Derb – I tend to agree with your view on the Richards thing, which no doubt will haunt me at some point. Though I think you steal a base when you suggest that group affinity and bigotry toward another group go hand-in-hand. I like Jewish, American, and Anglo-Saxon culture more than, say, Uzbek culture but I’m not a bigot toward Uzbeks nor would I employ the anti-Uzbek equivalent of the n-word as a result.
Nonetheless, I will note that my initial response last night (posted below) was to find the whole thing depressing. I like Michael Richards (mostly for his brilliant work as Stanley Spadowski in UHF) and this whole thing promises a lot of tedious and cliched commentary (as you note), but it’s also poisonous to social comity. And no amount of “frank dialogue” and “national conversation” (to cite two more cliches your computer would spew out as suggested remedies for the sort of “systemic racism” Richards’ comments allegedly represent) will make his weird tantrum a positive contribution.
Oh one last point. A few readers have suggested that Richards is in an Andy Kaufman phase or that he’s a Lenny Bruce type. I don’t know enough about Richards these days to test the accuracy of that analysis. I also don’t think it matters. Comedians can do whatever they like without much negative consequence so long as they are funny. I was a bit of a fan of Andy Kaufman, but I think he’s more than a little overrated. Lenny Bruce was a bit before my time, but I’ve never seen what the big deal was. But regardless of what you think of those two, the simple fact is that Richards’ outburt wasn’t funny. And, surely more damning, it didn’t seem like he was trying very hard to be funny.
Update: I see JPod made my first point with a bit more oomph.