Free or Foolish Speech: Chris Rock and the July 4th Tweet Controversy

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Bringing the Pain

America has  survived an astonishing 236 years now. In my opinion, that’s a blessing. Let’s consider all of the strife we have endured: a war in 1812, the solemn fratricidal war of a north that rejected a peculiar institution and a south that so desperately depended on it (we all know that there were many causes for the civil war, but that’s a conversation for another day), two World Wars and a myriad of other issues, conflicts and events that might have destroyed any other nation. As Americans we enjoy many freedoms, which some would say make us the “envy” of the world. However, right here within our borders, those same freedoms are often the cause of intense and sometimes vitriolic debate, debate that is truly unbecoming of what the American brand is supposed to represent.

Fair or Foul?

Just the other day, Chris Rock, one of the most well-known comedians in the world, tweeted “ Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed the fireworks.” Now, most would consider that unpatriotic and insensitive of Rock to make comments as such. I just can’t seem to see why they’d have such a problem, even with the explanations that have been given. Those who are critical and seek to make an example out of Rock should think twice. We have to remember that he is a comedian and it is in his nature to make comments as such. Even in looking at his comments as political farce, we still have to recognize that the enormity of truth that surrounds the statement.

America and certain Americans, always try and have always tried to downplay the true history of this nation, which was founded in a cloud of hypocrisy. So when Rock says “Happy white peoples independence day” he is simply giving us the true history, but in his comedic way. This is not at all unpatriotic, but one of the highest forms of patriotism one can show. It has always amazed me how people will attack someone for challenging their nation to do better, especially when the basic precepts upon which we founded have not been fully achieved. Rock, like so many other Americans understands this and spoke on it.

While it may not have been in some eloquent fashion, his simplicity got the message across. America, he is saying, you have a dark past. A past that she must fully recognize and not suppress. A past that has not been perfect at all but has allowed to us get better with each test. A past that has brought us to the point that we are at now, perfecting our Union and breaking down many of the walls that once stood in the way of that progress. Those slaves who weren’t allowed to enjoy those early Independence Days can look down with great admiration at how far we have come, especially knowing that a black man now occupies the house in the city in which they built.

Wait, didn’t you say ALL Men?

When Jefferson wrote the magnificent words of the Declaration of Independence, we all know too well that he asserted that human equality was “self-evident.” Also self-evident was the inequity that existed, not only in his life, but also in the lives of many of our nation’s forefathers. The one central lesson we must take from Chris Rock’s comments and the thousands of others is that we must be open and honest in all aspects of the empirical truth of inequity in this land we love so dearly. This is what we should do as Americans so that we may be able to press forward toward the true vision of the Declaration. Our mission as good Americans and true patriots must always be to imagine and create a political society that is better, breaks down more walls and that is more free than our current state. Until that day, God Bless America.

How do you all feel about Chris Rock’s comments? Were they unpatriotic? Is this an example of free speech or foolish speech?  Do you feel we as Americans have a responsibility to challenge the nations past in order to secure a better future? I’m interested in knowing your what y’all think!

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  • Joshua

    This is real journalism and social commentary!!! Keep it Coming!

  • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

    It was perfectly within bounds. The only people that got mad at the fact are the same people that tell everyone that they are humorless when they don't laugh at racist, sexist, etc. sh*t. Free speech ONLY has to do government censorship. I wish people would stop bringing it up outside of that context. The past should be consistently and continuously addressed, especially considering states like Texas are trying to white wash the history books and paint things like slavery in a brighter light in order for Black kids to "not feel animosity towards white people".

    • Adonis

      Thanks for the reminder on Free Speech & Texas is off the hook

  • Renata

    I think his comments were pretty on point. They are very much in line with his comedic viewpoint. Anyone who has watched any of his standups knows he speaks on America’s history and race relations.

  • Smilez_920

    He’s a comedian. The majority of his standup shows, he talks about race relations. I don’t think anything he said was out of place. It’s the truth, maybe it wasn’t said in a nice way, but it’s the truth all the same. As far as it being patriotic, how many Americans are really celebrating the 4th of July in homage of our 4 fathers and not just as an excuse to take the day off of work and have a dope BBQ.

