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Was Watching Seinfeld Last Night

and my enjoyment was significantly diminished by the fact that every time "Kramer" appeared, it reminded me of Michael Richards' disgusting racist rant last week. After a while, I just turned it off.

john34623q46:
Funny, I also watched Seinfeld but experienced just the opposite feelings. Richards was provoked, he reacted badly, and he apologised. After watching and closely analyzing his apology, my respect for him has grown significantly, and now I find myself enjoying his humor even more than before.
11.23.2006 11:39am
StevenK:
I think you're overreacting. If this is how you feel, I suggest you do everything you can to avoid finding out anything about the entertainers you like.
11.23.2006 11:47am
JonC:
Watching Seinfeld reruns over the past few days, I've felt the same way as Prof. Bernstein. Strangely, I really haven't found my enjoyment of Mel Gibson movies to be lessened even after I heard about his tirade, despite that Gibson's and Richards' rants were both equally odious. I think that because we're able to watch the Richards rant on YouTube and TV, for some reason it just provokes a more visceral response; whereas, with Gibson's rant, the only people who witnessed it directly were the officers on the scene. The rest of us, disgusted though we may be by it, experienced it more abstractly.
11.23.2006 11:55am
Richard Blaine (mail):
Gee, I've never been able to sit through a full episode of Seinfeld. I don't quite get what his appeal is(was).
11.23.2006 11:57am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Jon, I feel the same way about Gibson, but I think it also has to do with the fact that I've seen Gibson in many different roles, so it's easy to separate the character from the actor. I only know Richards from Seinfeld, and, thus, viscerally, Richards is Kramer and vice versa.
11.23.2006 12:00pm
JonC:
I agree; Richards is uniquely associated with Kramer in a way that makes it more difficult to "tease out" the actor's persona from the character.
11.23.2006 12:16pm
Randy R. (mail):
Apparently, this isn't the first time Richards has gone off. According to today's Washington Post TV column, Richards has gone postal insutling women and jews. (And Richards himself is Jewish!)

Sounds like Richards has bigger problems inside his head than even he thinks. That's his problem. As for us, the shock is because his character was so lovable in the series that we have come to identify the actor with the character. That's not a good thing, since actors usually take care to separate themselves from the parts that they play. It is OUR problem if we think that actors are really something like the parts that they play.

Therefore, enjoy the character of Kramer -- Richards is a top notch actor, and his played the part beautifully. If it strikes you so, be offended by Richards rants, because that is him, not an act.

The difference that I see between someone like Mel Gibson and Richards is that Gibson has a history of making controversl remarks as Mel Gibson, so we know what he really thinks of gays and jews.

His actions as a person, not an actor, have shown him to be a bigot and a jerk, and in that respect is like Richards. But again, one can differentiate, because at least Richards didn't make a movie that slanders jews.
11.23.2006 12:18pm
BGates (mail) (www):
The most amazing part of the whole story has been that Richards apologized to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

I mean, what are the odds those two would even be in a comedy club together, much less that they would be the targets of racial taunts while in the audience?
11.23.2006 12:25pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Richards seems to be one of several Hollywood figures whose Jewish publicists claim they are Jews when it's convenient to do so (like Kathy Lee Gibson, a Christian with one Jewish grandpar
11.23.2006 12:33pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Richards isn't remotely Jewish. I believe that his background is Scottish Christian (not that there's anything wrong with that).
11.23.2006 12:42pm
Strom Thurmond (mail):
The unasked question is...what is it that makes Blacks talk back to movie screens and stand up comedians? Richards just said what we've all wanted to say at some point when you've shucked out $8 for "big mommas house $"and some welfare momma starts yackin away on her cellphone. If Bush had any stones, he'd give Richards the presidential medal of freedom.
11.23.2006 12:48pm
Strom Thurmond (mail):
It could have been worse...imagine a provoked George Costanza...not pretty.
11.23.2006 12:51pm
Mike Keenan:
I had the same reaction watching a rerun yesterday, even though I don't make as big a deal out of what he said.

