Dave Chappelle is funny. And, when I say funny, I mean funny.
He’s been around a while. Had a brief hiatus spending time in Africa. Came back just as strong.
His secret? I don’t know but whatever it is, he’s among the best comedians I’ve seen.
His stand-up routines are sidesplitting. His short skits, incredible.
My personal favorite? When Charlie Murphy chilled with Prince. Insane!
I can’t watch Dave Chappelle when I’m eating, because I don’t like spitting food everywhere.
Or, choking to death.
So, when YouTube suggested a new Dave Chappelle presentation, I clicked on it. As did over 23 million others.
But this was no comedy routine. In fact, nobody should have been laughing the entire time.
I know it’s hard not to laugh when Dave Chappelle opens his mouth. But this was different.
What he talked about was serious. Deadly serious, in fact.
It was entitled 8:46 – Dave Chappelle, and it was uploaded June 12, 2020. Just days ago.
The seats were all grouped six feet apart. Clearly, it’s modern times.
The stage background was a giant stone fireplace, some wood, and a ton of variously-sized LED candles flickering weirdly.
Dave Chappelle sat on a plain unpainted wooden stool.
From all appearances, Dave Chappelle had to go to great lengths to NOT be funny. But he succeeded. Wildly.
The topic was George Floyd’s murder. A topic that is serious, any way you look at it.
Of course, Dave Chappelle deserves the platform. After all, he’s made most of us laugh and laugh, and for that, he deserves to be heard.
8:46 was the amount of time the officer, Derek Chauvin, had his knee on George Floyd’s neck. It was also, Chappelle explained, the time of his own birth.
Some Americans were furious when Colin Kaepernick took a knee before an NFL game during the National Anthem.
But we should all be furious this officer took a knee on another man’s neck. How could he?
This was the focus of this talk. 8:46 could not rightly be called a comedy routine, as it was not funny.
Of course, Dave got some laughs, just because he’s Dave Chappelle, and his retelling of any story will elicit laughter.
Dave Chappelle had this to say about Staten Island:
“Eric Garner, New York. First guy that told police, “I can’t breathe.” Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. when my kid was born, my first kid, my wife lived on Staten Island. It’s an awful place. She knows it. Everyone who’s ever been there knows it.”
“Yuck, to Staten Island. And my Black ass was there, and I have a lot of fans there and friends there, but it’s a very terrible place. Fuck everybody in Staten Island expect the Wu Tang Clan. Got murdered by one police officer while five of his fellow officers watched him do it.”
“Not one of them said, ‘Frank, Frank take it easy.’ None of that s**t. Because, they were being recorded…because they were afraid if I correct my fellow officer on this camera it’s going to open us up for some kind of liability. And the guy killed the person they were what do you call it apprehending? The guy was selling loose cigarettes. There goes Eric Garner.”
Dave Chappelle spoke about others that were murdered at the hands of police. Black people.
I don’t know if this is what the audience was expecting, but Chappelle is a living person, and not just here for our entertainment. And so, he deserves our ear.
Was he too harsh on Staten Island? I think so.
Staten Island is not the place he thinks it is. Sadly, one terrible event colored his perception forever, biased him strongly against us all.
But there are almost a half million people here. While people. Black people. Hispanic people. It’s a city, so there’s people of every background.
And, there’s a lot of love. Get stuck somewhere and people of all colors will stop and ask if you need help. You need not be the same race as them, either.
Staten Island is not Alabama north or 1980s Howard Beach. It’s just not true.
What happened to Eric Garner was the exception, rather than the rule. It does not typify Staten Island; rather, it was the result of the actions of one berserk police officer, himself out of control.
And, the Sergeant on duty at the scene was a Black woman! She didn’t request Eric Garner receive medical attention, either!
It’s not just about Black people dying at the hands of police. It’s about policing, and what needs to change.
And, to address Mr. Chappelle directly: Why do you repeat the lie that Eric Garner was selling cigarettes? At the time of his arrest, both witnesses and Mr. Garner himself claimed he was only breaking up a fight.
Face it, the cops on Bay Street knew Mr. Garner well and probably considered him a nuisance. He had sold cigarettes in the past. He was a big guy. He hung out by Tompkinsville Park. He hung out in front of the deli and DeJoy’s Car Service most days.
The police didn’t have the patience to deal with him yet again, and knee jerk reactions led to him being treated in a patterned way, irrespective of how different the circumstances were the day of his untimely death in the street.
Maybe it’s not easy relating to a street guy who sells cigarettes one at a time when you make over a hundred thousand dollars a year with overtime. It’s a class thing. In any case, patience was surely in short supply that day.
On the day he lost his life, Eric Garner was angry. Angry that he was being accused of doing something that he wasn’t actually doing. He may have sold loosies. That’s an undisputed fact.
But on the day of his passing, Mr. Garner vehemently denied this was what he was doing. For someone who had been arrested so many times, it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t know the game, and would actively fight arrest when caught.
Maybe he was selling loosies hours before. Or, in days past. But at the moment he was taken into custody, we can be fairly sure he was not.
He fought being treated as an object. Being singled out for doing wrong when he was actually doing right. He wasn’t just an easy collar, ever ready to be hauled in.
Dave Chappelle’s wife may have been from Staten Island, and he may know the Wu, but he definitely doesn’t know Staten Island.
But if his limo ever gets stuck out here, I think we’d have the heart to forgive him and lend a helping hand.
Racism is real. Police brutality is real. Staten Island a “yuck” place? Not real.