Monday, November 27, 2006

Race: The 'You Know What' In Me -- And All of Us

Not surprisingly, the "Kramer" controversy -- comedian Michael Richards being heckled at a Southern California club by black patrons and spewing racist comments in reaction -- refuses to go away.

Never mind that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. The kerfuffle has caught the popular imagination, as well as the attention of ambulance-chasing lawyers who are demanding that Richards walk on hot coals all the way to an ATM where he will withdraw ridiculous sums of money to pay off the hecklers who started the whole thing.
I was unhappily blogging on the war in Iraq, the erosion of veterans' benefits and other distractions when I came across a post by Paul Silver at Austin Centrist that so well captured my own feelings that I have to link to it.
Like Paul, with whom I coblog at The Moderate Voice, I have refused to get caught up in the incident kind of sort of because I don't want to sully my view of the fictional Kramer, that wacky friend to all in "Seinfeld," which I watch fairly regularly (with closed captioning on, the sound off and the radio or a music CD on).

But Paul touched a deeper chord in me. Like him, I come from a notably unprejudiced and welcoming background.

There weren't a whole lot of blacks in the suburban-rural area where I grew up, but my parents were good friends with some of them, and to the shock of some of our neighbors they were invited to swim in our backyard pool. When one fellow became the first black to run for the local board of education, my father volunteered to be his campaign manager, which cost him some white so-called friends. When I rented my first little house in the country years later, the landlord complained when my black friends stopped by. He said didn't want them around his daughter. I loved the place, but it was an easy decision. I told him to take his place and shove it.
All that said, down deep I know I harbor racist feelings that, like Michael Richards and Paul Silver, will come out when I'm very angry. Mind you, I don't think any of us are racists in vile sense of the word, and believe everyone has the same emotions lurking in their gut.
If there is a lesson worth remembering in the Kramer affair, that's it.

1 comment:

Drewcatt said...

I think, Black, White, Indian... anything, we harbor these kind of deep-seated emotions and resentments. I certainly can't deny it of myself.

It's taken my years to get comfortable around gay people, and given my upbringing I count that as a tremendous achievement. The very first time I was touched by an openly gay man, I remember feeling utter revulsion.

Now, after going to school, interacting with, learning from, and living with homosexual men and women, I can safely say that I'm a better person for it.

This isn't always true, but sometimes it really is how you finish and not how you start.