A Former Leftist Darling Violates Leftist Speech Codes
Dave Chappelle's "Alphabet People" Jokes Spark Protest on the Left and Misplaced Hope on the Right
"All men are created equal." So says the Declaration of Independence. The Bible says that all are created in the image and likeness of God. The equality of human worth voiced in the Declaration of Independence and first found in the Bible is not a leftist value. The left operates a caste system, awarding and subtracting points to various identity groups with capricious abandon.
At one time, leftists elevated working class white ethnics, like Swedish-American Joel Hägglund, better known as Joe Hill, Italian-Americans Sacco and Vanzetti, and "Oakies" like the prototypical fictional character, Tom Joad, from The Grapes of Wrath. Today all four would be trashed as irredeemable "white men." Leftists once celebrated the kind of feminists who would now be told to mind their place as privileged white women. Leftists today generally award identity points to African Americans, but things become complicated when even more privileged Muslims are involved, as African American journalist Juan Williams learned to his regret, when he made innocent comments about being nervous when he sees passengers in "Muslim garb" on aircraft. NPR fired Williams and publicly denounced him as insane. Comedian Dave Chappelle is now receiving his lesson in the always shifting leftist caste system. A black man who joked about race, he was once a darling of the left. He is inching close to non-person status because of recent jokes about gays, lesbians, and transgenders, what he calls "alphabet people."
Not long ago, tweaking of transgenderism was acceptable in leftist circles. Monty Python's 1979 Christophobic film Life of Brian included a scene where the character Stan insisted that he be called Loretta because he wanted to be a woman and have babies. One of his fellow revolutionaries agreed to this, saying that Stan's struggle to be Loretta was symbolic of the wider struggle against oppression. Another character said, no, Stan's struggle was a struggle against reality. Little Britain, a BBC TV show that aired 2003-07, featured Emily Howard, a parody of a transgender man. Christopher Guest's 2003 ensemble mockumentary A Mighty Wind closed with a visual joke of swarthy, hirsute, deep-voiced Harry Shearer coming out as a female "blonde folksinger." These jokes would be impossible for the same tellers today.
Jokes are minor inconveniences compared to the persecution, imprisonment, and torture that communist states have imposed upon GLBT people. "Marx and Engels were personally homophobic," reports the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Joseph Stalin himself mandated five years hard labor for male homosexuals. In Castro's Revolutionary Cuba, scholar Susana Pena writes, "Long hair, tight pants, colorful shirts, so-called effeminate mannerisms, 'inappropriate clothing,' and 'extravagant hairstyles' … not only facilitated enforcement of homosexual repression; more broadly, visibility and gender transgressions themselves constituted a central part of the problem identified by the revolution." According to one Amnesty International source, "systematic castration of homosexuals" occurred "in Mao's China."
In short, there is no natural alliance between leftists and homosexuals or transgender persons. One must ask, then, why leftists have, only in recent years, adopted the transgendered with fervent gusto. Indeed, transgenderism was not high on cultural radar for anyone, left or right, until recently. A September 4, 2019 search of the exhaustive ProQuest Central Database found 3,694 articles, published between 1981 and 2000, that contain the word "transgender." The same database found 388,311 articles published between 2000 and the present that contain the word "transgender." Why have leftists suddenly jumped on the transgender bandwagon, and why is that previously marginal bandwagon suddenly center stage?
Leftists are exploiting transgender persons, as, in the past, they exploited working class white ethnics and others, to advance their anti-Western-Civilization agenda. Transgender persons themselves may be conservative. Caitlyn Jenner is a Republican who has announced (and later revoked) support for President Donald Trump. Individuals' preferences matter little to the left. What matters is that members of a group can be reduced to a tool that can be used to help bring down Western Civilization and replace it with a brave, new world, a workers' paradise. Leftists exploit the transgendered in two ways.
