The latest hot topic surrounding race relations in America involves comedian Michael Richards and the racial statements he directed to two black men in the audience at the Laugh Factory during a stand up performance.
On Sunday, Nov. 19, while he was performing a stand up routine, two black men heckled Richards during his performance and Richards retaliated by directing racial slurs toward them, which included repeated use of the N-word.
The incident, which was videotaped by an audience member with the use of a cell phone, has been broadcasted through access from tmz.com and youtube.com.
“I think it’s outrageous but it’s not uncommon in this country, unfortunately,” said Dr. Bernardean Broadous, a Pan African Studies professor here at CSUN. “Sadly, racism is a part of the fabric of America’s society.”
In an interview on the David Letterman show where Jerry Seinfeld was the guest of the night, Richards apologized in regard to his behavior and language at the comedy club the previous night.
Since the incident, the 57-year-old actor who has gained recognition and fame as Kramer, the wacky neighbor on “Seinfeld,” has been campaigning to clear his name. He has even hired a public relations expert to assist him in handling the press.
In his campaign to clear his name, he has enlisted the help of Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton.
He also apologized once again on Jesse Jackson’s morning radio show on Nov. 26.
The incident has many people talking and wondering about Richards himself, race relations and the use of the N-word in today’s society.
The incident has been receiving mixed feedback from the general public.
“I think that it’s ridiculous that those words would come out of his mouth so easily like water,” said Jonnae Thompson, a 19-year-old theater major. “The fact that he’s trying to team up with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton means nothing to me.”
This incident has forced some people to take a step back and examine race relations in society.
Race relations consist of cultural contacts and relations between people of different races.
“I know racism exists today,” said Lillian Lehman, a theater professor at CSUN. “Any person of color deals with it at some point in their lives or everyday. It’s obvious to the one who is receiving it.”
Some are viewing the incident as a step back in race relations in American society.
“It’s a wake up call that racism, to some extent, does exist to this day,” Thompson said.
Included in the backlash that Richards aimed at two black men in the audience was his repeated use of the N-word in a negative and derogatory way.
Some people say that it is wrong, but the word’s use is so common in today’s society anyway, especially in rap culture.
“I think it’s wrong to say but I find myself saying it all the time,” said Lorenzo Diggins Jr., an 18-year-old fashion major. “It’s a big contradiction.”
There has been many debates on the use of the N-word and a popular stance, among young African Americans, in the argument is that the N-word is acceptable nowadays but only between African Americans.
“The words has transformed from an insult to a term of endearment,” said Evan Washington, an 18-year-old freshman.
Others, mainly elders in the African American community feel and believe that the word should be banned and be off limits to everyone.
“The word itself is insidious,” said Broadous. “There is no way to make it affectionate. No one can rationally conclude it’s OK.”
The topic of the latest online poll conducted by The Daily Sundial asks: Should the use of the N-word be banned?
As of Dec. 1, 53 percent of people responded no because they believe people should be free to say whatever they want. Thirty three percent responded yes, because they believe that no one should ever use that word, and 2 percent of people polled believe that no one except African Americans should be allowed to use that word.
In regard to Richards, a majority of people mutually agree that what he said was wrong but he has also been labeled a racist.
“In my opinion, Richards believed what he said,” Broadous said. “What’s in us will come out of us eventually. It’s in his heart, otherwise he wouldn’t have said it.”
The incident even has some people feeling discouraged by how far society has regressed in regard to race relations.
“This proves how racist our society is,” said Diggins. “His true personality came out. It was in him all along.”