Beyond all the dragging of Dave Chappelle for his stubborn and relentless anti-LGBTQ bigotry and pro-rape culture “jokes” in the wake of his latest special, one thing I’ve been interested in critically examining is the outpouring of positive feedback that Dave’s “comedy” specials have been getting from white supremacists. We’ve seen his latest Netflix special get praise from Breitbart, as well as endorsements from popular conservatives like Candace Owens. Even just being on social media, I’ve seen how white racists and Black homophobes, alike, have piled onto detractors of Dave’s work.
I’m particularly interested in interrogating this and what it means, because we should remember that, even for as anti-LGBTQ as Dave Chappelle is, he still also very much presents as anti-racist. Even in these Netflix specials, the patriarchal trash he spews is usually juxtaposed with very stern (and sometimes actually funny) take-downs of racism. That’s always been central to his work and he’s been consistent in that regard. It’s a big part of why he has the loyal fanbase that he does (who are willing to laugh at his dull, hateful and completely unoriginal “jokes” against LGBTQ people). So, how can this be something that white supremacists are so comfortable throwing such enthusiastic support behind?Now, it needs to be mentioned that, as someone who subscribes to a Black Queer Feminist politic, I’m of the belief that any anti-racist politic that doesn’t also seek to dismantle sexism, anti-LGBTQ oppression and all other isms, is one that falls tragically short. And I think it’s also necessary to recognize the obvious hypocrisy in Dave Chappelle being willing to punch up and speak truth to power so aggressively on anti-Black racism, while simultaneously punching down at women and LGBTQ people.
But this brings me to my key thought: What does it say about the nature of oppression today, that Dave Chappelle can still garner such widespread support of white supremacists, despite having always been so vocally anti-racist in his work? Is there something to be said about the impact of the pro-LGBTQ (particularly transgender/non-binary) and #MeToo movements in today’s climate, that white supremacists are willing to put aside their racism for the sake of trying to take those other movements down? Have we gotten to a point where white supremacists are so invested in maintaining the social order of patriarchy that they’re willing to be more lax on the social order of white supremacy, itself? Or are white supremacists simply operating in a large strategy?
Conversely, one thing that we’ve been seeing in this social media age is a bubbling sector of Black folks who are obviously still against racism, but seemingly are willing to proverbially get into bed with white supremacists in order also maintain a similar patriarchal (and nationalist) social order within the Black community. We saw an early example of this a couple of years ago, when there was an attempted alliance between some hoteps and the alt-right. And in the same vein, it also needs to be uplifted that there’s a very nationalist social order that’s becoming heavily invested into by said contingent of conservative Black people. And this falls right in line with the conservative agenda against undocumented immigrants that, while it’s long been a thing, we’ve seen reach a fever pitch under the Drumpf Administration. The growing (but very artificially so) “ADOS” (American Descendants of Slaves) movement is also a more recent example of this.
My theory on this is, I see this as a continuation of the alt-right’s very thorough strategy of rebranding itself. Where they’ve taken the same old, oppressive white nationalism, but have managed to frame much of their politics and language more carefully than they would have just decades ago (Kat Blaque did a great video breaking a lot of this down a while back). I think white nationalists and supremacists have recognized that, while their ultimate goal is to ensure that white people retain their dominance (while ultimately serving the interests of the ruling class), for the short term, with the changing racial demographics of this country, they’re not gonna be able to stay on top with just white people supporting their agenda. They’ve recognized that the world is changing, where you really can’t get anywhere saying the word “n*gger” outright anymore, and are adjusting accordingly.
I believe that, as a result, a lot of Black people have become more comfortable with trying to occupy these spaces, in hopes that they can get their piece of the pie. Because where it concerns Black people in these kinds of spaces, what this really comes down to is people working out of self-interest rather than looking at what’s good for the collective, big picture. People want to make their own lives better while still maintaining the catharsis of stepping on others. This makes way for a lot of shortsightedness…which materializes as Black people being willing to overlook blatant racism that we’ve seen from conservatives over the last few years (atop the last few centuries) as a way to maintain their semblance of power. And due to the aforementioned rebranding, Black folks now have an easier time rationalizing their support for conservatism in their heads.
I think that a lot of us Black folks who are leftists or liberals are currently operating from the (possibly naive) belief that if we point out this dissonance of anti-racist Black people being embraced by white conservatives, that it’ll snap a lot of these Black conservatives out of it. But while that may have some effectiveness? I feel certain it will be very limited. I believe that most of these Black people who are embracing conservatism are fully aware of what we’re saying already, but between being so, heavily driven by self-interest + this widespread rebranding of white nationalism, Black folks who buy into it have decided that this is a better alternative than continuing to rock with the democratic party.
One thing that I heavily talk about in my recent podcast post on Black conservatives is that, one of the main reasons why many Black folks are flocking to outright conservatism is, it’s a result of us increasingly recognizing that the democratic party hasn’t been working in our interests; they’re simply pandering to us for our votes. We need to be honest in that this is, at least partially, a result of the democratic party and liberalism’s exploitation of Black people. Now, do I think that conservatism is a good answer to that? Absolutely not. But in a two-party system, if we know we only have 2 viable options, and we’ve already thoroughly seen that the party we’ve been voting for is obviously exploiting us? It’s inevitable that some of us will at least dip a toe in and explore the other option (and I’ve been open about how I was one of those, before ultimately coming to my senses).
And now, we come back to Dave Chappelle. I think that the right-wing support for him is two-fold: 1) white supremacists who’ve decided that the continuation of patriarchal systems resonates with them enough that they’re willing to overlook anti-racism, and 2) I think conservatives (who’ve been trying to court more Black voters for a while now) have recognized that Dave’s virulent anti-LGBTQ bigotry and misogyny is resonating with a lot of Black people (on top of the fact that much of Dave’s fanbase is fiercely loyal to him), and have recognized a real opportunity in strategically praising Dave very openly and loudly, as a way to virtue signal to other Black folks who could potentially be brought into the fold.
Now, granted, I do think this will be a losing strategy in the long-term, because I just don’t believe most white supremacists have it in them to conceal their racism and outright contempt for marginalized people, nor do think that large swaths of Black people (aside from the most hopelessly sunken) will be able to stomach the racism of conservatives when it eventually—and inevitably—boils over. But either way, I do think this is a short-term issue that warrants a great deal of attention…far more than we’re currently giving it.