He thought it would be funny to say a bunch of "bad" words and it wasn't. It seldom is. Quite different than the paranoid ramblings of Mel Gibson.
11.23.2006 12:53pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I noticed on CNN last night that the two hecklers have lawyered up... all I caught while waiting in line at a gas station was "We're not talking about free speech here... we're talking about hate speech!"
11.23.2006 1:09pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Wikipedia says they have retained Gloria Allred to represent them in a lawsuit, doesn't say for what. Maybe "hostile public environment?"
11.23.2006 1:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
Correction: Richards' publicist claimed that Richard's is Jewish. Doesn't mean he actually is....
11.23.2006 1:30pm
Nom (mail):
Richards is a freemason, so I don't think he's Jewish. http://204.3.136.66/council/journal/sep00/marsellos.html
11.23.2006 1:51pm
SuperChimp:
I agree with your post, David. I had the same feeling a few nights ago. I could barely watch the show and didn't enjoy what had been my favorite scenes--those with Kramer in them.
11.23.2006 2:09pm
AppSocRes (mail):
(1) The CHARACTERS in Seinfeld are ALL horrible people, particularly Kramer. That's part of the humor, seeing unrestrained Ids acting out. Surely the last two episodes make this clear. If horrible people make you squeamish, you shouldn't watch the show at all (2) If thinking about the true characters of actors and directors upsets you, you're going to have to stop watching a lot of movies: Hitchcok (a brutal misogynist) and Chaplin (a child molester) are definitely no-nos. (3) Strom Thurmond has a point. I will no longer go to a large number of entertainment venues in Boston because of the obnoxious behavior of African-American patrons. I did feel a certain sympathy with Richards.
11.23.2006 2:28pm
Randy R. (mail):
Correction: Richard's publicist stated that he was jewish. That doesn't mean that he actualy is.
11.23.2006 2:33pm
whit:
"We're not talking about free speech here... we're talking about hate speech!"

i've heard everybody from wacked out leftists to Bill Oreilly make comments like this...

this is america. hate speech IS free speech.

there are plenty of countries that outlaw hate speech - canada, the UK, Germany, France, etc. (and of course what is and isn't hate is always filtered through an entirely political and politically correct lens).

i am not surprised they retained lawyers. if they are actually thinking about suing richards, they should remember what steve martin said "comedy is not pretty".

if you go to a comedy club, you should be more than prepared to be offended, and if you heckle a comedian, you should expect to be insulted.

NOT in the manner richards did it of course. imo, he was totally out of line and it was a disgusting rant.

i found the earlier comment about gibson's film 'slandering jews' as too absurd to mention. oops, just did
11.23.2006 3:07pm
Questioner:
Congrats to AppSocRes for making the obvious point that the whole humor of Seinfeld was that the characters were so imperfect. Loving Kramer while being disappointed in Richard is kinda funny...

Interesting points about (some) Boston African-American patrons. I don't frequent many events (in Phoenix) with a large black audience. If it were a fact that there is some truth to this phenomenon, how could one express one's dissatisfaction with it without being labeled racist?
11.23.2006 3:12pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Now that the black people in the audience are allegedly planning on suing Richards for calling them niggers (they didn't teach "name calling" in my Torts class, dunno about yours), I have more sympathy for him. It's one thing to be the brunt of negative press for a week, it's another to have everyone use that negative press to try to steal your money from you via frivilous legal claims:

Lawyer: "He called you a nigger and said you should be hung from a tree with a fork up your ass... let's get this before an L.A. jury with some black people on it and I'll get you millions in damages!"

Client: "Oh it's been so horrible, ever since that ignorant unfunny honkey called me a nigger, I can't sleep, I have constant panic attacks, and have had horrible nightmares of being a slave, which all have caused me to do poorly at work such that I got fired the other day, and now I have lots of lost wages, which I have no intention of mitigating because he called me a nigger!"

Lawyer: "Yes, he is liable for your lost wages, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. And under California's new hate-tort law, we can get triple damages!"

Client: "Sorry, what did you just say? Let me turn my Ipod off, I'm listening to rap music which says 'nigger' 75 times per song. How much Seinfeld money will you get me from that evil honkey?"
11.23.2006 3:40pm
Swede:
I'm a Mason and I have several Jewish brothers in my lodge.

Ignoramus.
11.23.2006 4:19pm
Visitor Again:
Swede,

Any blacks in the Masons? Just curious.
11.23.2006 4:45pm
Justin (mail):
I don't want to throw around the R word, but Richards seems like a relatively restrained person to the direction this thread seems to go to. Certain commentators here really ought to reconsider their values and view of their fellow men on this Thanksgiving.
11.23.2006 4:49pm
Swede:
Of course. Not as many in the "Blue" lodges as in the Prince Hall lodges. However, many Masons belong to both.
11.23.2006 4:53pm
mistermark:
"my enjoyment was significantly diminished by the fact that every time "Kramer" appeared, it reminded me of Michael Richards' disgusting racist rant last week. After a while, I just turned it off."

