I love watching Dave Chapelle.

jessica-queer-femme-dyke-feminist Jessica Fields The Beyond Bullying Project Team

His taste in music renews my playlist. His sense of friendship and collegiality inspires me. His humor teaches me.

As I watched Dave Chappelle’s new specials on Netflix, I was reminded not only of this love but also how uncomfortable I am in this love. I’m a white, middle-class woman, and white fans have been troubling for Chappelle.

He wonders what we’re laughing at when we laugh at his jokes. He worries about the cost to him of appealing to us. Success with white fans seems to be one reason Chappelle left public life for a while. So, I admire him, but quietly, from afar, and with his suspicions always in sight. In his 2017 Netflix specials, Chappelle talks about an exchange he had with a white woman fan at a recent show. The woman claimed that her suffering was just like his to his—that, just like Black people, white women suffer under patriarchy. Chappelle calls himself a feminist and recognizes that women struggle under sexism. He scoffs at the “just like” argument though—primarily because it obscures white women’s complicity in racism. Chappelle refuses to let us off the hook when he reminds his fan: “You was in on the heist, you just don’t like your cut.” The heist: The daily, relentless disenfranchising of people of color in housing markets, access to education, class mobility, employment opportunities, popular culture, and everyday intimacies. White women are in on this. We participate through active collusion and through passive compliance. No matter whether we want to, we benefit. The cut: For all of our collusion and complicity, we still suffer under patriarchal conditions. We have not been delivered from sexism. We cannot count on white men, our partners in the heist, to stand with us. I guess the cut sucks, but the heist sucks even more.

Jessica Fields The Beyond Bullying Project team

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