The other night my girlfriend and I turned on the new Chris Rock comedy special on Netflix. We were just relaxing in the evening and I thought we’d get a few laughs from the long-time stand up comic. Hell, he might even teach me a thing or two, as the best comics make you think and wonder about issues you haven’t considered. But man, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, at what I learned.
I learned that Chris Rock is a child abuser and racist. During his routine, Rock demanded African American parents punch their kids in the face. He urged his audience to bludgeon their children daily, as one fist won’t do. What’s needed is blow after blow to their little heads from a guy with old man strength. Four big knuckles blasted right into the soft skin of a developing human. Worried about brain damage? Worried about permanent scarring? Disfiguration?
Don’t worry, this isn’t mindless violence, it’s all part of a plan. Rock wants the pain of child abuse to prepare his kids for the horrors of dealing with “the white man.” According to the famous comedian, the only thing which can prepare a black child for the challenges of living in America today is daily child abuse.
Chris Rock has finally found the one person he can beat up in America, his daughter.
I was outraged. I wondered if maybe one day the girl will just get a hug and a lunch in a brown paper bag on the way out the door instead of man’s fist in the face. I worried about her mental health as well as her physical safety. Children create mental worlds they can survive in, no matter how sinister their parents are. Rock’s child likely experiences a version of psychotic dissociation each day just to get by. It’s like the kid is living in a death camp, hoping tomorrow will be liberation day.
Rock says in his special, which is available to millions of viewers, by the way, that the reason for the daily child abuse is to teach his daughter how to deal with the white man. Rock sees white people as his kid’s mortal enemy. When they go to private school in suburban New Jersey, they are just moments away from the Klan’s noose. The oak tree doesn’t provide a comfortable summer shade, rather it portends the dismal future of Rock’s millionaire children.
To Chris, punching his kids in the face is an essential part of fatherhood. Brutally indoctrinating them to the world of white supremacy through physical assault is right there alongside pick up basketball games, awkward birthday parties, and boring piano recitals. Some fun, some mind-numbing, some criminally violent.
Either way, it’s cool. All in the day of being a Dad!
In addition to the regular child abuse he advocates, Rock delivers an intense regiment of psychological conditioning to round out his training program.
Rock teaches his kids that white people are bad by making every white thing in his house either heavy, sharp, or hot. Conditioning is a proven method of control. Rock’s insane yet effective strategy of associating everything white in his home with something which can scald, puncture, or murder a child is brilliant. The next round of German eugenicists could learn a thing or two from this middle-aged black joke teller.
The toddler’s white onesie? 150 lbs. He wraps his 24-month-old in a white leotard which pins her to the floor. It smothers her. The kid can’t breathe. The life lesson wrapped in a death machine makes its point. White things will kill you.
Whatever you do, don’t engage with white people, or you’ll lose your digit, limb, or life.
In a world where sunshine gives life and darkness hides ghouls, Rock turns the world inside out and inserts his truth into the gaping hole of pain opened by daily fists to the face.
If the kids won’t listen or can’t understand, just beat the truth into them.
Some of you may be thinking I’m making this up. Did Chris Rock really say this? Did he really urge black parents to UFC their kids on the daily? Did he really associate everything white in this world with stabbing, burning, and smothering? Did he really say that all white people should be feared and that torturing your kids is the best approach to deal with institutional racism?
Yes, he did just say that.
But I don’t think he meant it.
To me, Rock’s entire set was an extended parody of the current culture of identity politics.
As he paced back and forth on stage he mocked those who laughed in agreement and had an inside joke with those who understood his deeper satire. The audience was uneasy, as they didn’t know whether to be amused or challenged. Some people looked around for confirmation, stealing glances hoping to figure out, is this funny or offensive?
No matter which way the audience went, they deserved to be uncomfortable. Either Rock was a child abuse advocate and they laughed along with him, or Rock was an uncomfortable mirror which reflected a dark and ugly truth. Either way, his performance landed like one of the early morning fists he saved for his kids. Bloodied and confused, the audience were the ones being abused, not some school children.
Satire like this is dangerous and complex. The message people hear says more about them than the artist. The opportunities to obscure Rock’s deeper message with outrage or ignorance are plenty. If someone who didn’t know of Chris Rock read his words on paper without any context, they would be outraged. If an audience member really thought all white people were the devil, then maybe they laughed and nodded in agreement. But if a sophisticated listener, one familiar with Rock’s previous work heard his act, then maybe, just maybe they’d hear the real critique offered at the expense of a laughing audience.
Rock, of course, is famous for his politically incorrect humor. One of his more memorable bits describes in detail the difference between black people and n*ggers. His words, not mine.
Rock finds his audience’s zone of insecurity and blows it up.
To me, Rock’s apparent child abuse and brainwashing exercises were a biting critique of racial paranoia in this country. Perhaps he, like many others, tire of the escalating racial animosity. This tension has been on the rise since 2011 when racial resentment polling began to deteriorate after years of improvement. Despite the highest levels of equality and opportunity for people of all races, in 2018 the national sentiment feels dangerous, and perhaps in Rock’s opinion, misguided.
