Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick: Cutting Edge Social Commentary

So you've probably all heard the scuttle-but about Michael "Kramer" Richards and his Mel Gibson-like racist tirade at a Comedy Club last week. He apologized at the behest of Seinfeld on Letterman the other night. (Don't you love the word "behest"?)

I first heard of the story on ESPN radio. Colin Cowherd stepped out in front of the train that would surely come and stated that the apology was not adequate to overturn the outrage expressed in Richards' comments. There are some words, some types of name-calling that can never be taken back. He identified what is wrong with Richards' rant: the deep-seated contempt in every sentence. That level of racism cannot be tolerated, nor can it be taken back through an apology.

A caller to his show (southern, white) got on his high horse and challenged Colin: When black comedians hammer whites, why don't they draw the same kind of national furor? Selective racism?

At this moment, Colin went into my personal hall of fame. Paraphrased: Listen, blacks have endured hundreds of years of oppression and subjugation at the hands of white people. Don't tell me that we have to allow that kind of garbage because Chris Rock calls white people "Krackers" in his comedy routine. Chris Rock and any other black comedian can say whatever they want about us for a couple hundred years. We owe them that much. But whites may NEVER cross that line, ever, because of our history, because of what we did. Click (phone call terminated), his rant followed.

For those with morbid curiosity, the original clip of Richards' stomach-turning remarks is below:

YouTube (It is obscene and offensive: be ye forewarned).

Surprisingly, Dan Patrick (The Big Show on ESPN radio) had the strange misfortune of being on Letterman's show the same night as Richards and watched from back stage as the entire apology unfolded right before he went on the air to "chat" with Dave. Dan was mortified, as are we all. Yet what I liked about hearing Dan address this topic is that he has consistently called out whites (and blacks... as you'll see) for their thinly veiled racist attitudes and remarks.

For instance, Dan criticized sports writers when he noticed that they tend to describe black quarterbacks as "great athletes" whereas they admire white QBs for being "smart and hard working." And then he asks, "Why?" and leaves you hanging with your discomfort.

He went on to say that when a black athlete is interviewed, a white commentator will often remark: "He was well-spoken" whereas when a white commentator interviews a white player, no such remark is made.

Michael Irvin (former Dallas wide receiver -thanks Ish) on Dan's Big Show on Monday claimed that Tony Romo (Dallas' QB who replaced Drew Bledsoe) must have had some great, great, great, great Grandma who "got it down in the 'hood' or the barn or something" with a black man to account for Romo's talent. Dan Patrick challenged Irvin, asking if that is the only way Romo could be a good athlete. Irvin laughed and moved on. Dan and Keith Olberman were utterly perplexed and said so once the interview ended. Listen here. Ugh!

What stands out to me about all this racial stuff is: These sports guys seem to get it. At least, they see the issues, and say so.

Sports guys! Making social judgments. Do you think being in a world where blacks and whites must get along and where respect and admiration runs deep between the races might just help a wee bit? Sounds like it. After years of Rush, Hannity and Glenn "I'm really white" Beck and their poor attempts to cover up racism when it shows up in their constituencies, I love listening to these sports guys.

In other sports news: UCLA is hot in basketball (beat KY last night—which means a lot more to me now in KY's shadow than it did in Westwood).
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute scored 18 points despite playing the final 8½ minutes with four fouls. He scored six of UCLA's last 10 points, ignoring the foul trouble to go inside for the first four points and then throwing down a dunk on the break to make it 69-65 with 25 seconds to play.

This has to be their year. Has to be! (Right, Steve? - chief Bruin in the blogosphere)


Kansas Bob said...

This ...

"That level of racism cannot be tolerated, nor can it be taken back through an apology."

... is especially true when we are talking about a generic apology. Possibly if Richards went to the individuals (I saw two of them on the Today Show) involved, and confessed his "sin" to them, the apology might come across a bit more authentic? A very difficult thing to do but it could be life-changing for Richards and others involved.

Scott said...

It is not my place to comment on whether Michael Richards' apology was adequate or not. However, there are two notions with which I would disagree. The first notion is that there are things for which no expression of sorrow, no matter how heartfelt and sincere, can make up. I agree, once something is said it can never be taken back, but it can be repented for. Repentance, even when used in a non-religious context, implies an intention to correct the offensive behavior.
The second notion I would challenge is that racism in any form is acceptable, even if it is black people making racist comments about white people. Of course, what is considered racist in any given context is open to interpretation.

julieunplugged said...

I think the nuance Colin emphasized was that no apology takes those comments back. They are there regardless.

And like you, I don't know what makes that apology adequate since the reamrks weren't directed at me or my race.

Racism is not acceptable (as the example of Michael Irvin's remarks also show). But in comedy, I think Colin was trying to point out that black comedians are operating by a different standard asthey findways to cope with the memory of systematic oppression as opposed to Richards using dominance during a racist era as a way to discredit a heckler.

Bob, I like your idea of how the apology would have played as more sincere - a genuine apology to the offended ones, rather than a general one to a TV audience.

Ish Engle said...


Michael Irvin was a WR, not an RB. :-)

I didn't see anything else that I could contribute to the conversation as pretty much everyone is saying what I was thinking while reading.

Thanks for this.

julieunplugged said...

Ish, duh, thanks. Brain dead moment. :)

Corrected on the blog with credit to you.

TiaDavidandOurLittleChickens said...

But.... in all honesty, when a black athlete is praised for being "well spoken" isn't at least part of that because so many of them AREN'T? Maybe it still should not be pointed out audibly, but it still remains to be true. Where I grew up one was surprised when one encountered a verbally precise black person because they were so dang unusual. Either they COULDN'T speak clearly or WOULDN'T because they thought it was "cool" to slur their words and sound like a dumbass.

I don't see that particular statement to be racist. I think stuff like that is where it gets really muddy.

I was talking with my friend the other day, who is gay, about my frustration at not finding any intelligent websites about gay professionals. Everything had club boys and cross dressers on it. He said gays were their own worst enemy this way, that at every pride parade the same thing went on. They want to be seen as mainstream and professional and everything on their "face" is sex, sex, sex.

So history or not, this is where I start to feel like there has to be laying aside and a mutual fresh start. It's very, very hard...maybe not unlike in a marriage when both partners are damaged and self protecting and they have to CHOOSE to close the door to the past and make tentative steps to new unity.

julieunplugged said...

Tia, if men repeatedly said, "She's fairly rational" as if that was a surprising occurance, wouldn't you feel that they were expecting you to not be, to be irrational as though their idea of rationality is the basis on which to judge you?

I heard Joe Namath the other day interviewed and I could hardly understand him. But I didn't assume that was because he's white. He just had a hard time articulating his words for whatever reason.

The danger in saying, "He's well-spoken" is that whites are putting themselves in the seat of evaluation and to what purpose? Why do we need to comment on it at all? It can become a subtle way of letting the black community know what we think it takes to be on par with us... as though we are the norm to aspire to.

julieunplugged said...

Btw, your comments about homosexuals fall into a similar category. Many of the activists see their overt expressions of sexuality as a way to defy the norms set by heterosexuals as though those norms ought to apply to all, as though their norms are right for all.

I don't enjoy the thought of a gay pride parade (though I have never been to one), but I also don't like the way the larger group defines what it means to be "acceptable."

TiaDavidandOurLittleChickens said...

Well, people, even my own relatives, ARE surprised when I'm "fairly rational", and yes, it does bug me a bit that it surprises them. But, it also is only fair in some instances, if their only history with me has been when I'm having rather irrational moments.

Personally? I'm surprised when ANY althete is well-spoken and when I hear someone comment on it, I tend to think they are just giving a compliment rather than a reflection on stereotypes.

I have been unable to reconcile with myself that all the burden is on whites because of history. If black people really, really don't want to be thought of as unintelligent gansta theives than I think at least part of the burden is on their part to stop representing themselves as such. "Acting out" only lasts so long and as a method of unifying, isn't really that sucessful in the long run.

As for the gay stuff, those were my gay friend's self-analysis of his group and how they represent themselves in media. Not mine. I hear often how gay people are mainstream so I went looking for it for book research. Ended up frustrated after hearing from them *in their own words*. I wasn't going to sites that gave me a second-hand display.

That was in a week when gay marriage was up for the vote. When gay adoption is a hot button issue. If that is really want they want to communicate is important to them, then why not have a little more "family friendly" PR? If they want to act out and be flamboyant, it's certainly their own perogative. But if they want to garner a certain reaction, it would help a little to market their message to their audience a little more attentively.

That whole line of thought came from my gay friend and his partner, who are opening a b and b in Mass and hoping to have a baby next year via serrogate. I'm sure there are black people out there (Bill Cosby comes to mind) who are equally disturbed by the bulk of imagary out there that does little to propel the group forward.

I think MR's outburst was heinous and his apology too casual. I don't want to make it sound like I was condoning his action in any way by taking issue with the sport caster example. I really see them as completely different situations, albeit maybe on the same coin.

julieunplugged said...

Tia, I should have clarified. When I said "irrational" I was meaning if they lumped you in with a stereotype of women as irrational.

I am not trying to say that all the problems blacks have are the result of whites. I am saying that whites tend to underappreciate how they continue to assume that their way of living is the norm to which blacks ought to aspire. Did you ever see Tupac: Resurrection? I recommend it for a different view on what gansta represents to blacks.

