Chris Rock: Happy White People’s Independence Day
Comedian Chris Rock stirred up the dander of the Internet on July 4th with an Independence Day tweet.
“Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks,” – Chris Rock
As can be imagined, people had things to say regarding Chris’ comment. Some took it as a joke from a comedian albeit with some truth to it. Others were upset and took it as an unpatriotic statement. Of course people aren’t going to agree on everything that’s said by anyone. In this case though a couple things need to be looked at. One, Chris rock is a comedian. Now I don’t believe in the idea that being a comedian protects a person from the things they say. Comedy can be taken too far. However, this statement isn’t highly unordinary for Rock. It actually sounds like something that would’ve come from one of his routines. So there shouldn’t be anything extra controversial about his statement unless you’re looking for it. Secondly, there is truth to the statement. At the time of the first Independence Day, and many thereafter, that celebration really didn’t apply to everyone living in America. The slaves may have been American because they were here but definitely weren’t a part of the celebration of America’s independence.
On July 5th, 1852, Frederick Douglass spoke on the perspective disparity in a speech entitled “What to a slave is the 4th of July?” delivered in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York.
“I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.”
Conditions aren’t the same as they were in Douglass’ time however repercussions are still felt. To be upset by what Chris rock said discounts the reality that America’s history still has an effect on people today. This is similar to when Michelle Obama was under fire for her remark about being proud of her country for the first time. The fact is, many America born Americans still feel and are treated as second-class citizens. Acknowledging this doesn’t undermine the idea that success stories like Rock’s and Obama’s aren’t as possible in other countries in the world. It just says we have come a long way but, even with a black president, we still have further to go. it’s always difficult to look at an idea from someone else’s perspective. It’s easy to not understand what experiences led
them to that outlook.
One anonymous comment on a very divisive conservative blog reads, “163 years after the emancipation proclamation, GET OVER IT!” If only it were that easy and if only some of that mentality didn’t still exist today it might be. By reading many of the comments on that page it’s obvious some of that way of thinking is still alive and well. Personally, I’ve had several run-ins in the last two weeks with that old mentality and they were supposedly liberals so this isn’t just limited to one side. I do agree though that we have to work to get over the demons of our past but that effort can’t only be one-sided. Also, we shouldn’t segment ourselves from the present reality of being American because of by-gone times. Additionally subsequent generations shouldn’t be perpetually judged by their predecessors.