    Do you feel we as Americans have a responsibility to challenge the nations past in order to secure a better future?
    Yes, if you don’t learn from the mistakes of our past we will continue to make them. Like one commenter stated above, lots of history books, especially in the south are starting to put this new spin on slavery, like it wasn’t that bad. In order to have a real discussion about race relations, both sides have to take their blinders off.

  • http://www.itsvp.com Vee

    I don't think Chris Rock was trying to be funny at all. He was speaking the truth. Which leads me to my question, should we celebrate the 4th of July? I mean, it is after all the day that America declared independence but it was not considered our country at the time! Or should we look pass the meaning of the 4th of July in 1776, and take it as it is today?
    My recent post Black people can't celebrate the 4th of July?

    • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

      Had they lost the war, the Declaration of Independence would’ve been King George’s dinner napkin, but it sounds better the other way. Just like Lincoln dropped the Emancipation Proclamation which didnt mean ish until the war was over and even then it took until Juneteenth (black peoples independence day technically) for it to finally be taken seriously. I wonder in the next 150 years will they say we won in Vietnam and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ended when Osama and Saddam caught it.

    • JupiterCalhoun

      I don't take July 4th seriously. Never have. I use it as a convenient excuse to release my inner pyromaniac. I have a couple of hot dogs, a couple of beers, and then I fire off a few bottle rockets at people and run down the street naked chasing dogs with lit sparklers in my hand.

      • Sweetmack

        Thanks, I needed a good LOL this morning. I turned 60 on July 4th, that's all it means to me. Just another day that I can say I'm glad to be alive!

    • Dr. J

      I think that when Black people ask themselves should they celebrate the 4th of July it's odd. I always counter with, if when schools were desegregated should Black people not have went? There were slaves in 1776, we all know that. However, as a people, we've always been desirous of equality. We're just as American as anyone else, we can celebrate it.

      It's a choice for all though.

  • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

    I thought it was in bounds. This wasnt exactly Gilbert Gottfried cracking Japanese jokes hours after the earthquake or that weird guy from the Comedy central roasts calling Rodney King a “dead “beat” dad on Fathers Day. This wasnt offensive to anyone other than people who want to pretend this type of stuff didnt happen.

  • Witisizem

    First and foremost, it seems people frequently use “patriotism” as a cover up for “any devotion to their country that is in line with THEIR beliefs or philosophies.” One person’s patriotism is another person’s terrorism.

    With that being said, what is unique about what Chris Rock is saying? Nothing. Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” eloquently expressed the same thing…in 1852. Why were people so angered or annoyed by Chris Rock’s tweet? Was it because we, as a nation, are supposed to sweep all of the US of A’s ugliness under the rug for the benefit of a few? This isn’t a guilt trip but reality for many. Chris Rock has always had insightful commentary about race relations: people can laugh at his jokes about some people having that “one black friend” but can’t face the underlying truth about what that really means. We, as a country are diverse in number but not in action and deep thought. How many of us actually live up to the ideals of the country’s doctrines; the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Was there some sort of disclaimer on founding documents for certain races that the rest of “us” weren’t told?

    As an aside, it’s also interesting when people say they are tired of talking about racial issues when no.ever.really.does. That statement is usually a passive aggressive maneuver by a few to divert their discomfort with an issue. Think about how many thoughtful conversations you’ve had with people about diversity issues. Now think about how many of those conversation you’ve had with people NOT in your same racial or ethnic group? Hm.

    • Alakaii Hawaii

      Man.

      *rests comfortably and peacefully*

      The author of this post has a positive intensity to his writing; I'm glad you matched it.

  • Hebrew Princess

    There was absolutely nothing wrong nor inappropriate about Chris Rock's comment. My father has been saying that same thing to me since I was a youngster. If I still had Twitter I would've definitely Retweeted it. I hope he isn't "forced" to apologize. Why get all upset at his comment anywayz?! It's the truth. I've NEVER celebrated the 4th of July as my Independence Day & I NEVER will. Simple as that.

