The two Dave Chappelles

Cancel culture isn’t real. There are no victims. Nobody is actually getting canceled. Sure, people might say, “you’re canceled,” but what is actually happening to these so-called victims? Nothing. Insofar as I can tell, only one dude even got fired and he actually got his job back.

What is happening is that the internet has given voice to people who were previously voiceless and some motherfuckers from a protected class can’t stand to be criticized. That’s really about it. You’ve got a bunch of damn babies everyone had to be quiet around who then grew up to think that that was the natural order of things.

This brings me to Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special.

OK, look. Dave Chappelle is two different people. First, he’s a Black person, a point of view with a necessary diamond-sharp clarity, culturally handed down generation after generation just as a means of survival. When Dave speaks on Blackness he is as breathtakingly hilarious and existentially profound as he’s ever been. I am endlessly thankful for that Dave Chappelle. That Dave Chappelle has informed and enlightened me as far back as I can remember and I feel incredibly lucky to live in the same time as him.

The other Dave Chappelle however, is a celebrity. That point of view is an all-encompassing fog of unimaginable privilege. In his latest special, Dave Chappelle speaks on almost everything other than race from the point of view of a celebrity. That is to say in those moments he is as oblivious, thin-skinned, spiteful, dull and shockingly unoriginal as just about any random 4chan post.

Like, he sticks up for Louis CK. I’m not going to get too far into that, as others have spoken about it so well, but Louis took his dick out in front of people who didn’t want him to and traditionally, that shit should at least put a stop to whatever career you have. Unless, of course, your career is Supreme Court Justice. The point is that ain’t nobody responsible for that dude’s life but him.

And the trans jokes. Jesus, Dave. First of all, the history of trans representation in American pop culture has placed them mostly as either the butts of jokes or abhorrent sexual deviants. Secondly, the government is constantly trying to legislate away the rights of trans people. And thirdly, trans people are killed just for being trans all the time all over this country. Those three things should sound familiar if you have any historical knowledge of any minority group, but just to give you a hint of which side of history you’ll want to be on for this one, when he got into power in 1933, one of the first things Hitler did was seek out and destroy the medical records of trans people.

Before you pin my PC Policeman’s badge on me, no, I’m not likening Dave to Hitler. And no, I’m not saying “Censor Dave Chappelle!” I’m not saying Chappelle shouldn’t be allowed to say certain things. I’m saying I just wish he didn’t want to. It just seems to me that, if you are being paid tens of millions of dollars to write and tell jokes to an audience of untold millions of people, maybe just don’t write ones Hitler would laugh at.

I’m not going to go through his act bit by bit, but yes, I understand that these jokes are meant to be offensive. The problem is Dave’s whole thing is that he’s offended that people are offended. Weird, meta-irony aside, when you deliberately set out to offend people, it’s just some real crybaby bullshit to whine when you succeed.

 In the end, I am hopeful that Dave will eventually figure it out. He does get so many things right.


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Guns and white supremacy: Regulating one won’t end the other

Right quick:

If you are looking to end white supremacy, regulating guns is not the answer. Yes, obviously, guns should be highly regulated, but white supremacy is not contingent on the legality of guns. If you could go back in time and erase guns from this country’s history, Black Wall Street would still be gone. Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Heather Heyer and countless victims before, in between and since would all still have been murdered. Hate will find a way.

Guns and white supremacy are intertwined, but two different issues. Just look at Switzerland. That country has a whole lot of guns, but nowhere near the level of gun violence that we have here in America. That’s because there is a deep cultural difference between Switzerland and the USA: white supremacy. I’m not saying that Switzerland doesn’t have racism. It absolutely does, but unlike the USA, white supremacy is not the foundation, cornerstone, and lead paint under the cheap vinyl siding of Switzerland. The Swiss essentially view themselves as one people. That view combined with their general sense of patriotism means that they look at their guns as a means to protect each other from outside forces, whereas we Americans look at our guns as a means to protect ourselves from each other—or most often as a means to protect whiteness from the rest of us.

What makes this so confusing is that white supremacy is the spider’s web that links almost every other social issue. For example, white supremacy was the means by which a private citizen unprecedentedly forced a sitting president to publicly display his birth certificate. It was white supremacy that (in one way and another) then appointed that white supremacist, private citizen to the presidency. Because of that white supremacist appointment, the rights of women and trans people and gay people and literally everyone (and I mean everyone) in the country are now being dismantled if not absolutely shredded.

That white supremacist web is growing, being weaved faster than ever as the president’s words inspire killings, his policies spread oppression, and his administration deliberately disregards white supremacy in its entirety. And it’s blocking even the most common-sense gun legislation.

So, again, if you are looking to end white supremacy, regulating guns is not the answer. But if you’re looking to stop the violence in this country, ending white supremacy will go a long way.


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July 4th isn’t really the jam for Black folks

I saw a tweet recently that went something like, “We Black people celebrate the BBQ, the fireworks and the summer shorts. We don’t celebrate Independence Day.”

That isn’t true about all Black people but it’s pretty prevalent and, for the record, it isn’t about hating the country or being anti-American. Because, for better or worse, we’re Americans too.

But July 4th as Independence Day doesn’t sit well with a lot of us. You see, white people in the colonies got independence from Britain but that’s about it, and most of that independence was really for white landowners. It sure wasn’t for Indigenous or Black people.

For a lot of us, celebrating “independence” is a bit of a slap in the face when we can’t even enter or leave our own apartments and houses without neighbors calling the police on us for simply living. Or shop without being followed. Or go for a doctor-ordered walk hooked up to an IV drip without being arrested for “stealing” hospital equipment. Hell, even the BBQ thing, so appropriate a metaphor on July 4th, is the rallying point for us to complain about “BBQ Becky” types who call the police on us for no reason and thus put our freedom, health and even lives in danger.

One of my great joys during my time as executive director of the anti-racism organization Community Change Inc. has been to be a part of the annual reading in the Boston Common of the Frederick Douglass speech “What To the Slave is the Fourth of July.” (Note, the article I link to above totally got the title of the speech wrong in the headline AND in the article; maybe it will be corrected by the time you read this but boy does “What Is the Slave to the Fourth of July” change the meaning…). In any case, I would highly recommend reading the speech, which you can find here and many other places, too.

But if you don’t, at least take this part of the speech to heart:

“I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common—The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Douglass wrote and delivered that speech 76 years after the United States declared its independence. Now the nation is more than 240 years old and still we’ve got the same kinds of problems that Douglass talked about. We still aren’t equal. Black people still don’t enjoy full independence.

I don’t ask you to ignore July 4th because a lot of you have the day off and I feel you should be able to enjoy your BBQ food and fireworks just like many of us Black people do. I don’t expect you to shred your shirts and roll around in ashes like some Old Testament penitent.

But it would be nice if you would take a moment (or a few hundred of them) to remember that the United States has never fully made good on the promise of liberty and justice for all, and Black and Indigenous people just happen to be the most aggrieved folks. We ain’t alone.

I might suggest that it’s time to give Juneteenth a place as a national holiday, though. It would probably mean a lot more than Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to Black people who still don’t feel very free. Though to be fair we deserve both at this point, among a lot of other things. And I think starting next year, I might just resolve to stay inside on July 4th and celebrate Juneteenth instead—at least until it starts getting more love and attention like it deserves. Then maybe I’ll feel better about celebrating both.

So, as you enjoy your festivities, let us Black people and others enjoy our BBQs without police or other nasty interruptions. And if you see any BBQ Becky types headed toward us, kindly take their cell phones out of their hands and shoo them away.


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