The Number of the Beast.
Dave Chappelle vents on the death of George Floyd and the re-fuel of a movement.
June 6, 2020. An open-air venue, Wirrig Pavilion in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Can’t be more than a hundred people attending, temperature-checked as they enter, all masked; seating in twos on cheap wooden chairs, each pair isolated from the rest. Is this what it’s come to? The vaunted human race? Brought low by a microbe? Good luck conquering the stars, weaklings!
Dave Chappelle strays onstage garbed in black t-shirt and baggy black tracksuit pants, armed with a notebook and a mic. He starts by telling us it’s hard to figure out what to say about George Floyd, speaking quietly, a smattering of applause for every little statement, as if to boost him up, the crowd wanting him to succeed, in what might turn out to be a hit or miss performance, judging by Dave’s introspective mood and the tenor of the times (the depressing coronavirus conditioning becoming part of our daily lives).
This night has come about due to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by four Minneapolis police officers led by Derek Chauvin. The outrage of white cops murdering yet another black man for the barest sliver of a suspected crime sparked riots across the United States.
Amidst this pandemic of protests highlighting Black Lives Matter, cries to Defund The Police and to throw the book at Chauvin and his accomplices, Dave steps from behind his self-imposed veil of silence, in this hastily-organized Standup Special – the farthest thing from a Standup Special – more a state of the republic pertaining to systemic racism, with the keynote speaker, America’s Prophet of Cool.
Conversationally, Dave tells us about the night of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and how he was terrified for his life, and how the quake couldn’t have lasted more than 35 seconds…
… then he drops the hammer on us.
In a shout: “This man kneeled on a man’s neck – for eight minutes and forty-six seconds! Can you imagine that?!”
The passion is all there. The power is all there. What idiots we feel, in thinking that the mighty Dave Chappelle needed to be propped up by our paltry, insipid, fishwife applause. The crowd goes silent. No more makeshift eh-heh’s. The prophet has arrived.
He commends we the people for taking action, pointing out he didn’t want to “step in front of the streets and talk over the work the people are doing.” He’s right: when celebrities insert themselves, the spotlight focuses on THEM, not the message. But, as he says, he had to say something.
Dave can’t get 8 minutes and 46 seconds out of his head – because it was the time of his birth – 8:46 a.m. Throughout the Special, Dave would find eerie connections to social events: the cop that murdered John Crawford pulling Dave over the night before; both Kobe Bryant’s jersey numbers (8, 24) being Dave’s birthday; his great-grandfather William David Chappelle leading the first black delegation to the white house!…
Though we know this show has been thrown together without much audience testing, the monologue is still crafted, arriving at the hammer points via circuitous references that connect the dots to why we are here today. He tells of black LAPD officer Chris Dorner, fired for doing the right thing – making a report on a white cop; in retaliation, he waged “asymmetrical war” on the police department, murdering police and their family members, before they found him holed up in Big Bear. And sent 400 police to make Swiss cheese out of him. “And you know why 400 police showed up? Because one of their own was murdered! So how the fuck can’t they understand what’s going on in these streets?”
Dave recites a litany of black deaths at the hands of police, including Eric Garner “the first black man who told a cop, ‘I can’t breathe.’” (Well, the first on video); Trayvon Martin, whose soulless murderer (George Zimmerman) would autograph Skittles packets because Trayvon died with Skittles on him; also turning his ire on those who mock the black struggle, declaring Laura Ingraham a cunt (which is true) and Candace Owens as having a stinky pussy (also true). So… there are gags, just… measured against the gravitas.
While Dave was filming this Special on June 6, congruently, on June 3, Hasan Minhaj on his Netflix series PATRIOT ACT recites almost the same litany, making an impact by NOT saying the names, but simply telling us what they were doing at the time of their murders: “If you lived in a country where the color of your skin got you killed – for driving, jogging, sleeping, yelling, parking, babysitting, sitting in a van, selling CDs, selling cigarettes, opening the door, walking at night, wearing a hoodie at night, holding a toy gun, lying on the ground, being homeless, having a broken taillight…” on and on the death litany rails, with pictures appearing around Hasan of all those people murdered for those mundane reasons, and I’m sorry to say that I recognized less than half the victims because even though I recall the incidents, there are so many, that they slide into morbid normality. And this morbidity should NOT be normalized.
