Comedian Chris Rock has never been afraid to get raw and real when it comes to the politics of race, and he has been especially outspoken in recent weeks ahead of the release of his well-reviewed new comedy, “Top Five.”
On Thursday, Rock’s righteous indignation following a grand jury decision not to indict a New York police officer in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner struck a chord. “This was on film,” he tweeted, with a link to the footage of Garner’s death.
Garner, a 43-year-old black man from Staten Island, was detained in July by officers for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes. He can be heard in a video of the incident repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” and a coroner’s report concluded he died because of injuries sustained during his encounter with police. A grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death sparked a wave of protests nationwide and has led to a launch of a federal investigation.
Rock, a native New Yorker, recently gave a widely circulated interview to New York magazine, in which he weighed in on the state of race relations in the Obama era. “To say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress,” Rock said. “The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”
In that same interview, Rock suggested that in the wake of unrest in Ferguson the media needs to do “a special on race” but without any black people. “Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense, ” said Rock. “There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”
The actor-director also talked about how Republicans “have no problem playing victims,” and made bemused comments about America’s Bush and Clinton political dynasties. “Maybe they just want a Bush. Maybe they want no regulations. It’s hard for me to figure out people voting against their own self-interests. At some point you go, Okay: Is that what they want?”
In a separate cover story for The Hollywood Reporter, the 49-year-old former “Saturday Night Live” star raised eyebrows by saying that the film business is a “white industry.”
“I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is,” Rock wrote. “And the black people they do hire tend to be the same person. That person tends to be female and that person tends to be Ivy League. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that’s what I want for my daughters. But something tells me that the life my privileged daughters are leading right now might not make them the best candidates to run the black division of anything. And the person who runs the black division of a studio should probably have worked with black people at some point in their life. “