The rare beast: the sincere apology (Michael Richards)

It’s been the buzz of the Internet today – Michael Richards’ racist rant. I was awaiting the apology and during the Letterman show, I received it. Through the benefit of fortunate timing (or unfortunate depending on your perspective) Jerry Seinfeld was scheduled to appear to talk up the season 7 release of Seinfeld tomorrow. When they say any PR is good PR – I don’t think they meant this.

The apology was hard to watch. Never has there been a more obviously unrehearsed public apology in the era of publicists and spin-masters. Richards at times went off on rants about racism and what happened in New Orleans; he couldn’t finish thoughts – he was all over the place. And this is what made this apology one of the first sincere apologies I’ve heard in some time.

He didn’t utter those four words included in every public apology “If I offended anyone…” . He didn’t blame it on alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity, an angry mother, etc.

Note: I believe racists utter racist comments. So don’t tell me what he said meant nothing, I think comments like his or Mel Gibson’s come from somewhere; they’re not just words. This will be the end of Richards’ career – Mel Gibson had one thing to fall back on: he’s FUCKING MEL GIBSON. Richards? Well even when Seinfeld was on the air he wouldn’t be able to overcome this.

  • http://fortyninepercenter.blogspot.com/ Joey

    What an idiot. I teach mostly African-American students and most of them couldnt help but laugh at how foolish this was.

    More telling, many of them just wanted to know what he was thinking about when he opened his mouth. I told them, “Clearly, he wasn’t thinking about much of anytyhing”.

    This is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen.

    Wow…

  • Spencer

    He was thinking “hurt these men – go for the jugular”.

    If he had a gun…

  • http://merujo.blogspot.com Merujo

    I watched the apology last night, too. It was distressing and uncomfortable and clearly sincere. I was waiting to see him crack and weep, honestly, he seemed so frighteningly fragile.

    But his career is over.

    So strange.

    And watching Seinfeld say, “He’s my friend, I love him, but there’s no justifying what he said…” while Richards listened in California… that was all very rough.

  • http://www.svrspy.blogspot.com Scarlet

    What did he say exactly?

  • Spencer

    Scarlet – not sure what you’re asking for – but the you should find everything you’re looking for by clicking here.

  • radiocynic

    Yeah the original cell-phone vid is still up on tmz, though I wouldn’t exactly endorse watching it –
    http://www.tmz.com/2006/11/20/kramers-racist-tirade-caught-on-tape/

    but wow, yeah. I agree with you, Spencer, on both counts, both that the apology was more sincere than many, but that nothing could undo his inner thinking that was revealed. As unnerving as the apology was, geez it was WAY unnerving to watch the video. I recall seeing his interviews (on the Seinfeld DVD’s and whatnot) and thinking he must be a good actor, since I find his Kramer character strangely endearing but don’t find him that likable in real life. But I sure didn’t expect to dislike anything quite THIS much!

    No great loss as his comedic career wasn’t much of anywhere, but in a totally selfish way I’m kind of bummed as this will at least somewhat creep me out now every time I watch any old Seinfeld DVD’s!

  • grace

    radiocynic–I totally agree. I’m bummed that Michael Richards the actor tainted that great character, Kramer. He seems like he has a few screws loose. When he was apologizing, it was like he didn’t know who he was, like he didn’t even know where it came from. He’s cuckoo.

  • Spencer

    I’m feeling so very paranoid tonight. Not that this was a man I respected for other than his comedic talent, I still feel so naive for ever giving him the time of day. He is and will always be a racist to me – I hate to think that I need to assume everyone else is – and then let them prove me wrong.

  • http://merujo.blogspot.com Merujo

    The more time I’ve had to reflect on it all, the more I realize I think what I saw on Michael Richard’s face from California wasn’t sincerity, but fear. Fear that he’d just completely f’ed up his life by letting his inner thoughts just unleash. Quiet racists can get through life as seemingly fair by never speaking their bigotry out loud…

  • grace

    Guys! Did you hear? Michael Richards killed himself! He mentioned “A Rubber Door” in his suicide note!

    OK, just kidding.

  • thechickenroaster

    As soon as my brother told me that Michael Richards did something that I probably will not be able to believe, and showed me the video, I can honestly say that I was hurt. My brother and I have long been Seinfeld fans and I grew up with Mr. Richards being in my home all the time making us laugh, and he has been a man that has been a huge inspiration in my life and has lifted me up when I had a down day. When I saw the video, I was both stunned and hurt and end even compassionate a little. I watched the Letterman apology right after the video. And I can honestly say it hurt me to the degree that I was not able to sleep at all that night. I came to a conclusion however. I felt very genuinely strong about his apology, and even more strongly, and even more silly sounding, I felt that God was calling me to forgiveness. Even though I do not know him personally, I have never met him, I would consider myself lucky to meet him, he is still a man that has been a large part of my life since before I can remember with his antics always on my television since I was younger. I have forgiven him. I genuinely feel like his apology was sincere and the part that touched me most was when he said that he is not a racist, but that crap came out, and needed to deal with that. Is he passing the blame? No. Is he waving it off? No. He is confronting it. He does not know where it came from, but he knows he has some work to do. And that is why my favorite line in his apology is when he said he had work to do personally even though he is pretty sure he is not racist, the crap still came out of his mouth in a moment when his defences were down. To sum up, I have always loved Mr. Richards, I still love Mr. Richards as he has been a large part of my life and has taken me through many difficult times. What he did was wrong, but I forgive him for hurting me. It is up to everyone else to forgive for his wrongs against them.