I might not be qualified to offer any solutions to the race issue in America – but here are a few euphemisms and falsisms I know we should stop using – which might lead us to a better acceptance of the reality we live in.
stop saying “killed”
– when you mean “murdered.” The insipid news programs keep giving the murderers a pass by repeating: Floyd was “killed.” Even Dave slips a couple of times, saying, “They killed him.” But Floyd was murdered. If you’re walking in the middle of the street and I unintentionally hit you with my car, I killed you. But if you are walking on the footpath and I intentionally swerve up on the footpath to get you, I murdered you.
“This man kneeled on a man’s neck – for eight minutes and forty-six seconds!”
It’s a Lenny Bruce moment for Chappelle: raving on the racist political climate of a damaged nation and risking imprisonment or worse from the increasingly fascist-leaning authorities. It takes big balls. That’s why his pants are so loose. But some have opined that Dave placing himself on “the right side of history” doesn’t take balls. Anyone would raise their voice against injustice. Well, not exactly true: the human species is 50% cowards and 90% sheep. But for those who do raise their voice, it does take balls when the UNJUST are holding all the cards. And the guns. And the authority. When the unjust can murder you and claim that YOU are the criminal – for driving, jogging, sleeping, yelling, parking, babysitting – you know how this ends…
This Special would hit us so cleanly between the shoulder blades because the United States is fragmenting before our very eyes. History is being written by the people who are on the wrong side of it.
stop saying “wrong side of history”
June 1, 2020. The American president himself takes up arms against the American people, and with his bumboy network, Fox News, twists the narrative to vilify the protestors for racial equality, as being the criminals. See, that’s the mistake all righteous people make when they appeal to the unjust and warn them that they might be on the “wrong side of history.” You gotta remember – they don’t care. Which side of history does the president give a fuck he’ll land on when he abrogates his oath of office and defiles the First Amendment of the Constitution by denying protestors their right to free speech?
These wannabe-fascist swine don’t see the wrong side of history as a bad thing. It’s semantics to them, not ethics. Consider: before Abraham Lincoln – the 16th president, who freed the African slaves – there were 15 other presidents who advocated for slavery. Weren’t they on the wrong side of history? And yet all their pictures and statues adorn America coast to coast, in textbooks and online – they will NEVER be considered on the wrong side of history and they will never be erased from history. Why? Because history is written by the winners. It’s a cliché because it’s TRUTH. If these modern white supremacists and neo-nazis WIN – then they get to WRITE the history – and guess who’s gonna end up on the wrong side of it, if we lose?
Don’t you think the American presidents of the 1800’s who oversaw the massacres of the Native Peoples of America were on the wrong side of history, murdering men, women and children systematically? They were on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of the world, on the wrong side of the bible, on the wrong side of the treaties they were breaking – they were on the wrong side of fucken EVERYTHING! Yet the Native American peoples have been exterminated to such an extent that there is no one left to rise up, let alone speak up against the eternally corrupt government that subjugated them for centuries. And there were twenty-three presidents in that group that were responsible for exterminating the Natives (including Honest Abe!), with the last big meathook massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. To the Native peoples, African Americans have it gooood – at least they’ve got so many representatives across these Dis-United States to stand up for their black tribe. The American Natives – erroneously termed Indians by that dipshit Columbus – have no one. They’re probably looking at this furor and sniggering, “Pssh! 20 black men shot this year? Try having your civilization wiped out. ALL our warriors and braves were on the right side of history, and what did it get us? Not even the fake promise of 40 acres and a mule.”
So I’m saying: a redneck nazi in modern-day america thinks HE or SHE is on the right side of history by siding with the traitor 45th white supremacist president. You can’t get through that – huh – wall. So – don’t BE on the wrong side of history – just don’t waste your time appealing to anyone who is actually there.
stop saying “bad apples”
Derek Chauvin is not a bad apple. He’s not a fruit. He’s a MURDERER, straight up. And if we examine the past of all these white cops who have murdered black men, we find a record of sociopathic behavior. The executions which eventually get them on the viral videos are NOT isolated incidents. They are the latest in a PATTERN of felonies. They are as bad as those school shooters who have a history of antisocial behavior, where people say, “Man, we shoulda watched that guy!”
