The last time Chris Rock was in the news was for his controversial monologue (depending on who you are and how you took it) when he recently hosted Saturday Night Live. This time, Rock is going to be remembered for his fascinating, eye-opening remarks about race relations and racial progress in America.
Rock has a monster of an interview with New York magazine and, honestly, take the 20 or 30 minutes out of your day to read it (and bonus points for hearing his unmistakable voice as you do). Because it is well worth it. He and political columnist Frank Rich run the gamut on topics like what’s going on in Ferguson, Mo., and Bill Cosby, from social media and class inequality, to politics to art, to the point where politics and art meet. But it’s his thoughts on race relations, particularly in the U.S., that will have you thinking differently (or, perhaps, you are fortunate enough to already possess these thoughts).
Buckle your seatbelts because you’re in for a profound ride.
Rich vs. poor: “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets. If the average person could see the Virgin Airlines first-class lounge, they’d go, ‘What? What? This is food, and it’s free, and they … what? Massage? Are you kidding me?'”
Black progress vs. white progress: “When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. 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. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, ‘Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.’ It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, 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.”
Racism is not a fad: “But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.”
Racial progress, or lack thereof: “Grown people, people over 30, they’re not changing. But you’ve got kids growing up… I mean, I almost cry every day. I drop my kids off and watch them in the school with all these mostly white kids, and I got to tell you, I drill them every day: ‘Did anything happen today? Did anybody say anything?’ They look at me like I am crazy. It’s partly generational, but it’s also my kids grew up not only with a black president but with a black secretary of state, a black joint chief of staff, a black attorney general. My children are going to be the first black children in the history of America to actually have the benefit of the doubt of just being moral, intelligent people.”
This is just a drop in the bucket. He drops all kinds of pearls of wisdom all over the place with his spot-on observations and brought insight to many topics we may have thought of in a different light. Rock speaks truthfully about race but never sounds preachy because he covers that honesty with humour. And it’s not just his views on race that astound but also how seriously he takes his parenting responsibilities. He wants his children, and all children, to be smarter, healthier, more productive members of society, and that makes him that much more awesome.
Who knows? Maybe you’ve always known Rock was brilliant but for some, their perception on him may have just changed. Not that anyone thought he was a dummy or anything but some may believe Rock has lost some of his edge and is just the guy who voices the zebra in the Madagascar movies. This interview proves he’s still got it and, most importantly, still gets it. He’s sharp, witty and uses his voice to expose what people who are too afraid to say out loud are thinking. Bravo.