Chris Rock may be a favorite black comedian among non-black people, but many weren’t laughing yesterday when the actor/producer tweeted:
This is a prime example of stuff black people should only say to black people. Unfortunately for the comedian, he put it out there for the world to read. That tweet was retweeted 10-thousand times and as NBC reported, Tweeps were not pleased:
Reactions came fast and furious, with some fans telling the actor/comedian they were now swearing off his films for what they considered an unpatriotic comment.
Wrote David Burge, “Good one! I bet your Guatemalan house staff got a good chuckle.”
And Jeff Schreiber, managing editor of libertarian-conservative blog America’s Right, tweeted “Slavery existed for 2000yrs before America. We eradicated it in 100yrs. We now have a black POTUS. #Go (expletive) Yourself.” Schreiber later followed up with, “I’m not saying we’re blameless for that horrid practice, but for @chrisrock to indict the US as he did is inappropriate at best.”
Yet some jumped in on Rock’s side. Actor Don Cheadle retweeted Rock’s message with a simple “Haha,” which put Cheadle on some Twitter user’s enemies lists.
Cheadle later jumped into the Twitter fray, debating the comment with others. “Where exactly is the bigotry in that joke? Who is the victim? 18th century whites?” Cheadle wrote in a later tweet.
Actor Zach Braff also joined the fray, tweeting, “Slaves weren’t freed for another 90 years. So maybe just enjoy some of the fireworks…”
Politics flew fast and furious, of course. Bradford Jones tweeted back at Rock and Braff, “u bashed July4th as “White peoples independence day.” Know who gave u urs? Republicans. ur welcome.”
For his part, Chris didn’t respond to the criticism via Twitter and went on tweeting about other things.
However, the response to his tweet certainly illuminates some ridiculous truths about our country today. The most alarming one being that people actually believe having a black president totally makes up for slavery. Just because I, as a black woman, could sit with my white husband in public and enjoy the fireworks without incident last night doesn’t mean that slavery didn’t happen or interracial relationships weren’t illegal at some point. Sure, we cannot understate the amount of progress that has been made in this country, but we also shouldn’t be forced to ignore history just because the past isn’t the present.
We all know that the Declaration of Independence did not free the slaves. To get angry about someone publicly acknowledging that fact is utterly asinine. A while ago, Colin Powell talked about the Declaration of Independence and he said:
It is one of the most remarkable documents in the world, [But] it didn’t apply to black folks. And the man who wrote those words kept slaves. But Thomas Jefferson nevertheless wrote those marvelous words, and he understood their inconsistency because he also wrote sometime later to a friend: If there is a just God, we’re going to pay for this. With respect to African Americans, our rhetoric has never entirely matched the reality of life in America.
The fact is, America built a new nation based on principles of liberty and equality while simultaneously justifying the existence of slavery. That is the undeniable history of our country. And pointing out the commendable aspects: eventually freeing the slaves, implementing then doing away with Jim Crow laws, interracial marriage, integration in schools and recently electing a bi-racial man to the highest office in the country doesn’t make the irony of demanding freedom from Britain way back when while possessing African slaves a figment of our imagination.
Should black people show reverence to this country and celebrate Independence Day? Of course. We are all citizens of this country and we now enjoy the freedoms that the founders demanded back then. Furthermore, as Stacy Swimp pointed out in his Washington Post Op-Ed, blacks fought in the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence eventually played a role in ending chattel slavery.
Still, as Chris Rock said in that joking fashion that strikes a chord because it’s true, the slaves weren’t free on July 4th, 1776 or during the subsequent “Independence Day” celebrations for the next 89 years. Unfortunately, no hyper-sensitive, inexplicably insulted white person intent on absolving the country of its history can boycott enough of his movies or send enough mean tweets to ever eradicate that fact.
Follow Alissa Henry on Twitter @AlissaInPink
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