Like the term “white collar crime,” “bad apples” connotes something archly pleasant. Goddamit, do you think the “bad apples” are shamed by calling them something lovely and red? Call Derek Chauvin and his three accomplices to murder what they are: SOCIOPATHS. They’re bad humans, busted valves in their brains, making them think they are immune to the laws they supposedly uphold. Wallowing in ignorance, arrogance, insecurity, cowardice, xenophobia, they fall outside the tenets of the ideal gene pool for humanity. Think how much more powerful it would be if some Police Chief made the statement, “We’ve just got a few SOCIOPATHS on the force that make all the other police look bad.” How fast would justice officials and the public move to excise those mental cases? Faster than when they’re called fruit, I guarantee it.
stop saying “protect and serve”
We knew that the role of the police was to protect white supremacy.
— Angela Davis, civil rights activist.
“Protect and Serve” was always a MOTTO, never policy. The police have always been an arm of the wealthy, to accrue revenue, to provide a buffer between the rich and poor, to keep the slaves on the plantation. The actual unspoken full motto is “To Protect and Serve THE RICH.” As soon as everyone gets that through their thick skulls, we can stop wondering why the police wrestle a poor person to the ground for half an ounce of marijuana, and then have to courteously approach any congressman guilty of embezzling medical funds. Because the congressman is paying the police salary out of the revenue that the police torture out of the poor. The marijuana guy endangered NO ONE baking in his apartment (who are the police “protecting” by breaking his arm to arrest him?), while the congressman is responsible for hundreds of thousands losing their lives for lack of medical resources (who are the police “serving” by allowing him bail and a lawyer who plays golf with the judge?). As soon as we stop imbuing police with this imaginary quality they demonstrably do not possess or exhibit, even the police will be happier – it will be like coming out of the closet for them. Whew, now I can be openly racist and use excessive force and even tell little girls that if there’s no money in it for the state, then I don’t give a fuck that your little dog is lost; it feels so good to be honest with myself at last...
Protect and Serve holds as much truth as “New and Improved” or “Whiter whites” – heh, whiter whites – perfectly describes this 45th puppet president’s administration and his supporters yeh?
Dave’s Special is done in 27 empathy-charged minutes, so he doesn’t get this deep into the sociological weeds. He’s simply re-charging those who need his approbation to fuel their struggle, and planting the seed for those who are just realizing the color of their skin is a social signal, and energizing those who thought it was okay to just watch and do nothing.
The German pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) started the convention of the poem, “First they came…” as in “They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist…” that old sociopolitical caveat.
We replace the Communist and trade unionist tags with modern day American social groupings and wince at how true it still rings:
First they came for the immigrants,
and I did not speak out because I was not an immigrant.
Then they came for the African Americans,
and I did not speak out because I was not African American.
Then they came for Women’s Rights,
and I did not speak out because I was not a woman.
Then they came for the LGBTQ,
and I did not speak out because I was straight.
Then they came for me
—and there was no one left to speak out.
Dave ends his monologue confident that “these streets will speak for themselves whether I am alive or dead.” Don’t tempt them, Dave. Because they will.
June 12, 2020. On the day of this Standup Special’s release, on the day that Dave Chappelle raves against the overwhelming inequity of white-on-black legalized murders; on the day that he inspired us to feel like raising our voices would not be futile, on that day – two police shot and murdered Rayshard Brooks.
A week later, June 18, the Dumbo Donald administration launch campaign ads on Facebook featuring an upside down red triangle – a symbol used in nazi concentration camps to identify prisoners. And Facebook actually removed the ads, and are now facing lawsuits from the Dumbo administration in retaliation. So the nazi symbolism at last caught up with the Jewish-heritage Zuckerberg, always so reticent to curb what he calls “free speech,” while attending secret lunches with Dumbo Donald. I guess their lunch date playtimes are over… This ad would be Steven Miller’s doing. As a student of Goebbels, Miller and the rest of this administration’s white supremacists don’t give a fuck anymore about how they appear to the rest of sensible America. Out in the open, no white hoods required. This is the climate into which “8:46” has been unleashed.
Nothing changes. Nothing is new. Or improved. Unlike Hasan, who offers advice on how you might put that time you spend on Woke Instagram toward time spent waking up congressmen, Dave does not offer any advice or solutions. It’s a rant, an education for any latecomers to the lynching.
And I’ve got no solutions either. The only advice I can give is: Don’t fall for anything that says new and improved. And stay away from those whiter whites.