'GMA' Explores America's Secret Prejudices

The subject of race and prejudice has been in the headlines recently, following the racist comments of comedian and "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today on desegregation in our public schools, more than 50 years after first addressing the issue.

So, what does it mean now, in 2006, to talk about prejudice?

Richards' shocking and inflammatory comments and his unusual apology have seared through our collective consciousness.

In the aftermath, famous comedians have vowed to clean up their act; club owners are even banning the use of racist words. But is it the message that is most offensive or the messenger?

One of the country's most well-known comedians, Chris Rock, gets laughs from language that is off-limits to white comedians, often using the "N" word.

"I think we need to decide as a society on words. Are they OK to use? And if they're not, then no one should be allowed to use the word," said Glenn Beck, host of the syndicated TV show "Glenn Beck on Headline News."

Comedian Judy Gold can make jokes about Jews and lesbians and it's funny because she's both Jewish and gay, Beck points out.

"It puts us in a situation, by saying, 'Well, if you're funny, that's great,'" Beck said. "It puts us in a situation of saying, 'Well, wait a minute. You weren't just not funny, maybe you're a racist, too.' And I don't want to look into somebody's soul."

Perhaps what jars us about incidents like those involving Richards and Mel Gibson -- who made headlines over anti-Semitic remarks he made during a recent encounter with police -- is that they bring to light something questionable within all of us.

Do we all have secret prejudices and thoughts? Is it possible to really be colorblind?

"When you try to be colorblind, what is perceived often is that you're insensitive to the possibility of discrimination in society," said Sam Sommers, assistant professor of psychology at Tufts University.

Even between good friends who can talk about anything, there are those awkward moments.

One such awkward exchange occurred between "Good Morning America" anchors Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts last week, after the news surfaced about Richards.

Sawyer: Yeah. But you keep saying, where did that come from?

Roberts: Yeah.

Sawyer: Where?

Roberts: What do you say? What do you say after you see something like that?

Sawyer: Where (sic) do you say?

Roberts: Hmm.

Sawyer: What do you say?

Roberts: I don't know what to say, to tell you the truth.

Roberts and Sawyer had earlier talked about discussing the topic on the show. Roberts knew what she wanted to say, but when the moment came, it just didn't feel right.

After the show aired, Roberts was stunned at the responses from viewers and friends. Some were upset with Sawyer because they thought she put Roberts on the spot. Others were angry with Roberts because she didn't respond.

People naturally assumed this was something the pair wouldn't be comfortable talking about, but shouldn't they be?

"Diversity and multiculturalism have a lot of benefits, but to realize those benefits, you have to be willing to not avoid all controversial issues," Sommers told ABC News.

And that is usually the case with Sawyer and Roberts. Their friendship is stronger than the difference in the color of their skin and is best when they say exactly what's on their minds.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 2698427. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 2698427.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...