On July 4th, as the nation was celebrating Independence Day, Chris Rocked sparked controversy by tweeting: “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks”. Some, failed to see the humor in Rock’s tweet. Conservative bloggers, in particular took great umbrage at the statement. The responses were often sarcastic references mocking, Rock’s slam to our nation that noted that our nation has it’s first african american president.
Chris Rock has been known for his particularly perceptive social commentary and in our opinion, this is no different. Chris Rock noted in his tweet that the slaves had yet to be freed, when the Declaration of Independence was originally signed. It highlights a contradiction that African Americans have been forced to wrestle with, since the inception of our nation.
There are a handful of ways to understand American history. We can obsess intently on our nation’s sins and develop a level of anger with America; We can adopt the perspective of the pollyanna and pretend that America is perfect and without blemish. And we can lash out at those, like Rock that draw attention to the obvious flaws in that perspective; Or We can understand that America is and always has been, great although it has never been perfect.
As Rock’s critics noted, America, eventually freed the slaves and today we have a black President but we have only moved beyond our past by acknowledging its existence and acknowledging that our past behaviors were in conflict with the ideals that established our nation. Comedians like Rock are often our conscience, forcing us to face hard truths that we’d rather ignore.