Racism is not fun. It isn’t even mildly entertaining. It is a harsh reality that many people in the black community must live with each and every day. It impacts the black community’s ability to earn a living. It impacts the black community’s ability to buy a house. It impacts our ability to obtain credit, medical care, a quality education, a modicum of justice in the legal system, or anything else that could be considered even remotely racially fair. Black people are more likely to be the victims of police brutality and die in a hail of bullets for driving or walking home. Black people are more likely to die from a latent sickle cell trait while a boot camp guard holds a baton against our neck. Racism is dangerous. Racism is disgusting. And racism should be exposed for the ugly reality that it truly is.
TIME Magazine recently reported its 2008 Time 100, a listing the one hundred most influential people in the world. This is the fifth time the list has been made. And under artist and entertainers, forty three old Chris Rock makes the list as one of America’s favorite comedians. Jerry Seinfeld wrote the article describing the reasoning for Mr. Rock being so influential. Said Mr. Seinfeld, “You know how hard it is to make racism just plain fun? Rock does it. Racism to Chris Rock is just a Hacky Sack on his foot. He kicks it up over here, over there, behind the back and then right over to you. The tension release he offers is available nowhere else, from no one else.” Click here to read the entire article, turn to page 112 if you have the May 12th edition of TIME Magazine lying around.
Racism is about as fun to the black community as the image of a little five year old white girl being raped by a big black man can be fun to the dominant community. It is horrible thing. Sure, there are some seriously sick individuals who would find the idea of child rape entertaining and fun. We would not tolerate such behavior. But there is a lot of seriously sick people who dismiss racism and manifestations of racial hate as harmless pranks as well as just plain fun. White people can hang nooses and other people will find it funny and a nice tension release. I’m sure Jerry Seinfeld thought it was a nice tension release to see his friend Michael Richards standing on stage at a comedy club and saying of black people in the audience, “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass. You can talk, you can talk, you’re brave now motherfucker. Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! A nigger, look, there’s a nigger! What? They’re going to arrest me for calling a black man a nigger?” I’m sure a lot of people thought Mr. Richards was just making some fun racist comments.
Everybody should be doing what they can to make racial disparity a thing of the past, including Mr. Rock and Mr. Seinfeld. But even when people see some of the most disgusting displays of racism manifesting itself right before our eyes too many of us disassociate ourselves from what we see and dismiss it with a variety of excuses. Mr. Richards was having a bad day and just so happened to gravitate to going off on the black people in the audience. The police that attacked Robert Davis in New Orleans just days after Katrina struck were tired and exhausted for working so hard and just so happened to gravitate towards attacking one of the few black people in the vicinity. Duane Chapman was behind closed doors when he went on his racist rant about how his son could not stay in the family business and have a nigger girlfriend. Don Imus was confused by all of the misogynistic gangsta rap music produced by the music industry so heavily controlled by white people, marketed to white people, but with black rappers willing to sell their souls as the front men.
Listen to people who are willing to tolerate racism and see only the humor of this ugly aspect of human nature and they will say that it is only a sad coincidence that only black males die in a hail of bullets for pulling out his wallet to identify himself. Only a black male dies for being too exhausted to run that a latent sickle cell trait can trigger his death and the fact that seven boot camp guards were beating on him simultaneously had nothing to do with it. Only a seventeen year old black male goes to jail for ten years for having consensual sex with a fifteen year old girl while fifty year old white men are free to marry and impregnate fifteen year old girls. Only black men are beaten senseless for running from police. It is acceptable for police to kill unarmed black men because a cop with his gun drawn and in body armor and with fifty of his police buddies around him and with police helicopters in the air over his head is in fear of his life. Sounds to me like this badge carrying coward needs to put his gun down and find another occupation. It is only acceptable for a cop to empty his gun, reload, and proceed to empty it again into the body of an unarmed black man. It is acceptable to see a police officer punch a fourteen year old black girl in the face while arresting her for breaking curfew.
And if all that is not low enough, police can burst into a home of a black woman whose boyfriend is suspected of distributing illegal drugs, and shoot her to death while she is holding her twelve month old infant son. The baby boy was hit by a police man’s bullet. But this is okay because the woman had a police record for a misdemeanor violation. For some reason, we are ready to excuse the irresponsible actions of cops killing black people because somehow these cops know that the black people they are killing have police records. It is a fair bet that every black person that is unfortunate enough to cross a police officer’s path has a record because racism refuses to show any leniency to any black person with the audacity to spit on a sidewalk or raise their voice. Black people are so violent that if we allow them to shout or yell they will be emboldened to do other crimes like pointing or standing up for their rights as an American citizen, as if black people have rights.
Like most high profile black people who make their substantial fortune with the support of people in the dominant community, the black community in general will not benefit from Chris Rock’s success. High profile black people will find a handful of black people to employ or to sponsor for higher education or apprenticeship designed to promote their assimilation into the dominant culture. Bill Cosby uses his clout to give scholarships to black people who want higher educations but berates poor black people for being poor. Oprah Winfrey uses her resources to reinforce the notion that it is too difficult to find African American’s who will honestly appreciate her financial help so she has to go all the way to Africa to find black people to help. Black authors like Shelby Steele and John McWhortor want to reinforce the notion that black people are poor only because they want to be and racism isn’t a factor. And Chris Rock gives white people the impression that racism and racial disparity is fun.
This is not to say that Mr. Rock is not a gifted, talented, hardworking comedian. But in many respects, his comedy can be interpreted as a modern interpretation of a minstrel show. Minstrels made racism fun for white people back in the day. It was funny to see a black person bulge his or her eyes in childish disbelief. It was funny to see a black person being the simple minded straight man for the humor of the white majority. And Mr. Rock’s work follows in this vein. The television show Everybody Hates Chris, no doubt a play on the popular television show Everybody Loves Raymond, starring Tyler James Williams as a young, Steve Urkel-ized Chris Rock, regularly relies on minstrel like visual gags to sell a cheap laugh. Instead of using his talents to promote social consciousness and racial understanding in the vein of a Dick Gregory, a gifted comedian who often speaks of the social ills affecting the black community, Mr. Rock is happy to sit back and make as much money as possible and not offend his dominant community fans.
By influential, Time magazine and Jerry Seinfeld must be referring to Mr. Rock’s influence on making people laugh. They certainly are not talking about his influence on helping to broaden people’s understanding on the realities of the black community. Instead, black people’s whole racism fueled experience has devolved into funny one liners that the white community can point to, laugh at, and say it is so funny that it can’t be all that bad.