What would have happend to Michael Richards if he had let loose his racist tirade while Seinfeld was still an NBC hit? What about Mel Gibson's famous anti-Semitic invective if Braveheart was about to be released? What did happen to Dr. Laura when she let it all hang out about her feelings about African-Americans? She quit (got fired).
So what should happen to Tracy Morgan?
While Richards, Gibson, and Dr. Laura revealed reprehensible prejudice, none of them actually sanctioned violence against the groups they denigrated. By contrast, Tracy Morgan joked about deadly violence against LGBT youth.
He should be fired.
For those of you who missed it, according to Kevin Rogers who attended Morgan's show in Nashville: Morgan:
said if his son that was gay he better come home and talk to him like a man and not [he mimicked a gay, high pitched voice] or he would pull out a knife and stab that little N (one word I refuse to use) to death.
In a year when we have experienced horrible suicides of LGBT youth which sparked a national movement called "It Get's Better" to not fire Tracy Morgan sends exactly the wrong message at the wrong time. To advocate violence against anyone is disgusting, but against our most vulnerable youth -- it crosses the line.
After attending seminary I worked for a year with LGBT Youth in Seattle, Washington. Most of the young people I worked with were homeless because of the psychological or physical abuse they had recieved at the hands of their own family and at their schools. They lived on the streets, crashed on sofas and sometimes even turned to prostitution or other crime because of the 'funny' reality that they could not be gay and welcomed within their own family, schools and community. It is these exact kids, who experienced such trauma at their rejection by those who were meant to love them, that Tracy Morgan is suggesting should be stabbed with a knife within their own home.
Tracy Morgan's violent tirade unfortunately raises wider questions about the whole Lorne Michaels production machine. Why there has never been an 'out' SNL actor? Is there is some kind of odd sanction of gay bashing within the ranks of that outfit? I just read Tina Fey's hysterical memoir "Bossypants" which shares her important relationships with gay people throughout her life. Clearly Fey must be appalled as are probably most of the other members of the cast. But ultimately, if Morgan stays, it is a signal by the entire 30Rock show that joking about gay bashing, and even killing, doesn't really cross the line.
What is even more galling to me as a minister is that Morgan said within his routine that "God don't make no mistakes." Yes, that is true. And God made all of us and we are all beautiful and are meant to have lives full of love, security and beauty - including every single gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered child.
There could be redemption here. If Morgan is really sorry as he says he is. Then let's see him spend some serious volunteer time with LGBT youth in New York and Los Angeles. Words are not enough -- this 'joker' needs to be schooled. So, Tracy -- the ball is in your court, show us how you really feel. Volunteer with gay kids -- 200 hours should do it.
If he doesn't, then I'm sorry to say it, but 30 Rock will be permanently poisoned unless he goes.
Follow Paul Brandeis Raushenbush on Twitter, @raushenbush.