I suspect Jerry Seinfeld is quite concerned about people having this response to his show (with the corresponding loss of ratings, syndication revenues and DVD sales). While I have no reason to believe his Letterman appearance wasn't also a sincere attempt to help a friend, the backlash factor is also something he's bound to be worried about, and is working to minimize.
11.23.2006 5:16pm
mistermark:
Swede, as per the Masons, are the Masons still able to bring in younger (30s and 40s) members into the group at a high rate, or is Freemasonry suffering the fate that many other organizations (like private dining clubs, etc.) are facing with regard to the graying of their membership? I'm genuinely curious about this. There's a beautiful and impressive Masonic temple near where I live, and I when I drive past it sometimes I wonder if the group is still vibrant enough to keep a place like that (which is on some prime and expensive real estate) paid for and operating into the future.
11.23.2006 5:21pm
sbron:
It is equally, or more disgusting that Richards
apologized to Al Sharpton of all people. The
latter helped incite the Crown Heights riot (the only
pogrom in US history) which led directly to the
death of Yankel Rosenbaum. Sharpton later
led crowds chanting against Freddy's Fashion Mart in Harlem, denouncing the owners as "diamond merchants".
One of Sharpton's apparent followers then burned down
the store resulting in the deaths of several
employees. Richard's speech was disgusting, but in no way
could lead to the same loss of life as Sharpton's.
Sharpton has also never apologized for his slanders
in the Tawana Brawley hoax.
11.23.2006 5:30pm
Swede:
It depends on the lodge. My lodge is pretty dynamic. We have quite a few younger men (20's - 40's) and we're very active. However, I'm afraid that isn't the norm. I joined right out of college. There is a difference in opinion on how to get men interested in Masonry. The Old School doesn't recruit. Period. One of our sayings is "To be one, ask one". There was a time when Masonry was quite popular. But, in our modern world, there are so many things competing for our time, that groups such as ours have found bringing men into the Craft is more difficult than it has ever been. I'm an Iraq vet (I'm there right now on tour #2) and I've seen the same thing in the VFW post that I belong to. I think a lot of men feel pulled in so many directions that joining a fraternity such as ours isn't even considered.
11.23.2006 5:35pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):
sbron, how can you besmirch the Reverend Sharpton like that!? He never called the owner of Freddy's Fashion Mart a "diamond merchant." He called him a "white interloper." He called the Hasidim in Crown Heghts "diamond merchants."

Anyway, before Rev. Sharpton can atone for his atrocious behavior in the Freddy's Fashion Mart incident or the Crown Heigts incident, he has to atone for his behavior in the Tawana Brawley incident.
11.23.2006 5:58pm
Larson:
Seinfeld is the best show ever made period. If I stopped watching, reading, or listening to every actor that said something awful then I wouldn't have much entertainment.
11.23.2006 7:31pm
happy lee (mail):
Having grown up in the Bronx I can't say Richards rant was that bad. I've seen worse (including brutal physical violence) between Puerto Ricans, Blacks and Whites (mostly Irish -- the types who don't walk away from battles). Blabbing about forks and niggers isn't that offensive. Pathetic maybe, but not terribly offensive.

Anyway, I guess it's all subjective. (I, for example, become physically ill watching Julia Roberts or Barbara Streisand in any role -- even when the performance is brilliant.) I have not yet found myself in disagreement with Bernstein, so I assume he is sincere and not alone. Poor Richards. A better comedian would've found a way to turn the tables without going native. Some performers should never go off-script.
11.23.2006 9:15pm
MrJustice:
This whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Are the comments racist? Yes. Did Richards have the right to say what he did? Yes. Hear that Gloria Aldred! Is Michael Richards a racist? I do not know. Sometimes when we become angry we verbally insult someone with the things that will cause them pain, such may be the case here. I will still watch Seinfeld.
11.23.2006 9:23pm
A Berman (mail):
I'm actually worried for Kenny Kramer, who makes a living off of being "the Real Kramer." He has a tour in NYC (3 hours for $37.50) which is terrific. I hope his business doesn't suffer because of this.
11.23.2006 11:07pm
happyfeet (mail):
I told a black friend of mine about the video when she called cause she had been running around all day and hadn't heard yet. She said "Oh great. White people just love when that happens cause they get to act all shocked." I can't say I don't think she has a point.
11.24.2006 12:07am
Strom Thurmond (mail):
Richard Pryor had at least 2 albums I know of featuring the "N" word..."Bicentennial N*****" and "That N*****s Crazy" and was considered a genius when he died. Don't remember anyone suing him either. No one was better than Rodney Dangerfield at cutting a heckler to shreds..."You oughta save your breath..you'll need it later to blow up your inflatable date!"
11.24.2006 12:41am
Strom Thurmond (mail):
Oh how could I forget that comedy classic "SuperN*****" from 1983.."Look up in the sky! Its a Crow,,Its a Bat,no its SUPERN*****"
11.24.2006 12:44am
Concerned:
While hate speech is not a currently recognized tort, some have called for a change in the law. See Richard Delgado, Words that Wound: A Tort Action for Racial Insults, Epithets, and Name Calling, 17 Harv. C.L.-C.R. L. Rev. 133 (1982) (later developed into a book with a similar title). The suggestion, therefore, that filing suit and asking for a good faith extension of the law is somehow ridiculous is not fair to the other side of the free speech debate. I recognize Prof. Delgado's view won't find too many takers on this site, but it is not unreasonable.

