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Vanderbilt professor questions Joe Rogan’s comments on Blackness: 'Are you that obtuse?'

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Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, Michael Eric Dyson, appeared on Don Lemon Tonight Wednesday, where he challenged comments made by comedian Joe Rogan on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, on Tuesday.

During a conversation with his guest, psychologist and commentator Jordan Peterson, about skin color, specifically Dyson’s skin color, him being a light skinned Black man, Rogan said, “The Black and white thing is so weird because the shades are so — there’s such a spectrum of shades of people. Unless you’re talking to someone who is, like, 100% African, from the darkest place where they're not wearing any clothes all day and they've developed all that melanin to protect themselves from the sun, you know, even the term Black is weird. When you use it for people that are literally my color, it becomes very strange.”

Dyson began by explaining to Rogan what Blackness means other than just the color of someone’s skin.

“We’re not talking about a genetic predisposition toward darker skin, we're speaking about an existential context,” Dyson said. “We're talking about a philosophical idea. We're speaking about rooted cultures in deep histories that have vast traditions that have generated complicated identities.”

Dyson said he had met Rogan when he opened up for Dave Chappelle, and expressed shock that someone who had worked with maybe the most famous Black comedian in the world would harbor such opinions.

“Joe Rogan, you're opening up for a guy who has redefined, for many people, Blackness in the last 15 years, and yet you're claiming not to know what Blackness is,” Dyson said. “Yeah, I think that's a deliberate, willful ignorance, and it's the unintentional hilarity of a certain kind of whiteness that refuses to own up to what it is.”

Video Transcript

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: While they unsuccessfully challenged my Blackness, they damn sure proved their whiteness, indifferent to history, oblivious to truth, and indifferent to reality.

KYLIE MAR: Michael Eric Dyson, professor of African-American and diaspora studies at Vanderbilt University appeared on "Don Lemon Tonight" Wednesday where he addressed comments made by Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson on Rogan's podcast on Tuesday while the two were discussing Dyson's skin color.

JOE ROGAN: Unless you're talking to someone who is like 100% African from the darkest place where they're not wearing any clothes all day and they've developed all that melanin to protect themselves from the sun, you know, even the term Black is weird.

KYLIE MAR: Dyson believes that Rogan whose platform on Spotify was recently unsuccessfully challenged by rocker, Neil Young, is too smart to believe what he said.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Brother Rogan is smarter than that. People who are in Africa who don't wear clothes who have deeper melanin? Was he speaking about thousands of years ago? Was he talking about today when he refers to what it means to be African, when he refers to what it means to be Black? Are you that obtuse?

KYLIE MAR: Dyson said he met Rogan once after the comedian opened for Dave Chappelle, which is why he found the comments so astonishing.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: You're opening up for a guy who has redefined for many people Blackness in the last 15 years, and yet you're claiming not to know what Blackness is. Yeah, I think that's a deliberate willful ignorance. And it's the unintentional hilarity of a certain kind of whiteness that refuses to own up to what it is.

KYLIE MAR: And Dyson explained to Rogan what Blackness means besides just the color of someone's skin.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: We're speaking about an existential context. We're talking about a philosophical idea. We're speaking about rooted cultures in deep histories that have vast traditions that have generated complicated identities.