Michael Richard's flurry of racial epithets directed at African-Americans at The Laugh Factory in West Hollywood continues to be the talk of the town. Richards publicly apologized nationally on the David Letterman show. We have all at one time or another said something that we wished that we could take back, but in Richard's case this is more than just something that slipped out. It showed deep feelings of contempt and racial hatred that may or may not have been long dormant. Richards'
showed his hatred for not only the African-Americans who were present at the Laugh factory but for all African-Americans. What would he have done if the hecklers were white? Jesse Jackson, (who also unleashed a racial epithet when he referred to New York City as Hymietown) said that he was willing to accept Richard's apology. Jackson's statement never went farther than the word "Hymietown" but Richard's statements were far more offensive. When addressing his
black heckler he repeated used the n word and said "If this were fifty years ago you would have a fork up your - - -?" and "That's what happens when you interrupt a white man.". Al Sharpton was in no mood to accept Richard's apology at this time stating that Richards remarks reflect deep-seeded racism and that Richards should get help.
As an African-American I have no tolerance for ethnic humor it doesn't matter what race, creed or color the comedian (or comedienne) may be. It's just not funny. I remember Jackie Robinson saying many years ago to Black Americans of the 1950s "Don't accept any derogatory statements directed at any other ethnic group because when the people who say such things are not in your company it is more than likely that they have racial insults about you" Race is a hot topic among comedians( and comediennes) and I have noticed that it is far more frequent among white than black. No one really knows what is in Richards' heart....is he genuinely sorry or is he sorry that he got caught? That was not the first time that Richards has publicly used racial epithets. Jewish audience members were insulted by Richards statements at another comedy club where Richards blamed Jews for "killing Christ", so we see a pattern developing. I cannot accept Richards' apology at this time either, but that doesn't mean that I might not change my mind at some time in the future. It will all depend on his actions. I remember when I was much younger I heard a statement attributed to Elvis Presley "The only things I want from Negros are to shine my shoes and buy my records" At that time I decided to never buy an Elvis Presley record again....and I didn't. But after hearing the late Red Foxx talk about a discussion he had with Elvis when he confronted Presley about that statement Presley said "I don't recall saying that but I may have, if I did it was because of the type of people I was around at that time. Those types of people are not around me today and as a result that is not the way I feel today." Foxx was convinced of Presley's sincerity. Later I found out that Presley was a very generous man who gave automobiles and thousands of dollars to people who were complete strangers to him, many of these people were African-Americans. My impression of Presley really changed when I heard glowing comments from Cissy Houston, who had nothing but praise for Presley. She became an integral part of Presley's show when she and the Sweet Inspirations (a black female quartet) became Presley's background singers. I also had a very negative opinion of another Elvis, Elvis Costello who made a derogatory statement about the late Ray Charles. As a result of using a racial epithet he was decked by vocalist Bonnie Bramlett. Costello apologized and went on to be a leading voice in the fight against apartheid in England. Will Richards be like Presley and Costello, I don't know but I hope so.