies.
Some may disagree with me, but in my opinion, the necessity to falsely attribute these words to Michael Richards destroys the credibility of the specific statements or general intent of the written piece.
A friend and former student, however, wanted to leave questions of the author aside and just address some of the contentions made in the written speech.
I’ve written previously about how I define and use the hyphenated American monikers which are so prevalent. Being reared in a community where people of my grandparents’ generation consisted of both naturalized citizens of the United States of America and those who were the first generation of their family to be born in this country what seems natural for me may be considered odd by others. Still when I reference citizens of the United States there are just Americans. Some lived in other countries before coming to the United States. Some have ancestry, possibly recent or perhaps generations long ago, from other countries. Still, they like me are Americans. We may look, speak, think, possess skill sets, continue customs, and so on differently from one person to the next, but we are still Americans. Individually I may be better at some task than a person of a different heritage, but they will be better than me at performing another task. Our heritage has nothing to do with it. Individuals have different strengths and weaknesses, and umbrella style groupings contain more holes than mosquitoes at sunrise on the bayou.
Some speak of racism and preferential treatment given to specific groups. It’s true that we have Historically Black Colleges and Universities, BET, and many more groups and organizations than the ones listed in the remarks falsely attributed to Michael Richards. There is no denying that we do not have the mentioned WET, or White Entertainment Television, or other similar groups and organizations specifically named as such today in 2013. I don’t find those differences as racist, and I’m actually thinking more as an individual than as a Professor of Southern History.
It should be common knowledge that for much of the history of the United States, we did have groups and organizations specifically for those with a white skin color. It may require a little research, but this type of separation was not limited to the South but could be found in other regions of the country as well. Whether it was de facto or de jure, segregation and discrimination existed. Were the actions or beliefs correct? Modern interpretations would argue that they were not. Were the instigators of segregation and discrimination always those of white skin color? Again, this might require a little research but it was not. One can look to the Reconstruction period and the formation of individual churches in the South to find examples from the other direction. Were those actions or beliefs correct?
I’ll toss out a curveball here, not a good one breaking 12 to 6, but one that just hangs over the plate begging to be placed in the cheap seats, with the answer of probably they were not. If you want to hark on my distinction with “were not” and “probably,” the sole reason for the modifier is that I am an individual with white skin color who on the maternal side has Hungarian ancestry with me being 2nd generation American born on my grandmother’s side and 3rd generation American born on my grandfather’s side. Paternally, my ancestry is French and German to a degree where I have no knowledge of what generation I might be. The other part of the paternal ancestry is Native American Indian, but again I can only trace back in general terms and not specific detail. Right or wrong, genuine or not, perceptions do differ based on personal experiences. I have, and most will admit that they have experienced different treatments for different individuals. At times those differences are in fact predicated by skin color or ethnicity. At other times, it is not.
One difference with these specific organizations and groups mentioned by the author of this spammed message is that unlike those of the past that contained no racial or ethnic labels as the prefix individuals outside the umbrella of the prefix are allowed to join or attend. An HBCU will often have Caucasian professors and students along with faculty and students from a number of ethnic backgrounds. Professional sports leagues are not limited to a single race. Once they were. In many instances the prefix regarded as racist today is only an acknowledgment of the historical beginnings and original missions.
As for the other assertions, crime is crime, and if you are still the victim regardless of the skin color of the perpetrator. Someone of white skin color is no more and no less dead if shot and murdered by anyone regardless of race, gender, or preference. The same is true of any skin color. If your sole assessment of other individuals is guided specifically by skin color, you obviously lack confidence in your ability to gauge people by their ideas and actions. Racism is not limited to one group, but neither are tolerance and acceptance. Sadly, ignorance and stupidity seem to run almost equally amongst individuals regardless of skin color, backgrounds, religious views, political ideology, and any types of preference.
The derogatory terms pointed out in this spammed email attributed to Kramer to give one a legitimate reason to ponder for a few moments. Do these descriptions refer to your friends, classmates, and coworkers, or are they merely collective nouns for those you have never met? Sadly, I think most of us at some point in our lives have used either these or similar words to identify someone. I’m not proud of that, but where I grew up in Louisiana those terms were sometimes spewed, but often that puke was without any racial designations. We emitted the vomit to the students at rival schools who we happened to be competing against that given week, and they returned it in kind to us. We were all guilty of immaturity at that stage in life, but the strange thing is that once the contest had been completed that person at the opposition school usually returned to being your friend, or if you did not really know him or her, they could still hang out with your crowd. The ability and comfort level of doing so wasn’t based on race, but on similar interests. In some ways it is different with the popularity of social media today, but during my high school years in rural areas we usually knew people from the surrounding schools quite well.
Unfortunately racism is not limited to one group, and neither is stupidity or ignorance.
Fortunately, acceptance, knowledge, and a desire to make yourself, those around you, and the environment you leave for future generations are not limited to a single group either.
Think about it. Would you prefer having a day where everyone points out something negative and everything just seems dull and gloomy? Or would you like a day where someone unexpected just says Hi while passing you on a sidewalk, seeing animals at play make you laugh, and watching the interaction of others brings forth a favorite memory?
It really is true that A Random act of Kindness can transport a multitude to build upon a new beginning where dreams can come true.
Maybe one day we will spam something edifying and not destroying.