AppSocRes and Strom Thurmond place blame with the blacks in the audience, and why not? After all, if those uppity negroes knew their place, Kramer wouldn't have had to put them back in it by reminding them of lynching and their former slave status. Perhaps Prof. Delgado's view on the potential harm these words convey is more than "not unreasonable."

"
11.24.2006 1:27am
MlR (mail):
Yes, it is unreasonable...Next.
11.24.2006 2:00am
happyfeet (mail):
If the words ain't funny, show me the money?
11.24.2006 2:25am
Finn (mail) (www):
I think it is necessary to view the actor as distinct from the role he played. I can still watch Seinfeld, a show not altogether popular with blacks to begin with, and enjoy it thoroughly. Then again, George was always the person I identified with. Further, I am never shocked to learn what is buried underneath the surface of people, black and white.

As for Richards' words, there is indeed a true distinction between blacks who use the word nigger, and non-blacks who attempt to use it. When blacks use it, it is akin to a fat person calling a fat person fat. One can look back and laugh, knowing that the black person who just called you "that name" likely did not have relatives alive 40, 60, or 200 years ago that were keeping your people out of schools, denying you decent insurance, or lynching your great great grandparents.

That said, I've often felt a certain sorrow at the public behavior of some blacks, knowing full well that sectors of the population will draw certain broad conclusions from that behavior, thus creating situtions where blacks are not automatically welcomed into social situations.

Frankly, when it comes to race, everyone needs to do a little work to produce true harmony. I understand Richards' anger, but I don't condone what may be in his heart.
11.24.2006 3:10am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Its my understanding that the blacks in question called Richards a "cracker" which Richards then used the word that dare not speak its name in realiation. When the audience went agast at that he tried to do what lawyer's sometimes do by saying it over and over agains and to take aways its power. It didn't work, obviously, wasn't funny, was in very poor taste, and will definitely hurt him in the future.

I loved Seinfeld for many years, but after having already seen every episode multiple times the show lost interest for me several years ago, so this incident isn't going to affect me in that regard.

For those in Boston with chatty blacks on cell phones, why don't you just grow a pair and tell them to be quiet or take their phone call out to the lobby. Are you really going to entertainment in neighborhoods so bad and so violent that you are afraid to tell the chatty black person to be quiet on their cell phone during the show?

Says the "Dog"
11.24.2006 3:18am
Mr. Snitch! (mail) (www):
Richards was UNDER ATTACK by a group of African Americans, while he was 'naked' and exposed (as a performer, I mean) onstage. He did not instigate the incident. A performer under such a circumstance is obliged to act quickly, and often is ill-equipped to respond well (think Roseanne Barr after botching the National Anthem).

As far as the odious "Reverends" Jackson and Sharpton are concerned, well, 'Hymietown' and 'Tawanna'. Glass houses, stones.
11.24.2006 7:42am
Strom Thurmond (mail):
You know the whole Nicole Brown/Ron Goldman murder was the result of someone asking OJ to stop talking on his cellphone in the movies. Its genetic, like rhythm or a good vertical jump. Why doesn't Senator Byrd have to go on Letterman to apologize, he used the N word on a sunday news show in 2001 and it wasn't even funny, oh thats right hes a democrat.
11.24.2006 9:22am
whit:
"The suggestion, therefore, that filing suit and asking for a good faith extension of the law is somehow ridiculous is not fair to the other side of the free speech debate. I recognize Prof. Delgado's view won't find too many takers on this site, but it is not unreasonable. "

whether it is 'fair" or not is irrelevant. it's unreasonable for one reason - period. because we have a FIRST AMENDMENT.

it most definitely is unreasonable. the first amendment does not make an exception for "icky words", "words that make you feel bad" etc.

there is also a massive difference between walking up to somebody, standing in front of them and hurling racial epithets in their face vs. doing it from a detached distance (like the richards case). in the former case, a lot of "fighting words" doctrines might at least arguably apply, not to mention the old temporary insanity type rage thing if the guy punched the epithet hurler in the nose.

