Why is "Kramer" more offensive than Mel?

Week of December 14, 2006

Hey Joe: Whose tirade do you think was more offensive: Mel Gibson's against Jews or Michael Richards' against blacks? Do you think these things were said out of anger, or do you think these guys are prejudiced?

Tim Whatley, D.D.S., New York City

Mel Gibson's thing against Jews can't be placed in the same bag with Michael Richards and blacks. All three parties belong to the white majority. However, any expressed anger meant to hurt anyone is offensive. In all probability, this is what occurred in the Gibson affair. Anyway, the Jewish community can't be that upset about his remarks. It must be remembered that Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, both of Jewish nationality, amassed a fortune by offensively mimicking blacks on radio's Amos 'n Andy. Because Gibson and Jews are white, I suppose his outburst was similar to that of blacks, especially when one black calls another "nigger." As a white person, this was Richards' mistake: He crossed racial lines.

However, no problem can be solved from a superficial standpoint. If a cure is to be found, it must be traced back to its origin. Richards' untimely denigration of blacks was different because blacks are in the minority. But whatever the case, blacks should not become upset over his insulting remarks, which stemmed from slavery. Ever heard of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Because of these documents, blacks had no rights that whites were bound to respect. Separation of blacks and whites was law. As a result, love was destroyed. From this pattern two nations were born due to prejudice. This is the legacy left by the Founding Fathers.

Although claiming to be a Christian nation, our system of slavery motivated hatred. Even in church whites were taught to seek salvation through God but to hate blacks because they were said to be children of Ham. One fascinating person during that era was John Newton, the author of the song "Amazing Grace" and an evangelical Christian. Prior to his conversion, he was a captain in the slave trade. The words of his six-verse song encompass his confession.

The nation should take a page out of Newton's book. Blacks and whites have been misled by deceiving leaders from jump street. Therefore, neither can afford the luxury of hating the other for past occurrences. The Bible has been grossly distorted. It is not a document of amendments like the Constitution, and therefore the two can't mix.

My final point involves Bob Motley, one of the first blacks to umpire in the Pacific Coast League. One day he was faced by an angry white manager who gave him particular hell for calling his player out. The next day Motley asked the manager why was he so mad at him for doing his job. The manager replied, "It's not you I'm mad at, it's Abraham Lincoln."

The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot help Richards by urging his apology, but they can go after the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with goals of complete, equal revision (or abolishment) and revealing why America isn't a Christian nation. Hopefully, other preachers will follow suit. God did it in Egypt. Those in America who claim to follow Him should be able to do it, too.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn't know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman's Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white. Perhaps Henry's most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they'd arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts. Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards. After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'. Direct questions on any and all topics to heyjoe@riverfronttimes.com. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

 
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