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Katt is Right
Photo: Katt Williams
It’s been a turbulent summer for comedian Katt Williams, marked with fewer laughs than his fans had hoped for (myself included).
In early June, Katt was charged with felony intimidation of a witness after a bizarre standoff with a man on a tracker in Palmdale, California. Then he returned to the stage on the June 25th after a 45-month-long break from comedian, only to deliver a short incoherent performance. (From what I gleaned from a few YouTube videos, Katt says something about not being “African-American,” only “American,” takes his shirt off, does a few pushups and leaves.)
And as if that weren’t enough for one summer, Katt gets escorted from his own show in early August. Apparently an audience member called 911 to report Katt’s terrible onstage antics. (I’m not making this up.)
Katt was also part of a brawl that exploded in the crowd at a Young Jeezy concert last Friday. (Sidenote: Some of what is said in the review of the concert seems blatantly racist, such as the part about the crowd being “largely devoid of the well-mannered, suburban youth.”)
Still, all of this has been brushed aside as the hallmarks of either a performer who might have lost his touch or a person who has lost his grip on reality. Most people chalked it up as another icon devoured by Hollywood’s infamous Charybdis.
But then, at a performance in Phoenix this past Saturday, Katt (a.k.a. Mr. Persistent) goes on what the media is calling a “racist tirade” against a Mexican audience member.
The viral video begins with Katt talking about the American acquisition of California, saying, “If y’all had California and you loved it, then you shouldn’t have given that mothafucka up. You should have fought for California, goddamnit, since you love it.”
What has most people angry, especially in the Latino community, is what Katt says about the Mexican man toward the end of his rant:
“Fuck him! Mothafuckas think they can live in this country and pledge allegiance to another country. Do you remember when white people used to say “go back to Africa?” And we’d have to tell them “we don’t want to?” So if you love Mexico, bitch, get the fuck over there!”
At first glance, the liberal-minded individual might rush to label Katt Williams a racist. Admittedly, when I first watched the video, I thought I was seeing Michael Richards all over again. (I should say that I don’t think Richards is a racist, but what he said onstage was.)
I immediately knew that I had to write about Katt’s comments. I was going to describe how his words demonstrate the seductive power of nativist and anti-Latino rhetoric in America these days.
But then it hit me.
When I thought about what Katt was actually saying, at least in the video, I realized that I agreed with most of it, if not all of it. In fact, what he said on stage reminds me of an argument I once had with a couple close friends.
I’m a first-generation American, the son of a Honduran mother and a Puerto Rican father. The two friends I argued with are Mexican immigrants, and on the heels of a recent trip to their homeland, they were explaining how much better it would be to live in Mexico than in the United States. As someone who is proud of my heritage but prouder of the places I physically come from, I told them that if they truly felt that way, then they should live in Mexico. They told me that they were waiting to get a proper education and amass a small fortune. This, of course, angered me even further.
I asked them how they could talk so poorly of a country that their parents had sacrificed so much in bringing them to. I asked them how they could badmouth America while planning to receive their educations and earn their livings here. That seems like dissing your own girlfriend: if you think she’s so terrible and you have someone better in mind, then why are you still with her?
Personally, I wave the Puerto Rican flag during the annual celebrations and sport my Honduran jersey whenever there’s a good soccer game on TV, but I consider myself an American first and foremost. My allegiance is to the red-white-and-blue, and it’s unthinkable to me that an immigrant to this country should feel and act otherwise.
I think that’s what Katt was trying to say on Saturday, although he said it like a belligerent idiot. Still, he wasn’t being a racist, just acting like one.
As a citizen or not, a person in the United States has the right to wave whichever flag they please, but it takes real chutzpah to claim a love for any foreign land and its flag over this boundless nation and its Star-Spangled Banner. This may not be the land that birthed you, but it’s still the land that received you and put food in your belly and rights in your back pocket.
I know I’ll get a lot of flak from my fellow Latinos who think that Katt’s performance on Saturday will only embolden the Tea Party movement and other right-wing kooks. (Do they even need encouragement?) I really don’t care. There are likely a few undocumented immigrants who agree with Katt.
This is America: either love her or leave her.
Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.