I got what you said about gays and I understood it was from the point of view of gay men. What I was trying to share was a different perspective fromm within the gay community.

Similar to blacks, there are those who want to be mainstream asdefined by the hetero community and there are those who feel that they are capitulating to have to conform. The debates within both gay and black communities often have to do with how to resolve their particular identities as minority populations in a world governed by hetero or white populations.

My only point was that I think we forget that when we make blanket statements, we are speaking from an assumption that says how we see the world ought to be the normative way to exist in it and we will accept those different from us the more they resemble us.


TiaDavidandOurLittleChickens said...

"I am saying that whites tend to underappreciate how they continue to assume that their way of living is the norm to which blacks ought to aspire."

I agree. I don't think they should have to lose their identity of who they really are just because the majority thinks they should.

A: I didn't read that sports comment as anything but a compliment to someone who sounds like he aricultated a point well.


B: I guess that if gays/blacks say they want to be treated the same as the majority, then they should behave more like it. Which, I think, is a severe tangent from where most of this post was headed ;-).

It seems almost schizophrenic to me: either they are happy they way they are and want us to accept them that way, as unique and different, OR they want to be the same without the responsibilty that comes with it. And maybe there's a third category out there: the ones who are trying very, very hard to aspire to the majority and are continually held back by perceptions cast upon them before they even get there.

It has helped me in recent years to back away from looking at either group en masse and just taking individuals for who they are before me. It's where I personally feel I can make a difference, one on one, when the other problems just seem too big to scarcely get my head around.

julieunplugged said...

Got you "A" point.

B. Is it possible to have the rights of the majority without having to look like the majority?

For instance, white men come in a variety of personalities - lazy, hard-working, well-dressed, slobs, preoccupied with hobbies, obssessed with money, faithful to their spouses, unfaithful, partiers, highly educated and so on. We don't generalize for men. We take them as individuals, for the most part.

Women, as they've sought rights, have had the challenge of becoming equally respected to men but at times are disrespected for not being like the "best" of men (in business or other more traditionally male-centric fields). What is it to be your own female person in what has been a man's world?

Gays and blacks are always facing this very dilemma. When can they be individuals rather than a group? Do I think when I see a whitemale who is a drunk that he reflects badly on all white males? No. But somehow, black ganstas reflect badly on blacks as a whole, or gay pride overly sexual men reflect badly on all gay men. See what I mean?

I agree that seeing individuals is probably the best antidote in our individual lives - really knowing people one by one and letting that change us. Secondly, reading the writings of those who want rights and opportunities for their communities is the best way to become informed about what the issues are for the collective perceptions of those communities. It's a both/and I think.


TiaDavidandOurLittleChickens said...

I will have to think about this one:

"white men come in a variety of personalities - lazy, hard-working, well-dressed, slobs, preoccupied with hobbies, obssessed with money, faithful to their spouses, unfaithful, partiers, highly educated and so on. We don't generalize for men."

My first reaction is to disagree because I (and I think those in my same circles) afford neither the same respect nor priveledge to the slob who won't keep a job and takes poor care of his family as I would a highly educated man who is an involved family man. Ditto the white boy with the poor education over a soldier. There are other factors at play besides race.

But I've heard you say before that skin color still provides a starting-point priveledge/hinderance before those other factors come up so I'll give it more thought.

Got lots of "white trash" kind of people out here in the mts. with me...hard to say they are equal in most ways to urban counterparts with jobs. Or even farmers who work hard.

"Is it possible to have the rights of the majority without having to look like the majority?"

The question that could spawn a whole new dialog! I'd have to say....sometimes.

julieunplugged said...

Ha! We keep talking.Twould be easier over coffee and chocolate cake.

When we meet a white male we don't like, we don't judge all white males by the bad example. That's what I was saying. We tend to see white males individually. Minority populations are often evaluated as a group.

TiaDavidandOurLittleChickens said...

"When we meet a white male we don't like, we don't judge all white males by the bad example."

I think that's true of you and I. But I can call to mind enough examples for me to still hesitate. My gigi, for instance, has met enough white males that she doesn't like to pretty much think the entire gender is scum. Certain ones she does like, for instance, a favored son in law, or grandchildren under a certain age, are almost her "token" males, not so unlike saying, "I'm not racist...I had a very good black friend back in high school". ;-)

So I still squirm a bit to think it only happens along racial lines. I can see where it certainly does happen though, and probably more the rule than the exception in some parts of the country.

I'm cooking and cleaning and using the internet as break. Cake and coffee sounds really good....

I'm going back and forth a little on the Richards thing. I wonder if it happened because he

a: really is a deeply seated racist that has pretended not to be and it just came pouring out


b: has had a growing frustration racially and had no acceptable venue for venting and expressing it in a more normal dose so it *then* came exploding out. Sort of like a tantrum when a child gets really angry?