Let's take a closer look at so-called comedian Michael Richards' racist outburst that is capturing so much press and airtime. The incident, and what has ensued, tells me more about the overall pathetic moral state of our country than it does about racism.
Richards claims he's not a racist, despite attacking a black heckler, at a comedy club where he was performing with a string of the most inflammatory, demeaning, and vulgar racial slurs.
Is it possible that he's not? Maybe. It's possible that he's just a moron.
But check out the deep soul searching that this inane incident has provoked across the nation.
The general sentiment is pretty much captured in a column by The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson who sees in what happened here sad proof that "racism is not dead" in America.
I am in complete agreement with Mr. Robinson that racial animosity lives. But I certainly didn't need Michael Richards' imbecility as proof of this.
If we should be thinking about anything, it should be to try and understand why, after all these years, racial consciousness persists.
As satisfying as it might be for some to watch, Mr. Richards groveling around on television apologizing isn't going to help much. Nor are any sums that left wing legal entrepreneur Gloria Allred might extract from him. Nor are apologies to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (the knee-jerk assumption that these two black ministers speak for 40 million black Americans I think is equally racist).
Allow me to suggest that racism and racial consciousness persist and loom large because we choose it to be this way.
Eugene Robinson says that Michael Richards did not see a heckler. Instead, says Robinson, he saw a black heckler. But we live in a country that insists on placing all its citizens in racial categories and using measures of how these categories stack up as measures of national decency.
Every major institution _ business, government, educational _ one way or another keeps track of how many blacks it has on board. Every major corporation has a diversity officer to make sure the colors of the beans are in order. Every corporation gets surveys from the NAACP asking them how many blacks they've got.
When I get a loan from the bank, the loan officer sheepishly asks if it's OK to report that I'm black.
We have institutionalized race consciousness to the very core of our society, so it should be evident why it persists. It's the law.
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