Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

What Jerry Seinfeld doesn't get about diversity

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 3:35 PM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
We are talking about "Seinfeld" again since Jerry Seinfeld <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/05/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/jerry-seinfeld-race-gender-diversity/index.html'>sparked controversy with his recent remarks about race and gender. </a>We look back on the stars of the series, then and now. We are talking about "Seinfeld" again since Jerry Seinfeld sparked controversy with his recent remarks about race and gender. We look back on the stars of the series, then and now.
HIDE CAPTION
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
'Seinfeld': Where are they now?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Morgan Freeman doesn't want a Black History Month; neither do I
  • He says the actor's idea that we should stop talking about racism doesn't work
  • Recent controversies, including Sherman rant, Coke ad, show we're not in race-free utopia
  • LZ: Jerry Seinfeld says he focuses on comedy, not diversity; that's not good enough

Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A senior writer for ESPN and lecturer at Northwestern University, the former Hechinger Institute fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- "I don't want a Black History Month."

Morgan Freeman said that to Mike Wallace during a "60 Minutes" interview in 2005. As you can imagine, Freeman -- an actor so respected that he was even cast to play God -- sparked quite the controversy with his provocative exchange with Wallace.

"How are we going to get rid of racism?" the anchor asked.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

"Stop talking about it," the actor said.

Three years later Freeman donated $17,000 to his old high school in Mississippi to pay for its first desegregated prom. Apparently even "God" knows that to solve a problem sometimes you have to do more than "stop talking about it."

I don't want a Black History Month either.

Seinfeld slams 'P.C. nonsense' in comedy

But after watching the backlash to Macklemore sweeping the rap categories at the Grammys, seeing the racist posts on Coca-Cola's Facebook page after its Super Bowl commercial featured a multilingual rendition of "America the Beautiful," and witnessing a Sikh model in a Gap ad become a controversial figure, I don't see how any rational person can believe we are in a post-discrimination utopia.

One that doesn't need laws to foster equality or regulate inclusion because it comes so naturally. 

When the Texas Board of Education tries to downplay slavery as a cause of the Civil War or to scrub away Latino leaders such as Oscar Romero from its textbooks, you must know "stop talking about it" is probably not the best approach.

So while I don't want Black History Month -- or Women's History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month, etc.-- the reality is the sociological dynamics that necessitated these commemorative constructs in the first place are still very much at play. And this is true whether we talk about it or not.

It is nice to think discrimination died the day President Obama was elected. But then a Stanford graduate with no criminal record gives a passionate interview moments after making the biggest play of his professional football career and the world erupts with comment, some of it unabashedly racist, and we know discrimination hasn't died.

It just evolved. Society's privileged are still cloaking themselves with the truism: "I wasn't alive then," hoping not to be disrobed by the Stanisław Jerzy Lec aphorism: No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

During a recent CBS interview, Jerry Seinfeld noted that the first 10 episodes of his Web show only featured white males and then trivialized the criticism of his show's lack of diversity as "PC nonsense."

"People think (comedy) is the census or something, it's gotta represent the actual pie chart of America," he said. "Who cares? ... Funny is the world I live in."

Which isn't an inherently discriminatory thing to say but does come out of the mouth of a 59-year-old heterosexual white male who works in an industry -- comedy -- that is controlled by heterosexual white males as noted by numerous comedians who are not heterosexual white males such as Lindy West, Molly Knefel and Miss Bossypants herself, Tina Fey, who wrote in her best-selling book, describing the frat house atmosphere of "Saturday Night Live's" writing rooms:

"Not all of the men at SNL whizzed in cups. But four or five out of 20 did, so the men have to own that one. Anytime there's a bad female standup somewhere, some idiot interblogger will deduce that 'women aren't funny.' Using that same math, I can deduce that male comedy writers also piss in cups."

Seinfeld's comments, while not malicious in intent, do highlight some of the nuances of privilege those in power enjoy but are unable or unwilling to see. And unless measures are taken to point out some of those privileges, those who have been inadvertently excluded will continue to be so. This is why Fox News isn't concerned about "the war on Ramadan" and "Saturday Night Live" went six years without hiring a black female cast member.

"PC nonsense," to use Seinfeld's words, is employing unqualified women and minorities for the sake of fulfilling an HR checkbox.

But "PC nonsense" is also being challenged for not including women and minorities and then pretending you don't see race or gender, only shades of comedy. In a country that is 51% women and 37% minority, living in a city (New York) that is 53% women and 66% minority, saying something like that just sounds stupid.

But his saying it points out why Morgan Freeman's "stop talking about it" is counterproductive.

The pursuit of diversity is not an opportunity to point an angry finger or languish in guilt. It's an invitation to appreciate the woven contribution of the collective. We all play some role in the joys and ills of our society; let's stop pretending we don't.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT