Comedian turned actor Chris Rock has been catching a lot of flack for his tweet about the fourth of July earlier this week. He posted “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.” The feedback was quick and plentiful on both ends. One tweeter wrote “Dear @chrisrock without July 4, 1776 December 6, 1865 wouldn’t have happened.” Another stated “@chrisrock good one! I’m sure your Guatemalan house staff got a good chuckle.” Actor Don Cheadle took to the comedian’s defense with several tweets: “It.Was.A.Joke. Not a statement. Sheesh. Calm down…I didn’t bring it up. I retweeted an obvious and absurd joke from a comedian. You all doth protest too much, methinks” after receiving backlash from his fans for retweeting the comment with the words “haha.” Chris Rock as of yet hasn’t responded to the feedback and has resumed tweeting about unrelated subjects like the NBA Draft.
Frankly, people who have a problem with his tweet are tripping. First of all, he was totally correct. Slaves were not free back in 1776. In fact it took about 90 more years for slaves to gain “freedom” and then almost another 100 years for blacks to have equal rights, which we had to literally fight and die for. I would even argue that in many ways, African Americans are still not free. Yes we have the same opportunities as whites; just like any other race of people. But I think we all can agree that there are certain obstacles such as health disparities, unequal distribution of quality education, and our own issues within our communities that make it a wee bit tougher to take full advantage of said opportunities. As I drove down Lake Shore Drive on Independence Day, I thought the same exactly thing as Rock. Yes we are American. Yes we are free in the sense that we are not physically chained, beaten and thrown scraps. But how free are we really? African Americans make up roughly 12% of the U.S. population, but account for more than half of the prison population. Don’t get me wrong, blacks are just as responsible for their state in this country as the rest of the world. African Americans must be the change that they want to see regardless of the obstacles that we face.
Second of all, he is a COMEDIAN. Not an activist. Not a politician. Not anyone of influence who is directly tied to the public sphere of race relations and democracy. Comedians discuss race all of the time and this isn’t the most controversial thing that has come out of Chris Rock’s mouth. He’s always talking about race relations in his standup routines and everyone USUALLY laughs. So why the tripping now? Don Cheadle said it best in one of his many tweets: “Where exactly is the bigotry in that joke? Who is the victim? 18th century whites?” Why are you so offended? You wasn’t even born in the 18th century.” The reason why I believe people get so bent out of shape about comments like this is because they are true. The last thing that people who want to pretend that racism doesn’t exist want is to be reminded that it does.
NEWSFLASH: The only way to completely dissolve racism is to have open honest conversations about it. People need to realize that race affects all of us. It isn’t just a black white problem or a black Hispanic problem. All of us have to participate. For example, undeserved communities may not directly affect privileged white folks but it indirectly contributes to the tension that exist between the two groups. Chris Rock was right in every sense of the word and doesn’t deserve to be criticized for speaking truth and being a comedian. So lighten up America. After all this is the land of the free which last time I checked included free speech.