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    There was nothing unpatriotic about Chris Rock's tweet at all. He merely highlighted an uncomfortable truth, that as MLK said, blacks attempted to cash the promissory note of unalienable rights that we were given as Americans, just to have it come back marked insufficient funds. Even today, there is a "but" after every statement of freedom and equality in this country. If they have such a problem with Chris Rock's comments, then just use Thomas Jefferson's.

    "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between slave and master is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate that these people are to be free."

    • Alakaii Hawaii

      Commerce between slave and master is despotism. I almost cried. Black people aren't slaves nor are we recovering from slavery. Plenty of black men went on to buy their master's farms and had the skill to work the land. I'm not condoning slavery. The mentality of hurt feelings is a little old because considering the overused phrase of "our President is black" it's common knowledge how easy it is to be successful in this country. To me….we have the Freedom of Speech BUT we should be well informed when using it. Uncomfortable? Absolutely. but it helps to ease the tension and opens the lines of communication necessary to coexist.

      • Malik

        Please don’t give this revisionist bullsh*t about how Black people had it all easy in America after slavery ended because 1 or 2 Black people were able to buy plantations that they used to work on. You REALLY need to research Reconstruction if that’s what you think happened.

      • Uncle Hugh, BP

        Alakaii Hawaii: "Black people aren't slaves nor are we recovering from slavery. Plenty of black men went on to buy their master's farms and had the skill to work the land."

        The point I was making was Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers who was also a slaveowner, knew that this country was wrong, even at that time.

        Jefferson knew all men are born with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and it was the Creator that provided these rights. He understood the Creator would surely revisit America for what she did to the slaves, and he "tremble(d) for (his) country" when thinking about the Creator being just, and that his justice doesn't sleep forever.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          I knew what you were getting at Hugh. I wanted to see how many people fail at critical thinking. but according to Malik….it will always be a lot.

        • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

          Right. I'm the one that fails at critical thinking because you once heard a couple of Black folk after slavery bought the plantations their masters used to own. You're so gleefully ignorant about the history of Black people in this country it's disgusting. Go stick your head in a whole. I swear if you even knew what sharecropping and generational wealth were you would embarrassed at what you have written and implied.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          ……..or I would be struggling to hold back condescending laughter and blatant mockery of you and everyone who thinks like you because I've seen…..twenty, thirty, forty black men come from nothing and make something of themselves. I dunno. I've lost count.

          You can only go up to two — and that's okay. I still can't get over getting a kick out of mushing people to see what they've got but I really don't think I should care anymore.

          You can't even tell me what I implied.

        • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

          Right, personal anecdotes don't mean anything when discussing systematic oppression. My grandmother is a West Indian immigrant with a doctorate who now owns a 100k+ home. That doesn't mean immigration is easy.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          *massages your shoulders*

          Lots of tension but it's gone now.

          I'm not sure they're personal anecdotes so as much as they're examples of possibility. I'm pretty sure it's possible to make a blanket statement of what all black men are capable of based on a few I've personally encountered. Even if it is gleeful ignorance of weak men. I just don't see what the big deal is because, I haven't met the President of the United States but I'm pretty sure he didn't cry about racism.

          I also think there's something wrong with people who, if you compliment black men you're wrong. If you insult black men you're wrong. If you try to guide black men you're wrong. If you try to help black men you're wrong. But majority of black men feel some kind of way about white people dominating….and it's wrong. Yet a white man could tell me what I implied. Which is a problem.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          Hey wait a second…

          You know what? I have to tag you back for using the word "bull" towards me.

          If your grandmother was a West Indian immigrant and now she owns a house……………………………….how are you complaining about racism in America? Are you mad because it's hard? lmao. *rescinds that massage* Whose house do you live in? I'm gonna need you to stop complaining and squeeze some moisture out of your elbows. smfh.

      • Alakaii Hawaii

        lol. If I felt better I'd taunt both of you but I actually stopped reading after I got cursed at. If you can't grasp the concept of being the few who overcome than that's on you as well as your consequential problems.

        • Uncle Hugh, BP

          "If I felt better I'd taunt both of you…

          In regards to what exactly? My comment about Thomas Jefferson agreeing with Chris Rock's comment that you went on a wild tangent with?

          "If you can't grasp the concept of being the few who overcome than that's on you as well as your consequential problems."

          What consequential problems? Do you think I'm suffering from some problem because I recognized that blacks weren't free when the nation declared its independence? And do you really think either I or Malik didn't know some blacks were successful during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War? And does the fact that some blacks were successful take away from the fact that there was/is disenfranchisement in this country?

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          About nothing when it comes to you. I read the first sentence of Malik's comment and he cursed at me so everything after that was ignored because it felt threatening….but then I thought you're actually a level headed person so I read your comment. I don't have a problem with any of it. You got sorta rolled in there with the negativity but nevermind cuz I actually agree with what you're saying.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          and because "in regards to what exactly" made me feel like my entire extended family raised their eyebrows at me. *comment rescinded*

        • http://twitter.com/WildCougConfess @WildCougConfess

          don't poke the lunatics.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          God forbid I get a thumbs down. It's actually starting to make me laugh. It's more dissapointing there's no men to converse with who are actually developed enough to see the point though. So I almost feel pity. or disgust. It feels like people who aren't qualified to have an opinion keep getting in my personal space. So I mush. If you're gonna thumbs down my comment at least grasp the point first and hold a polite conversation about it. Otherwise I feel like I'm bullying grown men. It's awkward.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          lmao.

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          I think Malik is suffering from the pressure of oppression and is entirely too focused on the difficulty of overcoming. He's tired. I simply told him it's possible. I didn't have a qualm with your comments because you clearly already know that: I used your comment because you seem like the logical next step in his personal development. and yes. I do think some successful blacks take away from the heaviness of disenfranchisement. Give THEM attention. What they did. Discuss THEM. and that's not something that should be directly said to or about someone in the heat of the moment but I do think opressed blacks need to focus on the fact it's possible to do better and have better…..as demonstrated by his grandmother. A personal anecdote.

  • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

    i don't see the big point. he was telling the truth. then again the truth hurts so i can see why some people would be upset. *shrug*
    My recent post Build a Fence to Keep Asians Out???

  • Peter Parker

    Comment was perfectly within tact and accurate. He is a comedian, so what's the big deal? Also, I thought "social media" is suppose to be an outlet for people to express themselves to others. It's another example of how some people, "Just Can't Handle The Truth!!" There was nothing unpatriotric in what he said. Atleast Chris Rock hasn't forgotten where he comes from….You can always depend on him saying the truth unlike some of our other black entertainiers.

    • Alakaii Hawaii

      politically correct wit at its finest

  • cynicaloptmst81

    Chris wasn't wrong at all. I completely agree with this post, Andre.

    I've paid good money to see Chris Rock live…and I'd do it again just to hear truth like this. I'm a huge Chris Rock fan. If you watched "Head of State" (*sings* "This is messed up…this really sucks" lol), then its no way you were surprised by his tweet. This is what he does…

  • IceColdJD1906

    Chris Rock's Tweet was accurate. #neverforget about that peculiar institution of social control.

  • Streetz

    Chris was only wrong because he was black and said that, lol.

    Having said that, I think its always good to remember where you came from, and the history of the nation, but at what point do black people accept this country as ours, and the glories that we are entitled to?! What good does it do to "hate" the US, yet you live and work here? I can understand not forgetting, but constantly harping on the negatives of America and trying to separate yourself in some instances, while saluting in others, looks type crazy to me.

    I had this same argument when "Americans" were cheering for the African team they played in the world cup (apologies I cant remember the country). People want to throw pseudo Fredrick Douglas quotes, yet will be cheering CRAZY for the Dream Team. I don't know. Just funny.
    My recent post #BeTheBetter Fitness Log: Entry 7

    • Paul B.

