Richards used the word repeatedly in the most odious way, directed at specific individuals, and that is disturbing. But far more troubling was his statement, "Fifty years ago you would be hanging upside down with a fork up your ass". (The press in the US squeamishly refuses to print the final word in full!!!!). Never having participated in a lynching, I remain blissfully unaware of the the ritual use of eating utensils (though I suspect that if you cover your entire figure with a tablecloth you might be thinking of what to do with the cutlery).
Whatever Richards manages to work out with his psychotherapist, he has revealed something that, in my naiveté, I find difficult to understand: the persistence of a semi-conscious nostalgia among modern "liberals" (Richards claims to be one) for a time when racial violence was "permitted" (of course it wasn't permitted even 50 years ago; it was merely practiced!). Is there any way anyone other than a died-in-the-cotton Ku Klux Klansman could regret no longer having the right to torture and murder blacks? And am I wrong to think there isn't a cannabilistic impulse that has come to the fore? (What, indeed, are the "literary" origins of the image of the fork?).
Rather than spend hours on the couch with an analyst, perhaps he could just be sentenced to spending a day listening to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" (Nina Simone's version could also be used, for variety). For anyone who doesn't know the lyrics to that song -- composed by a New York Jew, Abel Meeropol, in the 1930s -- here they are:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
For more about this very special song: Strange Fruit