*if* one respects the consitution, then one does call such torts unreasonable, one does ridicule them, etc.

because the 1st amendment matters.
11.24.2006 10:32am
MikeB (mail) (www):
It's hard to get too riled up about Richards and his racists rant, even if I presume his rant was entirely indicative of his deepest feelings. Afterall, I love some of my relatives to death and many harbor prejudices somewhere in their psyches and have expressed them here and there over the years. Racism and prejudices are uncool, but they don't define most people unless them make it part of their vocation.
11.24.2006 10:46am
Kev (mail) (www):
Its my understanding that the blacks in question called Richards a "cracker" which Richards then used the word that dare not speak its name in realiation.

I read that as well. I'm sorry, but if it's not OK for someone of one race to toss out such an epithet, it shouldn't be OK for someone of another race to do so either.

When blacks use [the N-word], it is akin to a fat person calling a fat person fat. One can look back and laugh, knowing that the black person who just called you "that name" likely did not have relatives alive 40, 60, or 200 years ago that were keeping your people out of schools, denying you decent insurance, or lynching your great great grandparents.

So how long should people who weren't even alive at that time have to pay for the sins of their long-dead relatives? This is why I'd like to see society move beyond race; in a perfect world, it would be no more important than eye color. And for those who would invoke the past, my reply would be: Just because our ancestors were idiots, it doesn't mean that we have to perpetuate that idiocy.
11.24.2006 11:32am
wavemaker (www):
"Richards is a top notch actor, and his played the part beautifully."

The only part I've ever seen Richards play well is Kramer. His own short-lived show was hideously bad. And he's apparently not very good at stand-up, else this incident would not have happened.

BTW, the "cracker" remark didn't come from the audience until about the 15th "nigger" comment.
11.24.2006 1:55pm
Concerned:
Whit:

Yes, the First amendment does matter. However, acting as if it does not have exceptions is indeed unreasonable.

Obscenity.
Fighting Words.
Disorderly Conduct / Contempt convictions based upon speech to law enforcement officers or judges.

If I am standing across the street from a cop, and see him doing something I don't like, or just choose not to like cops, and say, "F&!@ you, pig!", the police officer is not required to sit there and take it. The person of color subjected to hate speech is. Whether we have good or bad reasons for these exceptions and good or bad reasons for not including others is another question; I'm simply pointing out that one cannot cloak oneself in blind allegiance to the First Amendment when it has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Again, I recognize this position is not popular among those committed to authors of "You Can't Say That!" and the leading proponent of "censorship envy theory", but to say that the First Amendment "matters" without recognizing that it matters more for some than others is more unreasonable than Prof. Delgado's tort theory.
11.24.2006 2:41pm
Concerned:
Whit:

Yes, the First amendment does matter. However, acting as if it does not have exceptions is indeed unreasonable.

Obscenity.
Fighting Words.
Disorderly Conduct / Contempt convictions based upon speech to law enforcement officers or judges.

If I am standing across the street from a cop, and see him doing something I don't like, or just choose not to like cops, and say, "F&!@ you, pig!", the police officer is not required to sit there and take it. The person of color subjected to hate speech is. Whether we have good or bad reasons for these exceptions and good or bad reasons for not including others is another question; I'm simply pointing out that one cannot cloak oneself in blind allegiance to the First Amendment when it has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Again, I recognize this position is not popular among those committed to authors of "You Can't Say That!" and the leading proponent of "censorship envy theory", but to say that the First Amendment "matters" without recognizing that it matters more for some than others is more unreasonable than Prof. Delgado's tort theory.
11.24.2006 2:42pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
The hecklers offended Richards, he tried to offend them back. Wrongly he choose a very indiscriminate method that offended more than the hecklers. Do people have a right to not be offended? Nope. Is it concerning that this line of attack was even in the forefront of his mind? Yeah.

