Thursday, September 08, 2011

Nativo Vigil Lopez: Katt Wiliams' Anti-Mexican Rant a True Kramer Moment

Katt Wiliams' Anti-Mexican Rant a True Kramer Moment

By: Nativo Vigil Lopez

Nativo Vigil Lopez speaking at a demonstration. Photo by Robert D. Skeels.
Not dissimilar to an experience lived by standup comedian Michael Richards, who played the fictional character of Cosmo Kramer in the sitcom Seinfeld, who repeatedly yelled the n-word at a supposed audience heckler, Katt Williams repeatedly taunted an audience member with anti-Mexican vitriol in a recent comic performance in Phoenix, Arizona.

Williams' set began with an assumptive statement that "it seems to me that you all like it over here a lot." He ridiculed the giving up of California by Mexicans to the U.S. An audience member yelled back to him that "this is Mexico," but not all was picked up by the audio. Williams taunted back with, "this used to be Mexico motherfucker, and now it's Phoenix" - to cheers from the crowd. He even referred to the audience member as "nigger," although he was clearly of Latino appearance. The heckler vulgarly gestured back to Williams. It was clear that the heckler dished out as well as he got from Williams. It was obviously no accident that the standup comic had a large statue of the American eagle on the stage surrounded by six young black women?

And, so it continued, taunting the heckler with chants of "USA, USA, USA," which were repeated by other audience members. The Latino man, now standing, engaged Williams who was visibly reactive and at one point even declared, "fuck him," and told him, "if you love Mexico, bitch, get the fuck over there." He angrily engaged the Latino with his interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner, and others in the audience picked up the tune in chorus. After physically plucking the eagle statue in front of the heckler he yelled, "we were slaves, bitch, you all just work like that at a landscapers, motherfucker." After that outburst he circled the stage and was high-fived by a black audience member.

He referred to the heckler as "nigger," and "bitch." At the end of the tirade five burly security guards removed the Latino from the audience.

The crowd was clearly racially mixed, and as much as could be observed from the video, now replayed ad nauseam on YouTube, was supportive of Williams' rage.

Williams was subsequently interviewed on CNN and refused to apologize for his angry outbursts. He excused his words as responsive to a heckler who "claimed this land as Mexico." He wrapped himself in the American flag as a defense of his comments. He even disowned and disapproved of a public apology that was issued by his publicist.

Sad is the day that the popular comedian would choose Phoenix, Arizona as the place to unleash his jaded sense of patriotism to his public. Only a fool would not be aware of the political significance of the location in what is considered the national epicenter of the anti-immigrant/anti-Mexican right-wing movement, nationally. The origin of virulently anti-immigrant laws, SB1070 in particular, Arizona has become the template model for similar legislation in other states. Today, Phoenix is to Mexicans what Birmingham, Alabama of the Deep South was to blacks during the civil rights movement era. Williams' rant more than hurt, it was outright destructive and divisive.

Williams' comments could be reflective of a current of opinion amongst the African American community, albeit not a majority one, especially in these tough economic times. It trashes, however, the historic strides towards unity between brown and black communities throughout the country before a common foe. Our common African origin is ignored. The violent annexation of half the national territory of Mexico, now the southwest of the U.S., is ridiculed, as is the uninterrupted resistance to conquest by indigenous peoples.

Just as Richards' tirade had no place in a public forum (or private for that matter), notwithstanding the comic venue where in most instances everything goes, Williams' comments have no place in the America he proclaims to love, nor does his use of the terms "nigger," or "bitch."

Some comedians, journalists, and media commentators still believe that they are protected by the First Amendment in their use of colored language, and terms as "illegal alien," "illegal immigrant," and other such references to immigrants, people of color, women, and gays. The word is powerful, and its inappropriate and uncultured use denigrates and dehumanizes the powerless. What is even worst, however, is when individuals of the powerless use the word of the powerful to refer to themselves and others of the same social class. And, when such occurs they are nothing more than servants and slaves to their pay-masters - the corporate media, even those of medium stature or alternative "progressive" mediums.

I have a remedy for Katt, though, and it relates to a personal story of mine. One day as young boys, 8 and 9 years of age, my brother and I were playing outdoors within earshot of my mother. My brother called me a "nigger." Well, when my mother heard that she called him into the house and literally washed his mouth out with a bar of soap. He claimed to her that he didn't even know what it meant, and that he was just repeating what a Mexican girl, with much darker complexion than him, had called him on the school playground. He was never again heard to utter the word.

My suggestion is that we boycott Katt Williams, not unlike the black community called for a boycott of Michael Richards after his uncouth racial tirade, and that this boycott should continue until Williams' makes an unreserved public mea culpa to the Mexican community or until his Mama publicly washes his mouth out with soap. In the alternative, I have only one thing to tell Mr. Williams, as I would to any Minuteman spewing anti-Mexican hate language - No, fuuuuck you, motherfucker!

* The author authorizes the re-publication of this article. Please credit the author.



Anonymous said...

"He even referred to the audience member as "nigger," although he was clearly of Latino appearance."

Wow...there's so much ignorance and racist assumptions in this paragraph alone.

WTH is a Latino appearance?? Let me guess it's not anyone who appears to be of African descent. Not Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Brazilians, Panamanians, Cubans, etc...not even "Black" Mexicans are true Latinos. But of course they can all properly be called the n-word, according to you. Typical.... You're the racist amigo!

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

@Anonymous I think your comments are strawmen given Nativo's essay's point is to combat racism in general and to point out self-colonization specifically.

Could someone defending the white imperial power structure read the passage you point out as possibly discriminating against those with mixed decent? Yes. But where does Lopez say anyone can "properly be called the n-word"? Please show us that passage. Quite frankly nobody should be using hate speech, and I think that was part of what the essay was driving out too. Glad you conveniently missed that point.

It would seem you're fishing to invalidate the general theme of the essay. That overall theme is black-brown unity against a common oppressor, which has sadly declined over the years. When a member of one oppressed group is attacking another oppressed group, they've made the ruling classes' dreams come true.

I've known Nativo for a very long time. I can assure you he's no racist.