On Monday with the release of his latest Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, comedian Dave Chappelle used the opportunity to make derogatory, irresponsible statements about survivors of sexual assault.
He began his tirade with a soliloquy on “cancel culture” and how he feels it’s no longer safe to be politically incorrect especially for celebrities, an argument made so many times by those who take delight in verbally assaulting the most vulnerable populations.
“This is the worst time ever to be a celebrity,” Chappelle argues. “You’re gonna be finished. Everyone’s doomed. Michael Jackson has been dead for 10 years, and this n—a has two new cases.”
The mention of Jackson’s name leads him to HBO’s Leaving Neverland, the controversial 2019 documentary which recants the accusations of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claim they were sexually molested by the singer as children.
During the special Chappelle also claimed that he revels in his reputation as a “victim blamer,” touting that he resorts to asking questions regarding the victim’s whereabouts, like “well what were those kids wearing at the time,” when it came to Jackson’s accusations.
“I don’t think he did it, but you know what? Even if he did do it … you know what I mean?” he continued. “I mean, it’s Michael Jackson. I know more than half the people in this room have been molested in their lives, but it wasn’t no g——n Michael Jackson, was it? This kid got his d–k sucked by the King of Pop. All we get is awkward Thanksgivings for the rest of our lives.”
Chappelle then argued that Macaulay Culkin’s adjacency to the King of Pop should have been used as a barometer of Jackson’s guilt.
Chappelle also responded to reports from earlier in the year when it was revealed that he declined to interview with the producers of Surviving R. Kelly. He said he said no to producers because he didn’t know R. Kelly “at all.”
“Surviving R. Kelly” producer and cultural critic dream hampton responded to Chappelle’s assertion that he didn’t sit down for an interview because he didn’t personally know the singer. hampton also points out that Chappelle’s point was unrelated to the reasoning on why he was asked to participate.
Chappelle also doubled down on previous comments regarding the #MeToo movement and reiterated that he believes survivors who are speaking out about sexual assault and named their abusers are going about it the wrong way. He even went so far as to defend his friend, comedian Louis C.K. who faced several accusations.
“Louis C.K. was a very good friend of mine before he died in that terrible masturbation accident,” he began. “He didn’t do anything you can call the police for. I dare you to try….They ruined this ni–a’s life, and now he’s coming back playing comedy clubs and they’re acting like if he’s able to do that that’s going to hurt women. What the f–k is your agenda, ladies?”
Both Safechuck and Robson have since responded to Chappelle’s statements in an interview with TMZ.
“I’m heartbroken for all those children who look to see how they will be received when they finally find the courage to speak out about their sexual abuse,” Safechuck said. “I just want to reach out to other survivors and let them know that we can’t let this type of behavior silence us. Together we are strong.”
“He can say whatever he wants,” said Robson. “It reveals him, not us.”
Years ago Chappelle’s takes on the culture actually made headwaves into the common collective, challenging us to laugh at our misunderstandings as a means to inform and correct. However, his latest comments on sexual assault survivors are violent, ill-informed and rooted in a strange desire to push back against the recent string of accusations made against prominent Black male celebrities.
And as hampton points out in a later tweet referring to Chappelle, the medium of comedy works as a powerful change agent when used effectively.
Even more importantly, those who refuse to believe sexual assault survivors, specifically Black women survivors, are also aligned with a dark legacy left by slavery and the intended violence on Black bodies spurred by white supremacy.