First, the distinction between male and female is one of the foundations of culture. Toddlers can differentiate between males and females beginning at about 18 months. Even dogs can differentiate between male and female humans. If leftists can smash differentiation between males and females, they will have significantly advanced toward their larger goal of pulverizing society, in preparation for replacing it with a Marxist Utopia.
Second, transgender persons are also useful to leftists exactly because of America's terrific progress. Jim Crow has been thoroughly abolished. Women exercise public power. The left must constantly have some complaint to hurl at America, capitalism, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Western Civilization. Suddenly, only in recent years, leftists have decided that it is proof that America is an oppressive, bigoted, hateful wasteland because adult men are not allowed to make use of the same toilet facilities, changing rooms, doctors' offices, sports competitions and rape crisis shelters as women and little girls. That last venue may seem an exaggeration. It is not. In August, 2019, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter was vandalized with graffiti threatening to "Kill TERFs. Trans women are women." TERF is a slur directed at women who do not acknowledge men as women.
Leftists' new policy of privileging transgender persons is advanced through aggressive, hostile, and heavy-handed censorship. Counterfactual speech is mandated. Those who do not comply are fined, threatened with prison, actually jailed, banned from social media, demoted and / or fired. Peter Vlaming, a Virginia high school teacher and married father of four, was fired because he declined to use male pronouns to refer to a female student. Vlaming said he would avoid use of any pronoun, and refer to the student by name. His offer was rejected.
At the incredibly rapid pace of an advancing avalanche, school systems have adopted rules that privilege the desires of gender dysphoric, or merely social-media-pressured minor children over their own parents and objective reality. A representational New Jersey government directive, for example, insists, "There may be instances where a parent or guardian of a minor student disagrees with the student regarding the name and pronoun to be used at school and in the student's education records … Staff should continue to refer to the student in accordance with the student's chosen name and pronoun." Parents who refuse to "affirm" their child's chosen gender are threatened to have their child removed from them.
Transgender activists insist that speech codes are necessary because transgender persons are susceptible to suicide. Interestingly, other groups are vilified by these same leftists, with zero concern shown for suicides. American white men and poor whites are dying, including by suicide, population-skewing, statistically anomalous "Deaths of Despair" Those headline-making deaths do not slow down leftist campaigns of hatred directed at white men and poor whites. Attacks on Jews continue apace in NYC; recently a rabbi was beaten over the head with a large rock. Have these attacks prompted any call among leftists to be more temperate in their constant criticism of Israel? No.
Those who insist on objective reality as the basis for vocabulary words like the suddenly controversial "he" and "she" recognize that transgender activists' demand for submission is totalitarian. Totalitarians' manipulation of the human mind through enforced speech is a central argument of authors Hannah Arendt and George Orwell. Arendt wrote, "The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lies will now be accepted as truth, and the truth defamed as lies, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth vs. falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed." In 1984, George Orwell wrote of newspeak and doublethink, which he described thus, "To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary." Poet Tadeusz Rozewicz fought in the Polish Home Army during WW II. After surviving the Nazis what he wanted and needed, he wrote, was a teacher who would "call things and ideas by their names again."
Given how rapidly and thoroughly the demand for submission to speech codes has penetrated society, one can understand why so many conservatives have been eager to embrace Dave Chappelle, a comedian who dares to make transgender jokes. That Chappelle even makes such jokes defies leftist narratives. The leftist narrative insists that the cause of all oppression is unitary, and that all oppression can be solved with the same cure-all: the people's revolution to unseat white, heterosexual, Christian, Western men. Once the evil white male oppressor has been overcome, the good people, the angelic BIPOC – black, indigenous, and people of color – can rise up in their supreme benignity and create Utopia. In this leftist worldview, oppressed gays, lesbians, and trans persons are best friends with BIPOC.
Except that's just not true. Groups that the left identifies as brothers and sisters, all alike in being oppressed by evil white men, don't get along with each other. Islam treats GLBT persons horribly. African Americans poll as less tolerant than whites in regard to homosexuals. Leftist fantasies about "oppressed" people's love for each other crash and burn when a member of one favored group violates acceptable attitudes toward members of another favored group.
