Did Chris Rock Tell the Wrong Jokes to the White Audience?

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By now, you’ve probably seen or heard Chris Rock’s “Message for White Voters” video that aired on the Jimmy Kimmel show last week. I know. The election’s over and you’re physically and mentally exhausted from hearing about polls, pundits, predictions and public service announcements. You don’t wanna hear another approved message until 2016. I’m right there with you. In fact, I’m so right there with you that I skipped out on watching the video — despite how many times it popped up in the timeline of life — simply because it had the word “voters” in it. That was until Wednesday night, when I opened an email from a SBM reader asking me to check it out and offer some thoughts. But before I go Forward, let me briefly go back to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place.

Over the last three to four days, I’ve had a few non-black people ask me if I saw the video. I didn’t think much of it at that time. I figured it was just Chris Rock talkin’ colorfully about reupholstering ballots…or something. But when I actually saw the video, I realized why people were asking me about it. I’m glad I didn’t know at the time. Because similar to Elon James White in his article for The Root, I’d have felt a little weird, a little uncomfortable.

For those that haven’t seen the video, Chris Rock is basically telling white voters that Obama’s a great white choice because he doesn’t have a stereotypically black background. He highlights a few points — some of which are funny — to show Barry’s whiteness. But one jumped out at me:

“Barack Obama supports gay marriage. Most black men don’t even support straight marriage.” *audience chuckles*

If he made this joke in front of a black audience, I’d have thought nothing of it. I probably would’ve laughed like I have so many other times. But the fact that he made it in front of  white folks was kinda bothersome — particularly when I heard their laughter. I’ve seen Chris Rock perform enough to know that he pulls no punches. But there was something…

The state of Black relationships is a topic that’s been trampled in the spirit of Mr. Ed and ‘nem. And as much as it’s been discussed, it’s still a stubbed toe on our collective left foot. Dirty laundry of sorts. Stuff that we should only discuss in our (stereotypically?) broken homes. WE know it’s an issue. WE can laugh at ourselves or amongst ourselves. But it’s not so funny when someone’s laughing at us or, in the case of the people that asked if I’d seen the video, me. Once again, I know. I’m taking it more seriously than intended, but sometimes it’s difficult not to — especially when I end up having to explain, confirm or deny in one of those “Is what he said true though?” conversations. The life of the delegate. Anyway…

Good comedians are incredibly bright regardless of their delivery. I consider Chris Rock to be a great one. And as much as some people will say it is what it is,  I have to ask if it’s possible that Chris intentionally aired us (black men) out in this video to make a greater point? Maybe he wanted to cause discomfort. Maybe he wanted to make me think more deeply about this issue, if even for a moment.  And if that was his intent, this post is evidence that it worked. And it that wasn’t, life goes on until the next joke that causes a little discomfort. I’m pretty sure he ain’t stopping anytime soon.

SBM Nation, what do you think of the video? Do you think think these types of jokes do any harm, or are they harmless?  Did you skip the video all together because you associated it with election hoopla? Do you really think most Black men don’t support marriage? A lot of truth is said in jest. All other thoughts are welcome.

Twitter: @slimjackson 

P.S. If you wanted to see the video, here it is:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDxOSjgl5Z4

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  • Larry

    The video was hilarious to me. I liked it. I don't think it did any harm…it was a satirical piece with self-deprecating racial humor as the foundation. Chris Rock being Chris rock. Yes you're definitely over thinking this in my opinion, lol. White people aren't blind or naive….most people understand or are familiar with most races positive and negative stereotypes. If they weren't then they wouldn't have gotten the joke. Chris Rock made that joke because he thought it was funny and he was right. End of story, lol.

    I believe most black men support marriage. More black men than not do get married. I believe people think just because a man in his 20's isn't marriage-minded at the time that means he never will be. Obviously that's mostly false.

    • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

      +1

      These are pretty much my thoughts. I also give comedians a higher bar for insulting things they can say in the vain of comedy (no matter their race). As someone said below, I find Tosh.0 and Louis CK hilarious and they’re always pushing the race barriers – among any number of other usually offensive barriers. I think the fact that Chris Rock can makes us cringe an laugh at the same joke is a talent in and of itself.

