Chris Rock seems to have tweeted up a bit of controversy over the July 4th holiday.
The comedian, whose latest project is executive producing Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell for FX, ruffled more than a few feathers after sending out this message to his followers: “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.”
Rock is certainly no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to explorations of racism and stereotypes. One of his most controversial bits, “Niggas vs. Black People” from his 1996 special “Bring The Pain,” is also one of his most beloved, though he has backed off of performing it since. As Rock later told 60 Minutes, “By the way, I’ve never done that joke again, ever, and I probably never will. ‘Cos some people that were racist thought they had license to say nigger. So, I’m done with that routine.”
Rock has always mined comedy as a means for poking at sensitive topics, in some cases encouraging as much outrage as applause. But the comedian also sparks quite a lot of conversation, which is perhaps the goal (along with laughs).
While some quickly came to Rock’s defense, including actors Don Cheadle and Zach Braff who seemed to see the humor in the joke, others took the gag as unpatriotic and fired back. Libertarian-conservative blogger Jeff Schreiber went so far as to attempt giving Rock a quick history lesson: “Slavery existed for 2000yrs before America. We eradicated it in 100yrs. We now have a black POTUS. #GoFuckYourself.” And blogger David Burge had a more humorous contradictory take: “Good one! I bet your Guatemalan house staff got a good chuckle.”
However, some saw both the humor and relevance in Rock’s joke. Comedian and activist Elon James White, host of the web series This Week In Blackness, tried to add some perspective to the conversation, tweeting, “I just wanna ask everyone who’s mad at @ChrisRock–Is he wrong? IS. HE. WRONG?”
White later gave HuffPost his perspective on the controversy as well as why Rock’s tweet actually matters:
I find this Chris Rock backlash absolutely ridiculous. Really? Someone tells the truth and you mad? I’m American. I never claim otherwise. I never give the “We didn’t land on Plymouth rock” speech unless its in a really funny way. But part of being American, to me, is that I have to acknowledge all the bullshit that comes with it. Basically some folks came over, stole other people’s land, killed them, then started a country on the backs of my people, while killing them, and then at some point they freed the slaves but then oppressed them and killed them some more. Do I have the ability to do things here that I wouldn’t in some parts of the world? Yes. But my family paid the price for that in actual blood, sweat and tears. If more people were like Rock and acknowledged the truth maybe we’d be in a better place as a Nation.
For his part, Rock seems unfazed by the backlash, having disregarded the comments directed at him thus far on twitter. His last two tweets were about the Knicks and “2 Days In New York.”