As far as hate speech if we could all just agree that we have no right to never be offended then this red herring of a media issue will have some good come out of it.
11.24.2006 2:58pm
Sk (mail):
"Its my understanding that the blacks in question called Richards a "cracker" which Richards then used the word that dare not speak its name in realiation. "
\
Good Lord-is this true? I had heard the hecklers called him a cracker, but assumed it was in response to Richards-if they said it first, and Richards responded to it, this changes the whole moral calculus of the situation.

\Perhaps David can let us know: does East Coast White Liberal Guilt really claim that white people who make racist comments are in the wrong, even when they are responding to racist comments directed at them? In essence, it is not acceptable for whites to defend themselves verbally? If so, guilty east coast white liberals really are trapped in the '70's.
\
Sk
11.24.2006 3:23pm
Archon (mail):
You certainly have the right to yell "fuck you" at a police officer.

Hess v. Indiana (petitioner yelled "we'll take the fucking sreets later and the Supreme Court held that speech was protected)

Cohen v. California (wearing a jacket bearing "fuck the draft" is protected speech)

Lewis v. City of New Orleans (referring to police officer as "mother fucker" while protesting arrest is protected speech)

Now, of course, not all state courts are willing to follow these holdings and various surveys of prosecutions for disorderly conduct involving offensive or obscene language showed mixed and conflicting decisions. So, I wouldn't recommend yelling "fuck you" at the next cop you see, but if you did, there is a good argument your speech would be protected.
11.24.2006 4:19pm
Fearmonger (mail):
Strom and AppSocRec,

FWIW, heckling at a stand-up comedy show is very common and not at all limited to black members of the audience.
11.24.2006 5:02pm
Strom Thurmond (mail):
FWIW, its not as if Michael Richards actually BELONGED to a racist organization that supported the violent overthrow of the US government and the murder of afro-americans..like Senator Byrd
11.24.2006 6:10pm
wow (mail) (www):
Wow. It's my first time perusing the Volokh Conspiracy. And just reading the comments here, I feel like I've been drinking from the toilet at a public bathroom in a gas station in Arizona. Ummm,....it was real. Later.
11.24.2006 6:35pm
Andy (mail):
I don't know how anyone can be so morally obtuse as to think that a black person calling a white person "cracker" is the equivalent of a white person calling a black person "nigger." It isn't. "Nigger" (coming from a white person) besides the painfully obvious historical baggage, clearly denotes racial inferiority. Lazy, stupid, criminally inclined underclass. "Cracker" just doesn't have the same bite. What does it mean, "can't dance?" Maybe "suspicious" or "jerk" or something. It's just completely different. White people need to get off of the "but I wasn't even around in the civil war!!" whining and at least recognize that there are some races that have had it tougher than others in this country. That doesn't mean you have to support affirmative action, or even go out and make a bunch of black friends, but for christ's sake at least recognize it and don't say idiotic things like "saying cracker is so horribly racist against white people." I would say "cracker" has about as much bite as "hillbilly." "Nigger," spoken by a white person to a black person with a particular meaning ("know your place, nigger") is simply another kind of language altogether.
11.24.2006 8:15pm
MrJustice:
No speech should be actionable in either criminal or civil court, unless it is slanderous, liable or poses a "clear and present danger." What is hate speech? Is it the pro-lifer calling those who are pro-choice of abortion a "baby killer?" What about the person who is pro-choice of abortion and calls pro-lifers "women haters" or "anti-woman?" What about the person who "hates" all Democrats or Republicans? What about anti-religious speech? Hate speech laws reduces the First Amendment to a tyranny of the politically correct and are unconstitutional!
11.24.2006 8:24pm
Strom Thurmond (mail):
Any one that calls me a 'hill billy' would be gettin a size 10 boot up there arse,,exceptin i dont wear shoes..Seriously,,so its ok for blacks to insult whites..but not the other way around?..what about Indians? Eskimos? If your gonna heckle someone..DUH..they might heckle ya back..and the first rule from grade school putdowns 101 is you dont let the other guy know he got to you...
11.24.2006 8:43pm
Sk (mail):
I don't know how anyone can be so moraly obtuse as to think its ok for one race to make racist comments towards another, but not the other way around... or that responding to racist comments with racist comments is the same thing as initiating racist comments.

Oh, wait. I do know how anyone could be so moraly obtuse. White liberal guilt is the act of making oneself morally superior to others by demanding that they feel as guilty as you do (and enjoying the fact that they don't, in fact, feel as guilty). In fact, this moral obtuseness, once common, is slowly fading and now only exists in small strips along the coasts and in pockets of university campuses scattered throughout the hinterland. But it's still here. And it shall pass.

