Comedian Michael Richards, who played Kramer on “Seinfeld,” provoked outrage when he launched a string of racial epithets at a heckler in a Los Angeles comedy club.A few months ago, Mel Gibson went on a rampage when he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, hurling anti-Semitic epithets. Public apologies were quickly issued and both men claimed that their rants were not illustrative of personal prejudices they held.Mr. Richard confidently asserted that he was not racist, and Mr. Gibson insisted that he was in no way anti-Semitic.What qualifies as prejudice?What defines racist or anti-Semitic behavior?
Politicians and celebrities often “slip up” while in the public sphere, but in these recent incidents, both men were caught in a full on rant.Is a slip more forgivable than a rant?Where does the line between the two lay?Are actions less reprehensible if they are qualified as an “accident?”If people say something racist or anti-Semitic, does it mean they are racists or anti-Semites? Many feel that apologies are not enough. Can Mr. Richards and Mr. Gibson correct their situations? Can or should the public hold individuals accountable for their prejudice?
These incidents were given considerable attention in both the mainstream and independent media.Is this wide coverage indicative of the public’s intolerance of oppressive attitudes?Has the media as an institution become more sensitive about race and cultural identity or have the comments of both men been overblown?
Join us this week at Café Society to explore these issues.
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.