    Having said all that, now is a time for reflection. We need to look at the double standard this is creating. I have heard plenty of black Americans, Latin Americans, and others besides whites spout some of the most racist, disgusting unclean humor and no one gives a rip. If a black man makes a racist joke about a white guy, it is all in good fun and no one says anything. it is time to embrace what we laugh at. It is time to look at Mr. Richard’s actions and say “That is wrong.” It is time to look at any other race’s acts that are racially motivated in a stereotypical and hateful way and stop passing it off and say “That is wrong” Just because there has been a time in this country that has persecuted African Americans, does not mean we should embrace racism from that sides to “even things out” It only causes more racism and hate and anger to arise.

  • Spencer

    You can’t just wash away what he said and attribute it to rage or anger. Those words came from somewhere; you don’t just jump to those words without it being a part of you in some fashion. He could of called him a moron or an idiot but when he was angry he immediately went to calling him a nigger. It’s like Sinbad said – saying he’s not a racist is like a man that hits his wife saying he’s not a wife beater.

    Secondly – there’s a difference between a white man doing what Richards did and a black person making a racist joke. If you listen to what Richards said – it was an attempt to remind this man that he has a place in society and that place is at the discretion of men like him “50 years ago we would have strung you up” “get him out of here”. No matter how hard a black person tries, there are no words to say to a white person that have that same belittling effect.

  • grace

    This comment from “thechickenroaster” reminds me of what I find most hypocritical about most religious people–in your first paragraph you talk about God guiding you to forgiveness, and in the second paragraph you turn a poison tongue at minority comedians. Unfortunately, you failed to understand several very important points.

    1. Comparing what Michaels Richards yelled on stage to a Dave Chappelle joke about white guys is not comparing apples to apples. It is very obvious from the footage that Michael Richards had departed from his comedy routine and was angrily addressing a person in the audience as a civilian. He wasn’t joking. I’ve yet to see on tape a black or hispanic comedian turn to a white audience member and start yelling in a crazed angry manner and it be considered a “joke” and part of his routine that we all laugh at. To summarize: Michael Richards: calling a black man a nigger–being himself; minority comedians making fun of how white guys dance–a joke.

    2. I’m going to speak slowly for you… Kramer is a fictional character. No matter how many times you’ve watched Seinfeld reruns and thought to yourself, “That Kramer! He’s the best! I’d love to have him as my neighbor!” it does NOT make him a real person. Mchael Richards is an actor with a complete, full life apart from Kramer the character. In fact, Kramer is only one character ever played by the actor Michael Richards. If he had instead played Ted Bundy in Ted Bundy’s life story, I wonder if now, “thechickenroaster,” you would be saying, “That Ted Bundy was a bad, bad man. I’m glad he’s now suffering publicly.” To summarize: Michael Richards is a man that yelled racist remarks in a room full of people, while Kramer… is PRETEND.

    And anyway, Chickenroaster, we all know you’re actually Kenny Rogers. No use hiding anymore. Just because your restaurant got a plug on one episode of Seinfeld does not mean you’re forever indebted to its actors. Let go.

  • thechickenroaster

    I am sorry if I came off differently thatn I intended. I never said I justify what he did by giving my forgiveness for hurting me personally. I thought I said very clearly that what he did was wrong. And is it a poisonous tongue to say that something a comedian says is wrong if it is wrong? I did not say that part about the other comedians to show my bitterness to them, I in no way eluded to either forgiveness or not for that matter towards the other comedians I mentioned. I merely mentioned that because our society thinks it is right to listen to racist rants from anyone that is not white and wrong when a white guy does it; which let me clarify again for you, was indeed wrong. I am not saying he was in the right, he was in the wrong. But so are all the other comedians, and I did not point that out out of bitterness, merely to look at our society’s double standard.

  • grace

    Yeah, you definitely aren’t getting It.

  • Spencer

    Kenny – What Grace is saying is that you’re looking at the wrong person to compare. When someone like Farrakhan or a leader such as Mayor Nagin in New Orleans makes a racist comment – they are criticized just as they would if they were white. When a comedian makes a joke, it’s a joke – doesn’t matter if they’re black or white or whatever. What kind of bullshit are you believing that white comedians don’t make jokes about blacks, jews, hispanics?

    What Richards said wasn’t a joke – it wasn’t a character – it was Michael Richards speaking and if you don’t get that, then you simply choose not to get it.

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