Chris Rock Lends Charles Barkley a Hand

Charles Barkley recently raised the ire of many on the left, and the applause of many on the right when he called those looting in the aftermath of the Grand Jury in the Ferguson case “scumbags” on a sports radio show.  You can read excerpts (and listen to the full audio) here, and read Barkley’s TNT colleague, Kenny Smith‘s response here, and watch the two debate the topic here.

I don’t know exactly what Sir Charles’s view is. but he would do well to recall what Chris Rock had to say in his 1996 show “Bring the Pain“:[1]

There’s, like, a civil war going on with black people, and there’s two sides…  There’s black people. There’s niggas. And niggas have got to go. Every time black people want to have a good time, ign’ant-ass niggas fuck it up… Niggas always want some credit for some shit they’re supposed to do…  A nigga will say some shit like “I take care of my kids.” You’re supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! What are you talking about? What are you bragging about? Kinda ignorant shit is that? “I ain’t never been to jail!” What you want, a cookie? You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!

Note the setup: “There’s, like, a civil war going on with black people, and there’s two sides…”

The chief difficulty with discussing race relations in America if, of course, white folks.  If you want to make a white person in America uncomfortable, bring up race in the company of a person of color.  That white girl will suddenly find her shoes very interesting.  A white dude will get that look in his eyes that says “Don’t ask me.  I didn’t say anything.”  And then there are those white folks who will start proclaiming that they aren’t racist (though nobody said they were), and that they know non-white people, and other awkward things.

Helpfully, Chris Rock recently weighed in on this issue, in an interview over at Vulture.  Frank Rich did the interview, which produced the following exchange.

What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?

I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.

Well, that would be much more revealing.

Yes, it would.  And Barkley, the author of a 2005 book that collected his discussions with both black and white celebrities about race in America,[2]  does not need myself or Rock to point that out.

But Rock’s 1996 routine is only part of the story.  In the interview published earlier this week he effortlessly connected two national discussions—men abusing women, and race relations—in an analogy that deserves to be quoted in full.  But I am going to break it up [NB: Ike Turner infamously beat his wife, Tina]:

Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Check yer boy, Chris, Chuck.  He can hook you up.


[1] This transcript is due to Kelefah Saneh’s recent interview with Rock in The New Yorker.

[2] You can listen to Barkley discuss the book, Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man: Speaking My Mind On Race, Celebrity, Sports And American Life, here.

About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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