  • InsomniaPoetEsq

    I think you're kinda over thinking it. I didn't watch the video until you posted it (hadn't even heard about it) & I think it is classic Chris Rock (funny as hell with a lil insult at the same damn time). Of course we know ALL black man cannot be put into any box BUT it is totally plausible to believe that many, if not most, black men are not fans of the ultimate committed relationship that is marriage (which is exactly where stereotypes come from). It was funny, Barack was re-elected (he'd have never been elected in the first place if he was remotely close to the "stereotypical" black man but lemme not go there) anyways at least we've got a slightly more stereotypical sistah in the White House (bet she was the only one Barry ever dated) we working on it. At least we had Clinton he was more the stereotypical black man than Barack anyways…

    • Larry

      "BUT it is totally plausible to believe that many, if not most, black men are not fans of the ultimate committed relationship that is marriage"

      I'm not so sure about this statement. I can see why one would think this, however. From a relative standpoint to women as far as enthusiam and how much it is discussed then men are definitely trailing with that respect. But just because men aren't as "excited" about marriage as early on in life (generally speaking, of course) as women doesn't necessarily mean they're not fans of marriage.

      I don't know….I believe about 13% or so of black women over 35 or 40 years of age have never been married, which means 87% have and a vast majority (over 90%) are marrying black men. In my eyes that's a lot of black men getting married. For people that aren't fans of it, it appears many do it. But to fair just because they were once married doesn't mean they stayed married which could mean, to your point, they're not fans. It's an interesting dynamic and as in most cases the answer probably falls somewhere in the middle.

      • shamontiel

        USA Today reported that nearly 40 percent of black women have never been married. Where did you get 13 percent? Or did you just use 13 percent for that particular age range? Forty percent is still a lot of women who have never been married, whether it's voluntary or not, and if you include the divorce rates for women who divorce due to infidelity, then it's even higher. I hear nonstop about how "all men cheat" which makes me question why people even bother to get married.

        • BlueSteele

          I believe that 40% includes black women of ages 18-20-something (don't quote me). I think the actual research behind that study showed that black women actually get married more often than our non-black counterparts, just typically later in life (which is where that 13% comes from).

  • Maureen

    It’s never that serious. I think you’re over-thinking and over-processing it, trying to read something into it. There’s nothing there.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

    white people been laughing at us for a while…ask Dave Chappelle. You see Family Guy or a Tosh.O and they get passes because they make fun of everyone equally.

  • niksmit

    I don't think you're over-thinking it. I'm a fan of Elon and when I heard him discuss this on his radio netcast show, I was glad to hear him reflecting my own reaction to this video.

    I chuckled at the video, but I didn't fall out laughing like I do when I hear some of the funny stuff Chris Rock says. I'm too aware of all the angles. Blackness checking is problematic and it's super problematic in the context of a mixed audience. I'm not mad at Rock or boycotting. The joke just didn't tickle my funny bone as much because of its issues.
    We can acknowledge that something is not all good. People live too far at the extremes in our society. If you have a positive comment about something you're automatically on a #Team or a Stan. If you have a negative criticism then you're a hater or angry.

    • niksmit

      Oh and yes, these types of jokes do a little harm. If your White (or other) co-workers are fans of Chris Rock, et al. and think it's cute to repeat this ish to you, then you already know what it is. I don't approve, but it's not super deep. I'm more concerned with the realities that make the joke harmful.
      Everyone's views on marriage are changing. The institution of marriage itself is always changing. I don't find Black men's views on marriage particularly problematic. Marriage and people's relationships to it are complex.

    • LiveLoveSing

      *drops my co-sign right here*

    • starita34

      "We can acknowledge that something is not all good. People live too far at the extremes in our society. If you have a positive comment about something you're automatically on a #Team or a Stan. If you have a negative criticism then you're a hater or angry."

      +1
      See: http://www.singleblackmale.org/2012/11/07/and-the

      • http://singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery WisdomIsMisery

        LOL

        +1

  • Adonis

    I think Chris Rock pointed to something that I should have known with O hit the scene, he's a white president with swagger. And your president might be bi-chexual, I believe he is but you didn't hear that from me. But like any white prez, he needs to be treated with reasonable suspicion.

