In the wake of the court decisions in Ferguson Missouri (Michael Brown) and Staten Island New York (Eric Garner), many people are understandably outraged. Apologists quick to point out “Not Me!”, “It’s not always all about race!” and “Aren’t we ALL post-racial now?” further fan the flames.
However, in a recent New York magazine interview, Chris Rock insightfully points out that despite the current polarizing state of America, it’s NOT black people who’ve made progress… but white people.
Rock, a writer, comedian, actor and director, is arguably one of the smartest people in comedy who’s also known to speak truth to power on stage and off. He tells Frank Rich of New York magazine:
“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. … To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.
So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”
“…you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”
Of course, Rock is quick to point out that apologists still have a hard time with the concept of White Privilege.
“Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for.”
It’s important to point out that acknowledging white privilege isn’t the same as self-identifying as racist. Alternatively, and somewhat ironically, not acknowledging it makes one seem complicit in perpetuating racism, the very thing the apologist is seeking to avoid.
Finally, when Rock says he would like to see a special on race that includes all white people and a white interviewer it reminded me of something that already exists. The Whiteness Project is an investigation into how Americans who identify as “white” experience their ethnicity. At first viewing, I was uncertain if what I was watching wasn’t satire. But is that fair?
What does this say about America at this moment in time? Is Rock right about white progress?