Chris Rock on racism, Trump and why Obama's presidency was 'progress for white people'
Chris Rock isn’t exactly surprised about what’s going on in America right now. In a wide ranging interview with the New York Times, the Fargo star, 55, discussed everything from President Trump to the racial reckoning prompted by the killing of George Floyd.
“This is the second great civil rights movement,” the comedian declared.
Rock recently performed a standup set for a socially distant audience as part of Dave Chappelle’s outdoor comedy series where he talked about “our political whatever.”
“America,” he explained to the Times. “Part of the reason we’re in the predicament we’re in is, the president’s a landlord. No one has less compassion for humans than a landlord. And we’re shocked he’s not engaged.”
Rock likened the president to a child but equally blasted Democrats.
“Did you ever see that movie The Last Emperor, where like a 5-year-old is the emperor of China? There’s a kid and he’s the king. So I’m like, it’s all the Democrats’ fault. Because you knew that the emperor was 5 years old. And when the emperor’s 5 years old, they only lead in theory. There’s usually an adult who’s like, ‘OK, this is what we’re really going to do.’ And it was totally up to [Nancy] Pelosi and the Democrats,” he said. “Their thing was, ‘We’re going to get him impeached,’ which was never going to happen. You let the pandemic come in. Yes, we can blame Trump, but he’s really the 5-year-old.”
Rock added, “Put it this way: Republicans tell outright lies. Democrats leave out key pieces of the truth that would lead to a more nuanced argument. In a sense, it’s all fake news.”
As for the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the country, Rock noted there’s a key difference from what’s happening now versus the civil rights movement in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
“Dr. King and those guys were amazing. But they knew nothing about money. They didn’t ask for anything. At the end of the day, the things we got — it was just, hey, can you guys be humane? All we got was, like, humanity. If they had it to do all over again, in hindsight, there would be some attention paid to the financial disparity of all the years of — let’s not even count slavery, let’s just count Jim Crow,” Rock explained.
“You’re talking about a system that really didn’t end until about 1973. And I’m born in ’65 in South Carolina. I’m probably in a segregated wing of a hospital — there’s no way in the world I was next to a white baby. Even if the hospital wasn’t segregated, I was in a whole other room and that room didn’t have the good milk and the good sheets. My parents couldn’t own property in certain neighborhoods when I was born. There was an economic disparity there, and that was not addressed in the original civil rights movement. It was a huge oversight. So there’s no money and there’s no land. If you don’t have either one of those, you don’t really have much.”
Rock has talked about racism and police brutality throughout his career, certainly before 2020. So when asked if he feels like he’s seen “circumstances” improve at all, Rock had a poignant response.
“[Racism] is real. It’s not going away. I said this before, but Obama becoming the president, it’s progress for white people. It’s not progress for Black people,” Rock replied.
“It’s the Jackie Robinson thing. It’s written like he broke a barrier, as if there weren’t Black people that could play before him. And that’s how white people have learned about racism,” he shared. “They think, when these people work hard enough, they’ll be like Jackie. And the real narrative should be that these people, the Black people, are being abused by a group of people that are mentally handicapped. And we’re trying to get them past their mental handicaps to see that all people are equal.”
Rock continued, “Humanity isn’t progress — it’s only progress for the person that’s taking your humanity. If a woman’s in an abusive relationship and her husband stops beating her, you wouldn’t say she’s made progress, right? But that’s what we do with Black people. We’re constantly told that we’re making progress. The relationship we’re in — the arranged marriage that we’re in — it’s that we’re getting beat less.”
The entertainment industry is having a reckoning within a reckoning. Rock was asked about Jimmy Fallon’s decades-old clip in which the late-night host portrayed him in blackface.
“Hey, man, I’m friends with Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy. And he didn’t mean anything,” Rock replied. “A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t.”
“There’s been a wider push to expunge blackface from any movies or TV shows where it previously appeared. Have people taken it too far?” the Times asked.
“If I say they are, then I’m the worst guy in the world. There’s literally one answer that ends my whole career,” Rock replied. “Blackface ain’t cool, OK? That’s my quote. Blackface is bad. Who needs it? It’s so sad, we live in a world now where you have to say, I am so against cancer. ‘I just assumed you liked cancer.’ No, no, no, I am so against it. You have to state so many obvious things you’re against.”
You can read Rock’s full interview here.
Watch — Jimmy Fallon addresses Chris Rock blackface controversy: