September 10, 2019

YES: When We Argue About Dave Chappelle, We Should Recognize That Super-Wokeness Is Mostly An Elite Phenomenon.

Two moments in “Sticks & Stones” capture Chappelle’s qualms with cancel culture, which are a bit more nuanced than the cartoon being drawn by some critics. In the first, Chappelle relates, with frustration, an incident in which a standards and practices employee at Comedy Central told him that while it was okay to use the N-word, the word ‘faggot’ was off-limits. In the second, he talks about getting a drink with a trans fan of his after a set in San Francisco. She points out that it doesn’t really make sense to claim, as some have, that his infamous (and hilarious) R-Kelly bit normalized the singer’s behavior or somehow insulated him from criticism, and to then turn around and claim that jokes about trans people harm rather than ‘normalize’ them.

Whatever you think of these particular arguments, or the amount of time Chappelle spends complaining about being criticized (not how I would use such a perch!), he is simply pointing out that these rules about what he can get away with saying can sometimes seem arbitrary and inconsistent. And this is an argument that appears to have a great deal of resonance among Americans, blue and red alike. Chappelle’s would-be cancellers ignore it at their own peril.

Those who view any critique of cancel culture or political correctness as inherently bankrupt often derail conversations about it by claiming that PC is simply a synonym for “Being a decent person” — if you’re a decent person, in other words, you won’t get in trouble, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. But this isn’t how most of the country sees things, and it doesn’t accurately capture how the rules over who can get away with saying what are made, revised, and enforced.

Arbitrary rules are never instituted for the benefit of those who must follow them.

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