    There is no social benefit to keep it black. And on top of that, their is no real social benefit to being married in 2012. Maybe 20 years ago.

    And black folks, especially if it is not purely in self-interest need to stop caring what non-black folks think, especially white folks. MSM brainwashes the world to think the worst of black American. There is little you can do about that in the short-term.

    Whites need "white supremacy" & and the unfair playing field to feel better about their existence. So, they need to hear about black inferiority (in this case it is about BM not support marriages) to feel better about themselves. It is what it is.

    That's all for now.

  • http://singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery WisdomIsMisery

    I hadn't watched the video before (I hadn't even heard of it) but now that I have I'll answer the questions…

    SBM Nation, what do you think of the video? I thought it was pretty funny. Not hilarious, but funny. Typical Chris Rock. Also, there were a number of one-liners we could have pick and chose to take offense to. Not sure why that specific one stuck out to you. My question would be: in an age of digital media, can anyone really make a joke that's limited to a specific audience? Just because Rock made the joke on Kimmel would have done little to nothing to prevent it from showing up on YouTube (or any other site, such as this one) where it could be digested by anyone of any race. So are you saying he shouldn't have made the joke at all or that he shouldn't have made the joke to the audience he made it to?

    Do you think think these types of jokes do any harm, or are they harmless? All things considered, I think it's fairly harmless. No more harmful than anything else out there. Actually, there are definitely far more harmful media out there.

    Do you really think most Black men don’t support marriage? I think most young black men don't support marriage. All in all, I think most black men, like most men, don't care about marriage until they care about getting married, which I will admit, is traditionally at a later age for black men. I think that's in relation to a number of factors, but that's another topic for another day.

    • Larry

      "All in all, I think most black men, like most men, don't care about marriage until they care about getting married, which I will admit, is traditionally at a later age for black men."

      +1

      • Beef Bacon

        WIM,

        I don't understand the logic of the last answer. If Black Men are waiting until later to marry, what are they supposed to do in the mean time? Be monks or have uncommitted, reckless $#x until they desire a wife? Also, do you feel that by marrying later, the man opens himself to negative issues by just soaring his oats? Also, what choices are they leaving the Black Woman that are young and ready to begin a family?

        I know you are not speaking for ALL brothers, but please answer for the "most" that you referred to.

        • http://singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery WisdomIsMisery

          If Black Men are waiting until later to marry, what are they supposed to do in the mean time? Be monks or have uncommitted, reckless $#x until they desire a wife?

          They should do whatever they want to do. They're adults. If women don't want to entertain these men, then they shouldn't. I have consistently said that if women (black or otherwise) want to marry, then they should date marriage-minded men, which might be some of these young men since most is not all inclusive.

          Your logic seems to prescribe to the idea that all young women want to marry young men or that all young women want to be married, period, at the exact same time and age and therefore, they cannot find suitable partners. I guess I disagree with that logic, as I have met, encountered, and known plenty of young black women who do not want to be married at this stage in their life.

          Also, do you feel that by marrying later, the man opens himself to negative issues by just soaring his oats?

          Not really. For one, marriage isn't for everyone. I've said this before, this pressure to marry is largely an American construct. Further, I'm not sure why everyone feels that old-fashioned ideals about marriage should still apply in 2012 when everything else has changed. It's not like people are out here tilling farms and marrying at age 18 – 21 and having 3 – 6 kids. The average age for marriage across all races is 28. And most people only have 1/2 kids these days. Marrying for the sake of marrying doesnt make a lot of sense to me. People should marry when they are ready to marry. If, in this case, a woman wants to marry, then as I said above, she should date a man who wants to do the same and whom is ready and capable of doing so – there are plenty of men in this category. As Larry said above, *75% of black women are married by age 40 and of those, 90% are married to black men. So, statistically, black people are getting married. Whether they're getting married *early* enough is a different debate – but it is, in my opinion, a subjective debate.

          Also, what choices are they leaving the Black Woman that are young and ready to begin a family?

          I believe I addressed this above.

          As you know this topic interests me, so let me know if this answer your questions. If it warrants a full post, I'd be happy to expand.

        • Adonis

          @Beef Bacon I hope everything (your family) is well on your side of the planet.