Dave Chappelle was once a darling of the left. His saint-like status is ironic. His 2003-06 Comedy Central show, Chappelle's Show, trafficked in the lowest of ethnic humor. Chappelle, for example, mocked Condoleezza Rice, a highly accomplished woman who, unlike Chappelle, experienced, and overcame, Jim Crow. Chappelle called her "Cunnilingus Rice" and labeled her as really white, not black.
One Chappelle sketch, "The Racial Draft," features stereotypical depictions of Jews, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians. In "Black Pixie" a black homunculus, dressed in full minstrel show costume and makeup, including thick white lips, urges Chappelle to eat fried chicken because fried chicken is associated with black people. Chappelle saw a white man laugh at this sketch. That white man's laughter prompted Chappelle to walk away from a fifty-million-dollar contract and disappear from public life. "My head almost exploded," Chappelle said. TIME reports: "At the taping, one spectator, a white man, laughed particularly loud and long. His laughter struck Chappelle as wrong, and he wondered if the new season of his show had gone from sending up stereotypes to merely reinforcing them."
After this traumatic wake-up confrontation with his own ethnic humor, Chappelle, a convert to Islam, attempted to make the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. He got only as far as Turkey. Chappelle's departure from show business made headlines around the world.
One thing is clear. If a white man produced the exact same comedy routines that Chappelle did, that white man would be banned not only from television, but from YouTube as well, and he would require round-the-clock security.
Chappelle re-entered show business gradually. In 2016 he signed a $20 million per-release comedy special deal with Netflix. His latest, "Sticks and Stones," has aroused great controversy and condemnation. Chappelle, in his new material, makes jokes about gays, lesbians, and transgender persons. "The Revolution eats its young." Dave Chappelle is the latest menu item. The Advocate whines that Chappelle now represents the establishment. The Guardian's critic writes that "Suddenly, a comedian once considered radical for his super-smart critiques of race in America was toeing a conservative line on a new generation's struggle for social justice." Chappelle was no longer exploring "the boundaries of the sayable;" rather, he was merely repeating "what reactionaries say every day." The review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives "Sticks and Stones" a devastatingly low score.
Conversely, many conservatives are now praising Chappelle. Ben Shapiro has been recommending "Sticks and Stones" on twitter and on his radio show as "must watch," "riveting," and "hilarious." Leftists, for their part, have noticed and are disgusted by this approval from the right. "All the worst white people love 'Sticks and Stones,'" gripes one of the "Very Smart Brothas" at The Root.
For conservatives who don't subscribe to Netflix and are trying to figure out if "Sticks and Stones" provides a worthy critique of speech codes, I include the following summary. Chappelle uses the following words so frequently that if they were removed, his one hour show would last thirty minutes. The words are "n-----," "m----------r," "s---," and "b----." All men, white or black, including Chappelle's father and son, are referred to by the n word or the m word. All women, including Chappelle's wife, are referred to by the b word. The language is part of the act. Chappelle's pretends to be a poor, disenfranchised "street n-----," when in fact he is the entitled son of two professors at prestigious colleges who himself attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and who signed his first TV contract when he was still a teenager.
Chappelle opens by mocking Anthony Bourdain for committing suicide. Bourdain was a 61-year-old father, author, chef, and beloved TV celebrity. Chappelle mentions a black friend of his who works at a shoe store, a non-glamorous job, and says that this black friend would never commit suicide. Chappelle's implication is that white people are weak and lazy and that black people are resourceful and strong. Chappelle repeats similar racist observations in his comments about the opioid crisis and gun violence. In each case, whites, especially poor whites, are inferior, contemptible, and dangerous, and blacks are virtuous.
