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Comedian Michael Richards is no longer funny. After his unbelievable tirade at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles November 17, in which he screamed the “N-word” and profanities at patrons for several minutes, his career is toast.

Most of us know Michael Richards as “Kramer” in the "Sienfeld” television series. In that role he was frequently funny and at times accomplished. But in that role he was scripted. He was in-character and not himself. Too bad we’ve finally gotten to know the real man.

Trying to do damage control for his rant last week, Richards apologized on “Late Night with David Letterman” and again on the Reverend Jessie Jackson’s radio program. His apologies have seemed lame, half-hearted, and vague. He keeps saying he’s not a racist, but what is a racist if it’s not a person capable of publicly shouting the racial epithets he let rip on audience members at the Laugh Factory?

One thing has been heartening about this episode. Some Black leaders have finally stood up and said they find the “N-word” unacceptable not only when it is used derisively by non-Black individuals but also when it is used by Black comedians, rap singers, and others. It’s about time. I agree with them.

In days gone by, people like Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett made a cottage industry out of racial, ethnic, and every other kind of slur one could imagine. Today it’s people like Chris Rock and Whoopi Goldberg. Add to this comedians’, particularly comediennes, insistence upon using the “F-Word” and you almost cannot find a “clean comedian” left. Interestingly, Bill Cosby has weighed in on the bad-language-comedians, saying they are using the “F-Word” as a crutch for not being funny. I agree with him.

I salute Black comedian Paul Mooney for announcing this week that he will no longer use the “N-Word” in his acts. Good for him. It’s a step in the right direction.

I do not support Rev. Jessie Jackson’s call to Congress to make laws prohibiting the use of “hate language” in mass media. While I find the “N-Word,” and for that matter a host of other commonly heard words on television, offensive, passing laws to make them illegal smacks of political correctness and over-reaction. The best judge is a public moral consciousness and accountability. Michael Richards is being judged by that court as I write, and he may find its sentence a very long and difficult one to bear.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No one will ever duplicate the morally compelling content nor the energy and amazing vocal cadence of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963.

More eloquently than anyone before or since, King said,

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

I was eleven years old at that time, and I remember that speech being broadcast on black and white television. Later, in college and university, what he said began to sink in for me personally. While I have never really been mistreated or discriminated against because of my race or national heritage, I have witnessed it. I have been embarrassed and ashamed at Christians who tell racial jokes, make racist remarks, or act in arguably racist ways. My wife and I taught our children differently.

No Christian, and no conservative for that matter, and certainly no conservative Christian should ever once be guilty of racist actions. The fact that God created and loves each and every human being—that each individual is made in the image of God—are among the most fundamental of biblical doctrines. Those simple but profound lyrics from the children’s song say it all: “Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

So, whatever reservations people may have had about Dr. King’s lifestyle choices or whatever questions people may have yet ask about the rest of what he may have done during his lifetime or the philosophies that motivated him, his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement are unassailable. No important American historical figure lived a perfect life, and personal foibles or weak character should not preclude our rightful honoring of their public accomplishments. It’s a matter of recognizing the good and the right and applauding them wherever they are found. God will take care of the rest.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a true American original, and his legacy for liberty is something conservative Christians should be the first to celebrate—no matter what their race, gender, national origin, or ethnicity. We live in a nation today that is better for Dr. King’s accomplishments.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.