*UPDATE: Netflix has reinstated Terra Field following her suspension.
Outrage is something that has always followed comedians. This isn't something that begun with cancel culture. Since comics tend to make politically incorrect statements, this is not surprising. I tend to defend comedians, since the absurdity of their language is often the butt of the joke. If you get the joke, chances are you're not bigoted, but just the opposite.
However, Dave Chappelle's material hits different. The reason for this is because he presents himself as this well-informed guy who is offering his comedic take on world issues. He's not making the absurdity of transphobia, homophobia, or antisemitism the butt of the joke. He is proudly proclaiming his own ignorance to the audience in a comedic tone. When Chappelle says something in his stand-up, you believe he feels this way in real life.
Since he has a large group of fans who worship everything he says, his ignorance will spread like wildfire.
In Chappelle's 2019 special, "Sticks & Stones," he coined the term "alphabet people" to refer to the LGBTQ community. On one hand, you could say that it's silly to take offense to such a childish phrase. However, this became the new term used by every conservative, homophobe, or transphobe who wanted to talk down to us. Suddenly, we were the overly-sensitive "alphabet people."
Thanks a lot Dave.
In his new Netflix special, "The Closer," Chappelle defended J.K. Rowling and proclaimed himself, "Team TERF." There are several problems with this. First of all, Chappelle oversimplified Rowling's statements. He claims all she said was, "gender is real." Aside from being an oversimplification, this is a statement trans people agree with. Trans people aren't trying to say gender isn't real.
What Rowling did was spread false information on trans identity and gender dysphoria. She also claimed not to support trans people using the bathroom or locker room of their choice. She said that doing so would put women and girls in danger. This is far more than saying "gender is real."
TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. When Chappelle proclaims himself, "Team TERF," he's co-signing trans people being excluded. He's co-signing trans people being lied about and othered. To claim a statement like this is anything other than transphobic is idiocy.
Chappelle also made antisemitic jokes in his new special. There are two in particular which many have dubbed "Space Jews." The first joke implied that Jewish people voluntarily left their native homeland and returned after experiencing the Holocaust to entirely take over. Chappelle compared it to an alien invasion. The next joke implied that Jewish people are now doing to Palestinians what the Nazis did to them in the Holocaust.
First of all, many Jewish people left the land because it was conquered by an oppressive empire. They didn't go voluntarily and always had a desire to return, long before the Holocaust. To equate the very complex conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians to the Holocaust is completely false. It also ignores the many peace attempts made by Israel. It's a form of Holocaust inversion, a classic antisemitic trope. These jokes are also laced with another antisemitic trope, the one in which Jewish people are portrayed as hungry for power.
What many people don't understand about prejudice is that it doesn't just show itself through feelings of hatred. It shows itself through ignorance as well. Certain ideas are passed down through generations and many are conditioned to believe them. It works the same way with racism, something I'm sure Chappelle understands. Chappelle probably believes that he doesn't hate trans people or Jewish people. However, that doesn't make what he said any less transphobic or antisemitic.
Chappelle's ignorance didn't stop at transphobia and antisemitism. Apparently, throwing trans people under the bus and slapping Holocaust education in the face wasn't enough. There was still another group Chappelle took issue with and he made his feelings very clear.
DaBaby made homophobic comments on stage at the Rolling Loud festival this past summer. He also spread false information about HIV/AIDS, something that could lead to discrimination towards those living with the virus. What DaBaby said was indefensible. However, Chappelle decided to defend him anyway and he did it by pitting one group against another.
"In our country, you can shoot and kill a n***a," Chappelle said. "But you better not hurt a gay person's feelings."
This statement perfectly summarizes the entire problem with Chappelle's point of view. He doesn't seem to understand that there are Black gay people, Black trans people, and Black Jewish people. Gay issues, trans issues, and antisemitism aren't "white issues." It's ironic how Chappelle paints himself as someone with an intelligent perspective on social issues, when he is one of the most ignorant people alive.
Obviously, Chappelle's special sparked controversy within the LGBTQ and Jewish communities. It led to Jaclyn Moore, a trans showrunner on Netflix's "Dear White People," to boycott the company. It also led to Terra Field, a trans employee at Netflix, to be suspended after they tweeted about Chappelle and his special. Netflix claimed Field was suspended for a different reason. They also released a statement defending Chappelle and the special in the name of what they call "artistic freedom."
The constant debate about whether Chappelle's special should be removed from Netflix is missing the point. Education is what Chappelle is in desperate need of. However, it's not enough for him to need the education, he must be open to receiving it. I don't think Netflix should've suspended Field after speaking out, even though I support their right to do so. I also understand and support Moore's decision to boycott the company.
At the end of the day, however, nothing will change without education. What I want to see is Chappelle learning from his mistakes and growing as a person. But don't think I will defend his harmful ignorance. Unlike Chappelle, I will not defend the indefensible.