          Why is the burden of marriage being laid at the feet of black men. Black men are not driving the marriage market. Black women are.

          Although money (BMs economic/financial standing), male/female ratios, culture attitude plays a role in the marriage rate, this fact still stands

          You have to make marriage an attractive alternative for MEN — not women — if you want the institution to thrive.

          - Heartiste/Roissy

          Even right now, you have marriage minded Young BM who are like Mr. Spradley who want to be married early. I'm not one of them , but I am sure that if the marriage minded BW who are interested in matrimony could find what they are looking for (in those marriage minded men), it just won't come in the most attractive package that their imagination as conjured up.

          I don't want to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I am wrong.

        • Larry

          #Cosign everything WIM said to the questions posed. I'll give more succinct answers:

          "If Black Men are waiting until later to marry, what are they supposed to do in the mean time? Be monks or have uncommitted, reckless $#x until they desire a wife?"

          Yeah, be monks or have uncommitted, safe consensual $#x with women who interest them. Or they can further their education, work on other goals…basically whatever they desire to do. Same goes for women, too.

          "Also, do you feel that by marrying later, the man opens himself to negative issues by just soaring his oats?"

          Generally, no. But I guess I'd have to have you expound more specifically as to what you mean by "negative issues".

          "Also, what choices are they leaving the Black Woman that are young and ready to begin a family?"

          Date older men and/or men that are marriage minded? Considering many women prefer older men it doesn't appear to be much of a leap. But of course, again, I'm generalizing.

  • Magg

    I was watching the video with one of my friend we were laughing, and i just stopped after that joke… He was like "ohhh don't be so serious about it!!!"… I don't know maybe the little truth in that joke was hard to swallow…
    So funny video but not hilarious… ["Oh u black people are so sensitive" (Yes yes yes i am lolll)]

  • http://glippost.wordpress.com Darrk Gable

    Quick thoughts:

    1. The video was laugh worthy. Not super hilarious, but funny.
    2. Rock has made a career of pushing the envelope, so I’m not surprised by it at all.
    3. If you’ve managed to catch any of W. Kamau Bell’s shows on FX, Rock produces it. It’s pretty much in the same vein, just not as funny, but many people make the same kinds of jokes.

  • bellatrice1

    I had seen the video before you posted it, and actually shared it because I thought it was hilarious and I love Chris Rock. I didn't find it at all offensive and I think Black people take themselves way too seriously that's why we are lacking in producing quality entertainment outside of sitcoms about the "perfect" family. Black folks need to relaaaaax…

    • Magg

      Slim said "especially when I end up having to explain, confirm or deny in one of those “Is what he said true though?” conversations."

      That shows that white people took it seriously too. What's the point of asking for further explanations? If they really did take it as a joke,why didn't they just let it go? Hum hum…

      • bellatrice1

        First of all jokes are jokes! White people ask us if lots of things about us are true. Does that mean they really take it to heart and believe it's true of all of us?? NO. If they do, they're ignorant. We are all familiar with stereotypes about our respective cultures, and I'm sure that's not the first time white people have heard or thought that Black men are not hyped up about marriage.

        Are we just supposed to stop making jokes because some idiot might think it's true?? God forbid! Besides, there's some truth to most stereotypes. If there wasn't, they wouldn't be relatable, and therefore wouldn't be funny.

        My recent post Answers to Your Common Dating Questions

        • Magg

          I know im totally overthinking it!

  • Dr. J

    But on the real, take a look at Key & Peele's victory speech… freaking awesome…
    http://youtu.be/eX8tL3PMj7o

  • shamontiel

    I'm a huge fan of Chris Rock, but I didn't laugh one time at this video. I don't think trying to make Pres. Obama look "whiter" does any benefit to the campaign. It also backs up the idiots who believe that "The Cosby Show" isn't "realistic," as if the only way to be black is to be poor, uneducated, with a bunch of kids and not married. People have these "black" stereotypes memorized and keep perpetuating them, both black and white. Whenever someone talks about how "white" Obama is (joking or not), my first thought is when he goes to Africa, he KNOWS who is family members are. DO YOU?

    P.S. I'd never heard of this video until I saw this post.