Unless you were hiding under a rock, the big news item yesterday was hearing actor/comedian Michael Richards (Kramer of NBC's "Seinfeld") repeating the "N" word several times in an emotional response to audience hecklers who told him he wasn't funny and he's only made it because of "Seinfeld". Sad but true.
Despite the progress we seem to have made on racial tolerance, in many ways little has changed. It wasn't all that long ago an intoxicated Mel Gibson said some not so nice things to a police officer. It seems now just about any public figure says anything disparaging gets in trouble for what they say. Usually it's in the heat of the moment and without much thought.
Having grownup in the Midwest, I've had my own experiences with racism. Kids in school and in the malls pointing, staring, and pulling their eyelids sideways mocking in pidgin English. Being told over the phone after they learn my last name that I don't sound Chinese. When we first moved into our house in Columbus, Ohio, my mom had to have our number changed because of the crank calls about our ethnicity. Luckily, most of this wasn't threatening. Just plain cruel.
While I'm not excusing Richards or Gibson for their remarks, I think we've become a bit too sensitive to racism. I also think we define things as racist too easily. Racist things have been said to me, but mostly it was because their expectation was that I'm someone who doesn't look or act like them.
Racism is mean, hurtful and can cause irreparable damage to a reputation and/or career. And I know somewhere (likely outside of California), an insensitive remark will be said about my ethnicity and/or gender. But I'll get over it. You should too.