Chris Rock's Independence Day - Another Teachable Moment for the Nation
During this year’s Fourth of July celebration, a number of folks got upset behind comments comedian Chris Rock made on Twitter. Rock said, "Happy white peoples Independence Day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks." I’m sure that many of America’s 44 million plus blacks got the irony of the joke. But, Rock was besieged by complaints and threats of a boycott. In the tradition of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and others how much more patriotic could he had been.
The fact of the matter is the truth hurts, and Chris Rock’s words don’t carry the weight to influence a society in the manner that many other prominent Americans’ words have had on the occupants of this country. His comments, taken in the proper context, should be appreciated. That they provoked a hostile response shows just how far apart we are in understanding our collective history.
Take for instance a comment made by Harvard Scientist and Writer on Race Relations, Nathaniel Southgate Shaler in the Atlantic Magazine in 1884. Shaler said, “There can be no sort of doubt that judged by the light of all experience, these people,” –blacks- “are a danger to America, greater and more insuperable than any of those that menace the other great civilized states of the world.”
In 1904 another prominent scholar of his day, Hinton Rowan Helper, went one even further in his comments about black people saying, “Negroes with their crime-stained blackness could not rise to a plane higher than that of base and beast-like savagery. Seeing then that the negro does, indeed, belong to a lower and inferior order of things, why in the name of Heaven, why should we forever degrade and disgrace both ourselves and our posterity by entering of our own volition into more intimate relations with him? May God, in his restraining mercy, forbid that we should ever do this most foul and wicked thing.”Continued on the next page