I am compelled to weigh in on this subject, as I feel race is one of the most compelling and fascinating subjects.
Of course, I have seen Richard's out of control response to black hecklers many times on Utube. I also saw his bizarre apology on Letterman. He obviously lost control. He just as obviously was harboring those racist sentiments.
Which begs the question: Now what? What do we do? How do we respond? Obviously, blacks will respond differently than whites. But should they?
I am fine with blacks using the N word amongst themselves in a good natured way. It is far different from when the word comes out of a white person's mouth. Context, in this instance, is everything. I see no genuine contradiction there. I do not think, however, that when blacks use the word with each other, that it demystifies it, that it somehow unarms the loaded nature of the word. If blacks truly want the word to no longer have power, than they should advocate, like some black leaders have recently, its eradication. Let's get the word out of circulation. It should never be used, by anybody. Under any circumstances.
Because until the word is removed from dialogue, the potential for the concept it represents will always exist. Black people using the word within their race and culture does not have anything to with racism. If they choose to eliminate it from their discourse, however, it might have an impact bigger than they may realize. A positive impact.
It is still the underground racism that is most detrimental to race relations in our country. Sure, Richard's racial melt down gets the press, but it is really the west Texas landlord who turns down the young black couple, saying the apartment has already beeen rented, when in actuality it has not, that is the true poisonous marrow in the bone of racism. It is the cop who pulls over the brother and questions him, simply because he is black (though I understand, clearly, why cops profile, (understand, not agree with, but that is for another column). It is the black woman who is not so discreetly followed in Nordstom by security. It is the hundreds of minor slights many black people endure each and every day in a country where they are only 12% of the population, yet 48% of the prison population. Most of us white people, and I am not excused from this, exhibit a subtle racism that we are unaware of, yet blacks are keenly aware of. That is the barrier between us that will never be removed until we talk about it. There are some very wise black people who need to come to the forefront of the race conversation in America, because thus far, that conversational ball has been dropped.
Shelby Steele. Larry Elder. Al Sharpton. Condoleeza Rice. Michael Jordan. Bill Cosby. Denzel Washington. Tiger Woods. Cornel West, Oprah Winfrey, Ice T, Bill Russell, Harry Belafonte, Barak Obama, Jesse Jackson (I invite him to this roundtable discussion hesitantly, but he needs to be there), Sidney Portier, Cicely Tyson, Jim Brown, Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, Maya Angelou, BB King, Eddie Murphy, Walter Mosely, Willie Brown, John Thompson, Spike Lee.
Now, when people talk about diversity today, they are talking about mixing the races into a bubbling cauldron of gumbo stew. But how about that above paragraph. That is a pretty damn diversified group of black people. THAT is what needs to happen. Once blacks engage each other (notice I did not say 'embrace') on their DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS of the race issue, then I believe progress can be made. Until then? Nope.