Sk
11.24.2006 9:04pm
Truth Seeker:
One definition of cracker is a synonym for white trash. Anyone who thinks "nigger" is worse than "white trash" is a racist.
11.24.2006 10:29pm
Kev (mail) (www):
Amen to Sk and Truth Seeker! You said what I meant in a lot fewer words...

And a note to Andy: Nobody's denying that some races had it harder than others when they came here (although, come to think of it, some of my ancestors were Irish, and they didn't exactly have an easy time of it over here either), but how long should one group of people be forced to atone for the sins of their forefathers? If we keep dwelling in the past, we can't really build towards a better future...
11.24.2006 11:21pm
whit:
"You certainly have the right to yell "fuck you" at a police officer. "

absolutely.

i have had several people do this. i have never arrested anybody for it (alone) nor could i.

quite frequently, people who will go as far as to say 'f*ck you' to a cop will also, once they see that got no effect, go farther - into the realm of illegality and work themselves up an arrest.

but i have had people say "f*ck you" or the equivalent numerous times, and I usually reply "have a nice day".

because i'm all about having a nice day
11.24.2006 11:53pm
whit:
absolutely. speech prohibitionists (usually leftwing college campus types) seem to think this is a winning argument...
"that's not free speech, that's HATE SPEECH"

so what? hate speech is perfectly free in our united states, and we are about the last bastion of free speech in the world. bully for us.

of course, when angela davis came to campus and said "the rich should be killed off", that was not "hate speech" because she was just speaking truth to power. :l

whatEver.

hate speech is just a stupid label. it says nothing of value, really. and it is often used to squelch speech that is not hate speech at all, and regardless is an important part of the debate.

many people arguing against racial preferences have been constantly accused of hate speech.

"No speech should be actionable in either criminal or civil court, unless it is slanderous, liable or poses a "clear and present danger." What is hate speech? Is it the pro-lifer calling those who are pro-choice of abortion a "baby killer?" What about the person who is pro-choice of abortion and calls pro-lifers "women haters" or "anti-woman?" What about the person who "hates" all Democrats or Republicans? What about anti-religious speech? Hate speech laws reduces the First Amendment to a tyranny of the politically correct and are unconstitutional!"
11.24.2006 11:56pm
whit:
about this black people being more-prone-to-heckle-or-talk-to-a-moviescreen thing.

several comedians have commented on this. i recall, off the top of my head, both chris rock and eddie murphy having bits about how blacks are more likely to talk back to the screen at a movie than whites.

it's hardly a revolutionary idea. and like all stereotypes that are true (some stereotypes are true, some aren't) it only speaks to aggregate probabilities, not to individuals.
11.25.2006 12:00am
whit:
"If I am standing across the street from a cop, and see him doing something I don't like, or just choose not to like cops, and say, "F&!@ you, pig!", the police officer is not required to sit there and take it."

utter and complete rubbish. i have been a police officer for 20 yrs (approx.) and i have had this happen on several occasions, and YES I did have to "take it".

in fact, i was on the front lines during the WTO riots, next to a black police officer and heard numerous white leftists refer to this black police officer as a 'f*cking N**ger cop assh*le" about 20 times to his face, and we all had to take it.

that IS free speech, and I am sworn to protect it.

it's called the constitution and we still have free speech.

" The person of color subjected to hate speech is. Whether we have good or bad reasons for these exceptions and good or bad reasons for not including others is another question; I'm simply pointing out that one cannot cloak oneself in blind allegiance to the First Amendment when it has more holes than Swiss cheese. "

a comedian yelling racial epithets at a black audience (or white audience ) member is definitely hate speech

and it is clearly protected by the first amendment.

it's that simple.

it disgusts me that people constantly want to dilute the first amendment for the purposes of "harmony" etc.
11.25.2006 12:05am
NickM (mail) (www):
It's a comedy club stage performance. Many of the normal rules of behavior are inapplicable. We encourage comedians to push the envelope.

Now we're supposed to be shocked that one of them goes too far?

To me, this is the quintessential place and time where someone gets a pass for racial slurs. It's an act, under circumstances where we have signaled our willingness to be offended.

I saw Richards perform at a different comedy club about a month ago. I thought he was hilarious (and I've never been a fan of Seinfeld).

