Michael Richards on Letterman: “I’m not a racist”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

kramer racist tirade n-bombUpdate: TheThink has the video of Michael Richards on Letterman. Check it out.

So Michael Richards, who played Kramer on Seinfeld, was on Letterman last night to apologize for his racist-ass rant on Friday at Los Angeles’s Laugh Factory. (See our previous post on this.)

I’m always amazed when these racial outbursts happen, and the apology is something along the lines of “I’m shouldn’t have said that” or “those words were very offensive.”

What the perpetrators of these racist statements don’t get is that it’s not the words themselves that are shocking or offensive. It’s what the words reveal about the person’s values and true beliefs.

The fact that Richards, when provoked by a black man, immediately reminded him that it wasn’t so long ago that he could have been lynched and made a public spectacle of, to me indicates that he is resentful of having to tolerate blacks being equal to him, and longs for the days when he could exercise his “god-given” superiority. Kinda makes you wonder what dinner-table conversations are like at the Richards house, no? If you didn’t believe this stuff, it wouldn’t be the first thing that came to mind.

Anyway, Defamer has some behind-the-scenes scoop on how insincere Richards’ apology is:

As he was walking out, he said to the women accompanying him, “…so you go on these shows and apologize and apologize but it’s never good enough.” One of the women murmured something about him having a PR person to handle this kind of thing and he replied, “I don’t have anyone handling this. If I did, I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble in the first place.”

Right, not having a PR person is why everyone thinks you’re a racist.

I found the transcript of the Letterman show and pasted it below. Interesting that he talks about pushing the envelope, about trash talking, about rage, about free association, about passion – everything except the big R word: racism.

Letterman:

“Why don’t you explain exactly what happened for the folks who may not know.”

Richards:

“I lost my temper on stage. I was at a comedy club trying to do my act and I got heckled and I took it badly and went into a rage and said some pretty nasty things to some Afro-Americans, a lot of trash talk, and uh…”

Letterman:

“And you were actually being heckled or were they just talking and disturbing the act?”

Richards:

“That was going on too.”

***

Richards:

“…You know, I’m really busted up over this and I’m very, very sorry to those people in the audience, the blacks, the Hispanics, whites – everyone that was there that took the brunt of that anger and hate and rage and how it came through, and I’m concerned about more hate and more rage and more anger coming through, not just towards me but towards a black/white conflict. There’s a great deal of disturbance in this country and how black feel about what happened in Katrina, and, you know, many of the comics, many of performers are in Las Vegas and New Orleans trying to raise money for what happened there, and for this to happen, for me to be in a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, you know, I’m deeply, deeply sorry.

And I’ll get to the force field of this hostility, why it’s there, why the rage is in any of us, why the trash takes place, whether or not it’s between me and a couple of hecklers in the audience or between this country and another nation, the rage…”

Letterman:

“But Michael, let me interrupt here for a second and ask a question about had the people doing the heckling or the people who were not paying attention, had they been white or Caucasian or any other race, what would have been the nature of your response then?”

Richards:

“It may have happened. It may have happened. You know, I’m a performer. I push the envelope, I work in a very uncontrolled manner onstage. I do a lot of free association, it’s spontaneous, I go into character. I don’t know, in view of the situation and the act going where it was going, I don’t know, the rage did go all over the place.

It went to everybody in the room. But you can’t – you know it’s, I don’t – I know people could, blacks could feel – I’m not a racist, that’s what so insane about this, and yet it’s said, it comes through, it fires out of me and even now in the passion that’s here as I confront myself.”

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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