Thursday, November 30, 2006

In this week's Time Magazine, James Poniewozi's article "The Kramer in All of Us" offers an insightful analysis of Michael Richards racist meltdown at a comedy club in Los Angeles. He cites Richards' tirade, Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic gaffe, George Allen's "macacca" incident, and a host of other contemporary examples of newsworthy bigotry to assess the racist nature buried within us. His conclusion is: "Richards seemed to be going for that onstage: "It shocks you, to see what's buried beneath you!" Yet he was not entirely wrong--there is ugliness buried in people--and it's our responsibility as culture consumers to ask where he might be right."

I think this is an intriguing point - that racism in the public eye is a reflection of the inner-workings of our society.

However, I would take it one step further. Humans are racist by nature, true. Indeed, we have the Darwinist urge to categorize as a means of survival. What makes the contemporary zeitgeist different is that the "media" is there to broadcast it all. Remember, Michael Richards and George Allen were both caught on handheld camcorders. In no time at all, the videos were on the internet. Then, non-stop cable news picked up the stories and forced them onto our televisions.

As a species, we have always exhibited racism. Now, however, media saturation and constant documentation of human behavior are preventing our denial of it.


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