Nick
11.25.2006 2:10pm
wow (mail) (www):
Ok, it's now my second time reading this volokh thing. It's getting gross now. "Truth Seeker"--You are one nutty cracker. Just kidding. I think you're cool. Cool like...a cracker on ice. Just kidding. That was lame. Seriously, you're my truth seeker. You're cool, dude. Peace. Polly wanna cracker.....Pok, pok, pok....sorry...that was stupid.
11.25.2006 6:27pm
wow (mail) (www):
There's nothing worse than a self-righteous cracker.
--Gomer Pyle. I actually don't like this statement. I'm just trying to, like, strike a note for the first amendment, you know. Seriously, I'm a cracker, too. Does it bother me? No. Why should it? It's just a dumb reference to a dry pastry product. I mean, we don't use those other racial epithets (did I spell that right?) as substitutes for other ordinary forms of speech, right? But I say "cracker" this and "cracker" that all the time, and I don't care and I don't care if other people say it to me. They say, "can I have a cracker?" I say, "with olives or cheez wiz?" You know, no big deal. Or, to get really frisky, I can say, like, "do you want an Irish cracker to go along with that cheese wiz?" Get it: Irish cracker. Sorry. Stupid. Lame. But it still busts me up. Irish cracker. God. That's funny. Sorry.
11.25.2006 6:34pm
wavemaker (www):
wow, you crackin' me up. Heh.

Whit, you the man. Nice remarks.

If you want some perspective, waste a bit of time watching Comedy Central, maybe you'll catch Chris Rock parodying his race like no white man could ever get away with and be funny while he's at it.

If you're really lucky, you'll catch his piece wherein he instructs black men how not to get their "asses kicked by the Po-Leez."

Sorry, but Whit's comment reminded me of this extraordinarily un-PC bit.

Hey, we all just gotta learn how to laugh and get along, no??
11.25.2006 11:47pm
wow (mail) (www):
Thanks, Wavemaker, my new buddy! I am going to buy you a brew my friend!
Whit (or is that White?): "it disgusts me that people constantly want to dilute the first amendment for the purposes of "harmony" etc."

I agree. It's not about harmony. It's about the fact that I am a cracker stuck in an anti-cracker pc world. And here, I don't mean "personal computer." I mean "politically conscious or correct" or whatever. I am talking about having to proclaim my crackerness to a world indifferent to it. Hear me roar! I am Cracker! No--I am *MR.* Cracker to you pal! I'm going to, like, what's it called?--like, repossess my crackerness. So, it's gonna be like, "Yo, my cracker!" Or: "What up cracker?" Or my other Irish Americans can say, "You my cracker! You MY cracker!" Or in praise: "He is one bad ass cracker!"

Yo, Crackers of the world--unite! Together are a giant box of Ritz or Saltines, individually, we're just a bunch of crumbs.
11.26.2006 4:27pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
I tend not to get too upset by name calling but I fail to see why calling whites by the pejorative term "crackers" fails to show a racist intent. If we are going to throw extra jail time on whites for hurling derogitory racial terms while committing crimes against blacks then I think the same should apply in reverse. If not then the hate crime law itself seems to violate rules against racial discrimination for it would only apply to whites.
11.26.2006 9:45pm
DJR:
So is it okay, as a white person, when singing a rap song on karaoke, to sing the lyrics as performed by the original artist? E.g., "Ain't nothin but a G thing baby/ two low down niggas so we crazy."
11.27.2006 9:09am
wow (mail) (www):
"If we are going to throw extra jail time on whites for hurling derogitory racial terms while committing crimes against blacks then I think the same should apply in reverse." Mr. MacDaddy--you are SOooooooo right. Ain't nobody better mess with my cracker brothers! Again, I'm trying to "repossess" this term of aspersion ("aspersion"--wow, is that impressive or what?).

As for DJR: "Ain't nothin but a G thing baby" What's a "G thing"? Is it like, indignant, "Gee, you called me a cracker. Tell me something I don't know, you dumb ignorant anti-cracker racist." Or is it speculative: "Gee, I wonder what it would be like if I wasn't a cracker." Or invidious: "Wow, I wish I was one smart cracker like Eugene Volokh."
Or, intolerant: "Gee, why don't all these damn PC police get the hell off my cracker ass?" Or, metaphysical: "If no one hears a Jeff Foxworthy joke, does that cracker exist?"

Anyway, just some thoughts. I'm SOOOO pleased that I'm getting some responses here! This is cool. I'm a cracker but apparently I'm cracking up some ideas out there. Sorry. That was too damn stupid, wasn't it? Even for me. Shit. Sorry. No more stupid puns.
11.27.2006 9:47am