Jokes about niggras, pimps, hoes, Bebe’s kids, baby mammas and baby daddies are fine but any jokes that hint at Black suffering are strictly off limits. Chris Rock is the latest Black comedian to discover that denigrating your own people brings riches, critical acclaim and praise for cutting edge and no holds barred work.
Jokes about race and America, however, will likely bring outrage, and very possibly death threats.
Rock’s ordeal began with a simple Fourth of July tweet: “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.”
His 140 characters set off an explosion of white-hot reactions, with Caucasians bristling at the comedian’s nerve. But Rock should take heart, he certainly was correct: The Declaration of Independence was an assertion that privileged White men with property would no longer suffer the “long train of abuses” inflicted by another White man with property, King George III, in 1776. The declaration was not about landless Whites, White women, Native Americans, so-called free Blacks and certainly was not about slaves. The reality of the Declaration of Independence clashes with the myth of America’s beginning and the lie that the country was rooted in laudable principles that represent a shining city on a hill.
Conservative columnist Anne Coulter recited the false “America Land of the Free” narrative as the country marked Independence Day. She lauded the American Revolution as an almost spotless moment in history, unlike the bloody rabble rousing of the French Revolution or the unwashed masses that comprise the current Occupy Movement.
But the hypocrisy of having enslaved African people and having murdered the indigenous people while declaring “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is undeniable, unless you are deluded.
To add to the insult, Blacks were counted as three-fifths human beings in the Constitution, enshrining sub-human status for the benefit of slave masters. The three-fifths clause didn’t give Blacks 75 percent of the rights accorded Whites; it was used to increase political representation for their White Southern slave masters.
These inconvenient truths don’t sit well with those who wish to portray and present America as the world standard for democracy and decency. They get angry when their actual history and failures are pointed out. In 1976, comedian Richard Pryor released the album “Bi-Centennial Nigger” as an ode to just how far the country had not come. “We are celebrating 200 years of Whites folks kickin’ a–. … We offer a prayer and the prayer is how long will this bull—t go on,” he asked in “Bicentennial Prayer,” which was also released in 1976.
In Bicentennial Nigger, Pryor satirically portrays a Negro just “happy” to be in America retelling the story of Black deaths during the Middle Passage, Black deaths from disease during slavery, the destruction of the Black family, tearing Blacks away from their homeland, all the while yuck-yucking away with laughter. But he closes with a serious voice that declares, “But I ain’t gon’ never forget.”
There is a White desire to forget and distort history to fit a convenient narrative that absolves the country of any responsibility for any evil committed against Blacks and, in particular, any evil connected to slavery.
So for their beloved birth day to be linked to slavery is a major sin and violation, but the country and slavery are inextricably linked. Slaves built the country, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol. Slave labor was the basis for America’s economic might, wealth and played a major role in development of the country.
These facts are harsher than fireworks, barbeques, furniture sales, parades and flags. But the White narrative of the United States cannot face up to the actual facts; the facts conflict with an image that America crafts at home and skillfully sells abroad.
It certainly does not make sense for Blacks in America, who are the descendents of slaves to celebrate the founding of a republic that purposely excluded them. With passage of post-Civil War constitutional amendments, there was a surface attempt to bring Blacks into the fold, but court decisions, federal and local policy and North-South collusion kept Blacks in their place. Just look at the compromise that followed the presidential election of 1877: “In the months following the Election of 1876, but prior to the inauguration in March 1877, Republican and Democratic leaders secretly hammered out a compromise to resolve the election impasse and address other outstanding issues,” noted U-S-History.com.
“Under the terms of this agreement, the Democrats agreed to accept the Republican presidential electors (thus assuring that Rutherford B. Hayes would become the next president), provided the Republicans would agree to the following:
“To withdraw federal soldiers from their remaining positions in the South
“To enact federal legislation that would spur industrialization in the South;
“To appoint Democrats to patronage positions in the South;
“To appoint a Democrat to the president’s cabinet.
“Once the parties had agreed to these terms, the Electoral Commission performed its duty. The Hayes’ electors were selected and Hayes was named president two days before the inauguration. … To the four million former slaves in the South, the Compromise of 1877 was the ‘Great Betrayal.’ Republican efforts to assure civil rights for the Blacks were totally abandoned. The White population of the country was anxious to get on with making money. No serious move to restore the rights of Black citizens would surface again until the 1950s.”
Finally, Chris Rock isn’t the first Black man to speak powerfully about the Fourth of July. Some years back a brother by the name of Frederick Douglass was asked to give a speech in Rochester, N.Y., as the signing of the Declaration of Independence was marked. “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn,” Douglass told the audience July 5, 1852. “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?” he asked.
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour,” Douglass declared. We can safely assume none of his remarks drew a laugh from the crowd, and his words would be too much to Tweet today.
Chattel slavery has ended but when you consider the numbers of Blacks behind bars, the lower Black life expectancy, the higher levels of Black poverty and huge disparity in Black-White wealth, the disproportionate deaths from disease and less access to health care, lower school graduation rates and higher school drop-out rates and the general Black-White gaps across the board, there is still a mountain to climb to reach true equality. You could even question whether we have a full and complete freedom.
So keep your head up Chris, at least they hatin’ for a good reason, you got caught telling the truth.