Monday, November 27, 2006

Racist Talk

I have refrained from commenting here about Michael Richards' racial outburst. However, as of today, I am done refraining. He keeps apologizing so there's no reason for me to not enter into the conversation.

OK, here's the deal, I honestly didn't know there were people walking around using the n-word in their heads - and probably to their friends - to describe people. Oh, I know some who use it outloud - I'm from the south - but I didn't realize there were people walking around thinking it but not saying it.

Frankly, I'm even more disturbed by that. At least when someone is blunt I know where they stand. Now I'm wondering who else is walking around with these thoughts in their heads, but I don't know it because their speech doesn't betray their true feelings. And that is ultimitely the issue - their true feelings.

I realize how naive I am. I thought we were so far beyond this. Like decades beyond it. Surprise. I hate ugly surprises.

I have been very pissed at people before. But I can't imagine a time when the n-word would have been a way I would have chosen to express that anger. Am I less angry? No. But that word just doesn't exist in my vocabulary as a way to describe people so it wouldn't come up. Am I holier than thou? No. Absolutely not. I might use a string of other offensive terminology, but there are lines that are not to be crossed and that is one of them.

Things like referring to people as "niggers" and saying the "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" are just not things that are part of what's going on in my brain so they're not going to pop out, even in moments of anger.

And, therein, lies the problem. If those things are coming out of your mouth, they're in your brain somewhere - in your consciousness enough that you can say them without having to think too hard about them. They're in your possible list of insults, just waiting to be pressed into service. And it's hard to believe this is the first time you've ever used them.

Mel Gibson and Michael Richards are just two examples of people who are obviously walking around with feelings we didn't know about. I was happier not knowing.

I won't ever look at "Kramer" the same way. I'm sure Richards' costars really appeciate him choosing to do this just as the Seinfeld DVDs came out for the holidays.

He says he has some anger issues and that he doesn't know where this came from. Well, none of us do. Can anger cause you to hurl insults you're not using - at least occasionally - in your every day private life? Can anger cause you to make statements you don't "feel" at some level of your core being? I don't know. I'm doubtful. But that's a question for the psychologists. He is seeing one now, he says.

I'm guessing Richards will head off to rehab for something soon. It's the answer for any inappropriate behavior from public figures - from sending sexual emails to young men to blaming the Jews for all wars.

Unfortunately, once those words are "out there" they can't be taken back. It's why I have a framed postcard by my door that says, "Les mots qu'on n'a pas dits sont les fleurs du silence." Roughly translated it means, "The words not spoken are the flowers of silence." It's just a nice way to remind myself as I walk out the door every morning to try to keep my mouth shut. I'm more successful some days than others, but at least I don't have things like that rattling around in my brain to keep under control.

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