I had to laugh last week when I was reminded of this video by my foster daughters, aged 1 and 2, absolutely devouring most of a box of fried chicken*. So deep questions arise because of the man MikeT rightly calls "the great philosopher Dave Chappelle" and his little skit:
- Is it racist to believe that something is true just because it happens to be a stereotype**?
- Is it racist to laugh at something that happens to be a stereotype when one finds occasions where it is true?
So then, is Dave acting similarly racist? So long as we are applying the same standards, yes. Do I care? Not remotely. In fact, I think Chapelle's white guy impressions are funny as hell; the same with Mencia's Asian impressions. I guess I'm not one who finds that kind of attitudinal racism to be very high on the totem pole of sins.
But it appears that that's not really racism at all. According to "Why do Black People Love Fried Chicken?" a mostly-uninteresting little tract of personal opinion written by Nashieqa Washington, MBA:
Of the many definitions of racism, most require that the racist be in a position of power/influence or that they have an innate sense of superiority based on race. [Therefore, Blacks cannot be racist because] Blacks have never been in a significant position of power over any other group." (p.19)The second definition is the is the traditional one; racism has been actions based on a belief in racial superiority. The first one is politically-motivated liberal claptrap, as Reginald Denny, any rookie teacher in an inner-city high school, a Korean shopkeeper in South Central LA, or a white farmer in Zimbabwe would probably testify. One cannot say that blacks as a group have never had any power anywhere over any other group. Well, you can say it, I suppose: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just not their own facts.
But ignoring the group-think and liberal silliness, maybe Dave's chicken man is racist because the whole conversation boils down to a white guy trying to put Dave "in his place" because he's black, and the stereotype is simply a convenient tool with which to do that. In that case, it didn't matter whether Dave wanted the chicken, what mattered was that Dave was black and the white guy was saying, "I am better than you because I'm white. And everyone here will back me in a fight if you have a problem with that." That, of course, would be racist under any definition.
What does it all mean? Hell if I know. But I do suspect I'm going to keep giving my daughters fried chicken and laughing at Dave Chappelle. And, of course, ignoring MBAs. Which I do anyway, as a matter of habit. All stereotypes about MBAs are true.
* For the record, my natural and adopted kids love fried chicken too, but racist or not, "White kids love fried chicken" just isn't a stereotype and so I never even thought about it when they were growing up.
** In other words, do we have to pretend the opposite? All stereotypes, good and bad, are true to some extent or other. Most of them are mostly true often enough that we can use them to mentally organize items in their context in our world, which is how they become stereotypes in the first place.
*** And I have no doubt that Dave would have been able to tell. We can all tell when people don't like us, and after a lifetime of experiencing people not liking you because of your skin, it's probably not very difficult to discern it at a glance.