Monday, December 25, 2006

richards' racist rant (epilogue)

Shortly after the Richard's meltdown, the folks at National Lampoon quickly put together the parody Seinfeld: The Lost Episode combining new footage with clips from the original show. Personally I found it hilarious. And some of the clips (especially with Kramer in "blackface") show that even well before the meltdown, the Seinfeld show left something to be desired when it comes to its racial politics.

Andy Dick -- The New "Kramer"?
Wayans Drops N-Bomb, Faces Fallout

Andy Dick was already near the top of my list of least favorite comedians but reading about him dropping n-bombs at LA's Improv certainly isn't helping. Damon Wayans has also attained the infamous distinction of being the first famous comedian to violate the Laugh Factory's n-word policy (resulting in a $320 fine and a 3 month ban).

While I'm glad that the Laugh Factory seems to be applying their policy equally to black and white comedians, I do think that on a social level, black and white usage of the n-term and similar comments can be viewed differently. The identity of the speaker is part of the context which can have a large impact on the significance of the word.

For example, what if both Marcus Garvey and the Grand Wizard of the Klan say to a Black person: "Go Back to Africa." The same four words, in one case they are an expression of solidarity, pride and achievement. In the other case they are an expression of exclusion, rejection and worthlessness.

I tend to think Michael Jackson jokes (about him being or becoming white) tend to have the same split. When a black comedian does such a joke, the subtext is often "Michael, we love you. Come back home." When a white comedian does it, the subtext is more likely "N------ please, who do you think you are?" The difference is all in the context.

Grenada's past:
richards' racist rant
richards' racist rant (part 2)


DA said...

Well, I personally think urging re-patriation to Africa was nuts no matter which side was doing it. In fact, the Klan and Black leaders urging re-patriation have often expressed solidarity and sungularity of purpose. But the rest of your point is well taken.

H. Lewis Smith said...


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sondjata said...

Da is clueless.

Garvey in fact urged repatriation to Africa of those with skills and mentality to do the work of decolonization and state building. It is known that Garvey did, in fact sit with the grand Wizard of the Klan to discus various racial issues.

Garvey's account of the issue can be found along with my own commentary here:

sondjata said...

Mistaken link. Proper link here:

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Yeah, I had heard about Garvey and the Klan before, that was basically where the example came from.

DA said...


Hold on, checking my post for mention of Garvey's name...Oh shit, not there! However, Garvey was one of many advocates of re-patriation who met with nazis.

The back to Afria movement is at best a pipe dream and at worst a dangerous delusion.

Love your site, though, Sondjata. Sometimes I look at something and it almost seems like Black People are wearing Blackface.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Da, as the offspring of immigrants I'm going to loudly disagree. I generally will respect anyone's decision to go to another country in order to live another kind of life.

I think it is natural as African-Americans gain more upward mobility for folks to get more cosmopolitan and international in perspective and start to forge and foster ties to other parts of the diaspora, whether that be in Africa, Brazil, the West Indies, whatever. I don't expect black folks to leave the US en masse, but I really respect people who have the courage of their convictions. If folks truly feel this is the belly of the beast, it only makes sense to pack up and leave.

DA said...

I agree. That's part of the reason I find the back to Africa bit as hypocritical as I do; most have no intention of leaving. When high profile advocates of repatriation never seem interested in going themselves, it speaks volumes to me. It's like Muslims who sit around cursing America but will starve if they ever head to any "Islamic" country. As the grandson of Immigrants, who has been to the country his Grandmother and Aunts left just 50 years ago, I can tell you that in my experience you can't go "back" to somewhere you've never been. If Black Americans go to Most of Africa it will harm them and the people present and only make things worse. And most of these people are NOT the children of immigrants, and have no idea what part of Africa their ancestors originally came from. If we all should just go back where our ancestors came from, then logically we'd all head to Africa.

Returning from a Disapora is not really possible after centuries and I'm not sure it's even desirable. Israel has not exactly worked out swimmingly. I continuously find it odd how many people define themselves primarily in terms of race when, while an important factor, it is not the primary link between people. A Blackamerican man my age will almost always have more in common with me than an African his same color, and I'll be more similar to him than I would be to a white Rhodesian.