Chappelle "imitates" (his word) the Founding Fathers, thus, "Hurry up and finish that Constitution n-----. I'm trying to get some sleep." Chappelle says he does not believe Michael Jackson's accusers. "I am a victim blamer. Chris Brown just beat Rhianna. I'm like, well, what did she do? Michael Jackson molesting children. What were those children wearing at the time? … Even if he did do it, the kid got his dick sucked by the king of pop." Chappelle defends Kevin Hart's homophobic material, and his own use of the word "f----t." There is an unwritten rule of show business, Chappelle says. "You are never, ever allowed to upset the alphabet people" who "took twenty percent of the alphabet for themselves." Transgender persons, he said, "hate my f------ guts."
Chapelle voices agreement with at least one tenet of leftist ideology. White men, he said, created "discrimination and oppression." Chappelle adopts the stereotypical Asian caricature face: buck teeth, slanted eyes. He says that it would be a "hilarious predicament" if "I was Chinese but born in this n----- body." Chappelle alleges that white men are more likely to be mass shooters. "I don't see any peaceful way to disarm America's whites. There's only one thing that is going to save this country from itself, and that is what always saves this country from itself, and that is African Americans. Should we do it?" Chappelle's allegation is false, as Front Page Magazine's Daniel Greenfield shows here. Chappelle then describes, in detail, fantasies of shooting a white man to death, and of charging a white female heroin addict two dollars to fellate him. Chappelle expresses a great deal of contempt for "poor white people," his neighbors, in Ohio.
Chacun a son gout, say the French. Each to his own taste. I do not begrudge Ben Shapiro or anyone else their enjoyment of Chappelle's comedy. Shapiro and others who see in Chappelle hope for an ally in the struggle for free speech and freedom of conscience for people like high school teacher Peter Vlaming are, I think, mistaken in that hope. I do not think that Chappelle's ranting is a step toward free speech. I think his ranting about transgender persons is comparable to his joke calling Condoleezza Rice, a woman worthy of admiration, "Cunnilingus Rice." This is the humor of a bratty high school boy, not a mature talent offering funny but necessary commentary on society.
Chappelle mocked Anthony Bourdain for killing himself. I've never seen Anthony Bourdain, and I am no fan of his work, which is unknown to me. I was horrified when I heard news reports of his suicide. Like Chappelle, and probably everyone else, I reflected on how superficially fortunate Bourdain seemed. I thought, again, of Edwin Arlington Robinson's immortal poem "Richard Cory," about a wealthy man who commits suicide. I thought of two scholars, personal friends, who killed themselves. What all these reflections taught me is that life can be unbearably painful even for the superficially fortunate. What I see with my limited vision is deceptive. My life has had more than its share of hard knocks. My life is certainly poorer than that of my two friends. What their and Bourdain's suicide taught me is this: God has not blessed me in the ways that he blessed my friends, or Anthony Bourdain, but God blessed me with the capacity to enjoy what little I have, and God has blessed me with persistence. I didn't do anything to earn my joie de vivre or my tenacity. I was born with both. And if I judge my suicide friends, or Bourdain, for that luck of the draw, I'm an immature jerk.
While watching Chappelle's cruel routine, that belittled both Asians and transgender people, I thought to myself, "This young man has never suffered." Chappelle insists he has suffered, and that his suffering trumps other people's suffering, because he is black. In his 2017 show, "The Age of Spin," Chappelle gets into a pissing match with women and Jews over who has suffered more. He said to one woman, "B----, how the f--- are you going to yell at a black man!" Chappelle, child of two college professors, multimillionaire, knows suffering. This entitles him to look down on Anthony Bourdain, heroin addicts, and transgender persons.
I reject speech codes that clamp a vise around the individual conscience and mandate that parents and teachers speak falsehoods. That doesn't mean that I think transgender persons should be belittled, or that it helps this country to belittle people who are already in pain and vulnerable. Dave Chappelle is not the free speech hero we're looking for.
This essay first appeared at American Thinker here
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery