Commentary: Root cause of Richards’ remarks should be addressed

I watched a video of Michael Richards’ recent rant at the Laugh Factory that has been labeled as racist. I also watched his apology via satellite on the David Letterman show.

Michael Richards has, as many of us do, a darker side. This darker side can cause us to generalize and stereotype a person at whom our anger is directed. Any difference the target may have will become even more apparent, and the dark side will cause us to reach into our aggressive vocabulary that contains words that may be hurtful.

I have a dark side, and for purposes of political correctness, I must contain it. It’s an arsenal that is used only in extreme instances. It’s a form of aggression used to fight back. Sometimes it can even be used to fight from. The question is whether it was warranted or not.

I did not see the heckling that supposedly sparked Richards’ rant, but interrupting a comedian is a dangerous battle to fight. The stage is the bigger weapon, and that means the performer owns the discourse, and what can be said and who can say it is at the performer’s discretion. The words that Richards used were explicit and taken from historical contexts of lynching and slavery. The man who was targeted called the words and terms “uncalled for.” The terms were racist toward African-Americans. I took a class here at Northeastern called Racism in the Media, and what I learned is that race exists in a complex way.

There are too many differentiation. My cousin is half Cameroonian, half American, part German and something else. Is she an Afro-American or an African-American? My aunt once told me that my she likes to be labeled brown, not black. However, since she was born in Africa, she prefers to be called African-American.

Another class I have taken was called The Human Organism. In this class, I learned the color of a person’s skin may be because of melanin production and sun exposure. Does this justify calling someone African-American?

There is something else involved. It does not point to Michael Richards as a racist. There is an imbalance of access to power within the United States, which takes place between blacks and whites. There is an imbalance of access to resources, as made clear by the suffering of Americans in the events of Hurricane Katrina. To deny this human struggle is a lie to our country and a lie to the world.

Bill Cosby has been controversial in statements addressing the concerns of the Black community, but from what I gather, we (him, myself) might be on the same level. Disrespect, ignorance, incompetence, illiteracy, are not problems of being black – they’re problems of being, as Bill Cosby said, “a knucklehead.”

– Ben Palmer is a senior communications major.

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