Was Michael Richards a racist for the things he said on stage? I watched the video of his meltdown at the Laugh Factory. (It took a few seconds with Google to find it.) I suspect that if the hecklers were Latino, gay, Jewish, or Kuwaiti, he would have used whatever racial epithet was handy. What was clear was that he was a man who had lost complete emotional control.
I had seen plenty of examples of people losing their cool this year: From a co-worker exploding in rage to some bad behavior on Little League fields. I must admit there were times when I also lost my cool. In all of these cases, losing one’s temper accomplishes nothing except to leave the person feeling remorseful and foolish. Often, the consequences are worse. The coworker who lost his temper also lost his job.
Michael Richards showed what happens when our emotional thermostat breaks down. If you have to confront someone, and the first words that come to mind are the worst ones in the English language — that should warn you to settle down.
This does not excuse what he said. If you harbor such feelings towards any ethnic group, you need to do some serious soul-searching, whether you use such words or not. But Michael Richards should serve a warning to all of us to control our temper in difficult situations. When we fail to do this, the consequences can be catastrophic.