Digital is forever.

We live in a digital age. There are cameras on street corners, at ATM machines, in our cell phones – our images caught who knows how many times per day and that’s without our knowledge. How much more so when we are on stage, in front of a crowd, a crowd that has turned against you when you decide to show your behind. If things you say on the Internet are there forever and can’t be unsaid, much moreso a recorded image. Like any other screen captured image, it’s on someone’s hard drive, waiting.

Hello Michael Richards.

You were bombing in a comedy club, some folks began to heckle you. Rather than go with any of a number of standard anti-heckler lines (that most stand ups carry in their back pockets), you go to the “you’re a nigger” card. How many times do we have to go over the fact that there are certain things you can’t say? Don’t give me “if he was Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle,” he isn’t. (If you want a blog on “the N-Word,” I’ll direct you to a post by Wrath James White.) Nor was he attempting to illustrate a point or create satire. No, he was bombing on a stage and lost his mind. But you know what? Losing one’s temper, being drunk, or whatever the latest excuse is for someone’s “I’m not a racist but here’s my tirade” rant, the stuff has to come from somewhere. If you go to that place, that well of hate–especially with the vehemence and contempt that some folks go there–at some level, you believe it.

Luckily, he apologized. Whew! Good thing he did that, I might have thought he was racist. Apologies are becoming a tough sell with me lately, especially celebrity apologies, and they especially ring hollow if the person apologizing is a repeat offender. Contrition is tough to gauge because when all is said and done, we can’t know what’s in another person’s heart. However, it’s going to take a while before I buy his apology. Granted, his career isn’t necessarily over, because he is well on his way toward Hollywood penitence: you screw up, you apologize (going on the circuit of late night talk shows; Oprah if you’re lucky), go into rehab (if applicable – maybe a good anger management) or otherwise lay low for awhile. Time heals a lot and our memories are notoriously short. On the whole, we as a country are pretty forgiving, but you have to show contrition or somehow demonstrate that you’re trying to change.

You have the right to say what you want. You also better be prepared to bear the consequences of you running your mouth, wherever you run it. You also have the right to apologize; howefver, we have the choice to forgive and I doubt anyone will forget. Because digital is forever.

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