Rock opened his show by saying he wanted more dead white kids and a fresh supply of crying white mothers in mourning. His tact should have been obvious at that point. Yet, to me, it was a jarring way to start the show. Of course, I expected him to lampoon himself, his audience, and today’s untouchable subjects, but the bluntness of the opening gambit should have served as a disclaimer: everything I’m about to say is nonsense meant to spur deeper thinking rather than launch a fresh wave of violence.
That’s a wobbly plank to stand on but Rock’s history, stature, and perhaps even his race, gave him a safe space to spew what could easily be interpreted as a call to violence. Against kids. That he got away with advocating child abuse is a testament to his reputation and a listener’s ability to see past the shock value and search for deeper meaning. An unknown comic might not have been so lucky.
Last night I stopped at a local comedy show. It was a free event in the basement of a popular restaurant in Washington DC. The comics were outside on the street corner handing out flyers hustling people off the sidewalk and into the show, luring them with the promise of cheap drinks and even cheaper laughs.
I asked one of them if he’d seen the Rock special. “Of course,” he said. “I saw it the day it was released.” I asked him what he thought of the hot, heavy, and sharp conditioning against white people, or the daily punches to his kid’s face Chris Rock described. The local comic with his hippy length hair and straggly beard paused for a minute. He was supposed to handing out flyers but my question caught his attention. He understood what I was getting at. I pressed him, “Do you think you could get away with satire like that?”
“Because I don’t have any power.”
Rock’s ability to say outrageous things, which on the surface may appear as child abuse, seems to come from his star power and reputation. It’s not the words or the intention which drive listener’s interpretations, but whether or not the performer had earned the right to be outrageous. This implies that we as listeners as less concerned with the message than we are with judging the speaker. A powerful comic gets a free pass, while a struggling new guy would be torn apart for saying the exact same things.
We don’t care so much about the words, we just care about judging people.
Rock also has established an audience for his style of comedy. It’s not like everyone appreciates his humor. Rock refuses to play college campuses anymore because kids and administrators these days are too sensitive. They can’t take a joke much less open their minds to a critical challenge. So Rock narrows his audience to open-minded adults who like a little jolt with their jokes.
Also, he’s black. And black folks can get away with saying some scandalous shit. Richard Prior and Eddie Murphy already beat this path through the 70’s and 80’s. They proved that the messenger is more important than the message.
Take my recent experience for example. In 2015 I wrote a satirical piece called, “Do Feminists Have Rape Fantasies?” At the time, hard-core feminists were shaming other women who enjoyed rough and dominant sex. My essay challenged repressive sexual attitudes of these so-called feminists. They claimed to support women’s freedoms, except when it related to adult sexual behavior. My essay was a defense of women’s right to choose whatever sexual flavor they desire. But rather than write something academic and boring, I went with provocative and challenging.
in the same vein as Chris Rock’s stand up, I tackled complex cultural issues with outrageous satire. Where Rock addressed racism and violence, I took on feminism and sex. He called for child abuse, whereas I called for consensual rape. Rock said all black kids need torture to learn a lesson, and I wrote that feminists needed some consensual rape to find the truth.
Which, of course, is ridiculous. And that was the point.
But where Rock got critical acclaim and scads of money for his satire, I got a public lynching and may even lose my job. I’m a masculine white male and apparently, I’m not allowed to comment on sensitive issues or be provocative. Even though an honest reading of my essay shows I used the word consent six times, the outrage mob claimed I was some sort of rape advocate, whatever the hell that means. I guess I was too provocative because people lost their minds. I’m getting fired, my reputation is in tatters, and I’ve even been banned from coaching little league, because apparently, as a white man in today’s world, I’m not allowed to write a challenging essay on human sexuality.
If I was Chris Rock, I could tell the same people who wanted to lynch Jack Murphy to punch their kids in the face and instead of getting banned from community service, they’d probably let me build a school for their kids.
Jack Murphy, white guy, fired for satire. Chris Rock, black guy, praised for child abuse.
The basement comedy show turned out to be funny and enlightening. My girlfriend and I laughed more than anyone, and we laughed hardest at the scandalous material. After a few minutes, it was clear we were the audience members open to the edgy bits. The comedians began to look our way and talk just to us. The crowd didn’t get the dangerous jokes. Instead, they laughed hardest at the Jerry Seinfeld flavored, what’s the deal with that, kind of humor.
All of which is a shame. Today’s cultural environment requires challenging ideas. We need to strain the edges of what is acceptable and what isn’t. Comedy has always been a testing ground for new ideas or outrageous statements which help us cope with difficult issues.
But comedians, writers, and performers are limited in what they can say for reasons other than content. We judge someone’s value based on their race, gender, or age. And if someone thinks you weren’t allowed to say a certain thing, all it takes is a few tweets, some manufactured outrage and poof – an instant lynch mob appears ready to ruin your life forever.
What is missing today is a place for us to be wrong. We need a ‘safe space’ to try out new ideas and provoke emotions. We need a place where we can be offended and still survive.
In some ways, Rock’s house filled with heavy, hot, and sharp white things is just what the world needs. We could all use some version of that conditioning. We need to be tougher, we need to be less sensitive, and we need to know that we can overcome being offended. And more than ever, we need a way to give people the benefit of the doubt even if they aren’t rich famous people. Otherwise, we’re just going to split into two groups. Those of us who search every day for the latest outrage, and the rest of us, spending our days shunned, shamed and silenced.