Humorous racism can benefit society.
Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock are humorous racists. They evoke laughter by analyzing society through a racial lens.
Chappelle recently concluded a comedic tour this summer. Much of his performance rests on racial stereotypes. He imitates white people by adopting a serious business tone. He portrays black people with laid-back mannerisms.
These comedians have something in common besides their comedic themes. They are black.
“Black people dominate sports in the United States: Twenty percent of the population and 90 percent of the final four,” Rock said in one of his standup performances.
Yet when a white man repeats the words of these talented comedians, he is labeled a bigot. Black and white men should be able to make the same comment without fear of societal ostracism. A person who disagrees should use logic to dispute the racist analysis instead of relying on intolerant labels to prevent the point from being made.
These comedians are trying to evoke laughter by capturing an element of truth pertaining to racist stereotypes. People of different races recognize racial differences. Their words are just as insightful and humorous when a white person says them.
Chappelle relishes in his ability to use racial commentary.
“Most people don’t know what it’s like to stand (on stage) and speak their mind,” he said. “I have a venue to do that. I get paid to do that. It’s not like I’m doing heavy lifting up there. It’s not like I’m solving the world’s problems. It’s like I’m hanging out with a bunch of people, and it’s cool.”
The reason for this apparent double standard lies in the history of America. A white racist reminds me of racial oppression. I think of the struggles confronted by Martin Luther King Jr. In a word, it reminds me of bigotry.
Bigotry continues to hurt the United States.
Memories of Bull Connor haunt my conscience. Connor was a Birmingham police official in the 1960s who became a symbol for racial intolerance by ordering his deputies to use fire hoses against civil rights protestors. His racism contained an element of hatred. Connor resented the demonstrators because they pushed for equality. He felt superior to black men, and felt he deserved a higher place in society.
Rock’s racism contains an element of humor, and he feels black and white people are equal. But he does not think equality stems from a limit to free expression.
As many who watch his comedy sketches know, Rock feels that equality comes from an appreciation of differences.
Perhaps racism, a weapon of historical intolerance, can transform into a tool to build a better tomorrow. Laughing at a good racist joke may be the solution to America’s bigotry problem.
Envision a table where a black man and a white man can sit next to each other and laugh at exchanged racist jokes.
Each man is different, but they are equal.
Similarity provides comfort and understanding. Difference attracts our interest and attention. Racist humor combines both concepts to destroy bigotry.
Rock and Chappelle already sit at that table. I hope I can join them some day.