      Tough question to answer, because in some ways we are still looked at as not being a part of this country, even though we were born here, and even the term used for our ethnic group, African American, is a testament to that. If we were born here, we're American, point blank. My parents were American, my grandparents were American, my great grandparents were American, so how am I considered African American?

  • Beef Bacon

    How do you all feel about Chris Rock’s comments? It was satire at its best.

    Were they unpatriotic? No. Some people would rather America's true history be hidden in a closet.

    Is this an example of free speech or foolish speech? He was just highlighting a known fact; therefore I consider that free speech.

    Do you feel we as Americans have a responsibility to challenge the nations past in order to secure a better future? Certainly. We must remember our truth and use it wisely. Truth is some of us are still enslaved today. Mentally and physically some of us are in shackles. This is in part due to us being in denial about our status as a community.

    What's so different anyway?

    Slaves worked for free….prisons are full of free labor.
    Overseers kept the slaves in control……police/military do that now.
    We entertained however humiliating…..we entertain however degrading for money now
    We had to neglect our families to take care of master's…Some of us still neglect our own families (for needs and greed)
    The men of the plantation were purposely used as bucks….some men today still do this although freely
    Black Women were objectified by the master…. black men objectify Black Women
    Even as sharecroppers we were never fairly compensated….today most Blacks make less than their white counterparts
    On the plantation our differences kept us divided…..today those same differences keep us divided.
    Even when we were 'freed' many slaves wanted to stay slaves so that master would take care of them….today many of us are willing to accepts crumbs from the government rather than doing for self.

  • Rich

    I'm still unsure as to where the controversy is with this. Abolition in this country didn't begin, at the earliest, until the 1780s. Therefore, slaves weren't free on July 4, 1776, and Chris Rock's tweet was spot on.

    The truth hurts, don't it white folk???

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    HTML fail.

  • bellatrice1

    The truth of the matter is, he wasn't highlighting "a known fact" in the sense that the current generation knows very little about America's history, which is exhibited by how the take our current freedoms for granted, and by the way they behave and conduct themselves.

    I am glad Chris Rock made a statement because no one else talks about it. While we do want to move past this painful history, it is it still imperative that we always remember, and share this history with our children and their children and their children's children, so they are not doomed to repeat it.
    My recent post 2012 BET Awards: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

  • Paul B.

    He was spot on with this assessment. It's an ugly truth that has been swept under the rug along with many others that the ones who did it don't want to acknowledge. I have a problem with people doing dirt and then getting offended when the dirt has been pointed out.

  • Pingback: Reversing a Culture of Ignorance: Chris Rock and The Fight For Independence « From Ashy to Classy()

  • starita34

    Welcome to _AndreDFields! Great post, I wish I would've been here for this discussion. Relevant topic. Also I have a differing view from most of the commenters so it would've been interesting to me to be involved in the discussion and get some feedback :-( Bahwell, I was on vacation, no regrets.

    • starita34

      I would like to drop a lil comment though regardless. The comment I related to the most was Streetz's. There is no denying history, no matter how hard folks try *side eye to Texas*, but how do we choose which holidays/events/celebrations to compartmentalize? When do we take things for face value or dig deeper?

      • starita34

        I guess it's everyone's prerogative to compartmentalize or decide on each individual subject as they see fit, but it is a bit confusing to me personally. How does it benefit you, America, or your ancestors? or hurt those you see as oppressors to separate yourself from the nation? Many of us weren't Americans, nor free on 7/4/1776 – yet today, we are. That's what we celebrate, right? Not our nation's history, but how far we've come? Maybe that's just my Pollyanna interpretation.

        • starita34

          I know I'm not "Irish" on a daily basis but have no qualms celebrating St Patrick's Day. Never been to Mexico, but when the state gave me San Jacinto day off, I happily took it. I don't know. Just doesn't seem like a celebration, a time of merriment and unity would be the time I took up my torch and stood on my soapbox to piss on the parade marching past…but I know the scars of this country are deep and the wounds of hundreds of years ago can feel as fresh and new as if they happened yesterday at times…but again I wonder: how does the self segregation help? What's the purpose? I fear many, like Rock, put way too much stock in "White Guilt".