An Open Letter From Dave Chappelle to His White Fans
Hey, white folks! Think the current king of racially reactive comedy enjoys your fawning fandom? Not according to this little heartbreaker.
Dear White People:
How are you? I am fine. Long time no see! I ran into Gary the other day. Tell him not to worry about that rash; a little penicillin will clear it right up. LOL. Anyway, on to business.
First, I wanna say that I appreciate the support you've given me over the years -- not only during my show, but since Half Baked, too... Although, really, would it have killed you to shell out $8 to see Undercover Brother? Alright, alright, we won't get into that again. After all, I did make you rent Screwed. My bad on that one.
If I may be so bold as to quote the great Lionel Richie: thanks for the times that you've given me. The memories are all in my mind. And now that we've come to the end of our rainbow, there's something I must say out loud...
I think we should see other people.
There are lots of great comedians out there for you. Ant from Last Comic Standing, for instance. That gay bit never gets old! It's nothing against you personally; black people and I have just decided to give it one more shot. I think we can be happy together.
Really, it's not you; it's me.
OK, maybe it's you just a bit. I mean, I like you. I even love you. I just don't trust you. You're kind of like a creepy stepfather. You could be a great dad for years -- taking me to ballgames, playing catch and all -- but if I were to wake up one night to find your nut sack on my chin, I wouldn't be all that shocked.
You may have seen me on Oprah talking about the time I felt that a white guy on my staff was laughing at me rather than with me during a sketch I was doing in blackface. Or when I said that there's a group of people who are "just fans" along for a celebrity worship ride, the type who scream, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" at my concerts. And maybe you saw in Block Party where Questlove from The Roots was talking about how frustrated I was with the "demographic" I attracted after Half Baked. That demographic, white people, was you.
You've gotta admit that you haven't exactly filled me with confidence in your self-control. You've taken slang like "bling", "all good", and "ho cake" and squeezed all of the edge out of them. And when did backwards caps become the official uniform of drunken keg stands? You wanna know why I went to Africa? Because "I'm Rick James, bitch!" was becoming the new "Dy-no-mite!" You already ruined Lil' Jon's career; I don't wanna be next.
I've started to feel like those reggae cats who come to America on tour, spreading Afro-centric messages like "Back to Africa" and "Kill whitey", and the only people who show up to their concerts are 50-year-old hippies and latte-sipping WTO protestors who don't hear anything beyond "one love" and "legalize it".
Please, don't make this harder than it has to be.
It's just that this interracial stuff has me tripping. I can't take you anywhere without wondering what people think of me. I'm even hearing things now. Like, I was walking down the street the other day, and I swear somebody yelled out, "Gumbel!" I turned around, and no one was there. It was a sniper slur. That shit bugged me out!
And how am I supposed to know you're not gonna embarrass me by misinterpreting something I do in a skit? Like, when I play a homeless crackhead shitting in an alley, you might think that all black people do that! Sure, some black people shit in alleys, but some white people watch Laguna Beach. I won't judge y'all if you don't judge us.
It's best if we make a clean break.
Don't call, don't come by my crib, and for God's sake, no more email forwards about 10 ways to annoy people at the computer lab. We graduated, like, a decade ago! Let it go! I know that you like to feel like you have a black friend finally, but can't you get a butler or a lawn jockey or something?
I understand that, as a privileged race, it's hard for you to feel that something is off limits to you, but pencil me in as #2 behind the N-word.
Why must you love me so? I'm tired of being so damn likeable! Chris Rock doesn't have to deal with this clinginess. He's all sociopolitical and "ranty" enough in an angry black male sort of way that he keeps white people at arm's length. Me, I'm the happy-go-lucky drinking buddy. If I talk about anything serious, it's just "drunk talk". It's enough to drive a nigga CRAZY! Just kidding.
But really, do you know what it's like to be a comedian? I can't have a conversation without someone expecting me to come up with some brilliantly funny nugget off the top of my head. And "Get the fuck outta my face" usually doesn't cut it. It's even more complicated when you're a black comedian, and your primary audience is white. That's why I gotta quit you.
Am I paranoid? Maybe a bit, but can you blame me? As I said to Oprah, "Opes" -- I call her "Opes" -- "What is a black man without his paranoia intact?" A Republican, that's what! You might be my best friend for life, but that doesn't mean I might not find a Grand Dragon's robe hanging in your closet one day. I wouldn't even be pissed off about it. It was a calculated risk anyway, like hitting on 17 in blackjack: "Aw, damn... Oh well, it's been fun."
I can't stay in a relationship that's always challenging my dignity and integrity. That's Wayans Brothers territory. But I do realize that I'm partly to blame; skits about piss and venereal disease are just begging for a frat boy following. That's why I'm turning over a new, socially responsible leaf. Block Party was the first step. More conscious material and less fecal material; that's what Dave Chappelle has in store for 2006. (As you can see, I'm trying to hold back on my swearing and shit.)
I know you'll be disappointed in my new stuff; that's why I'm sending this letter to you now. You deserve someone who'll give you what you need.
After all, I just want you to be happy.
Your casual acquaintance,
PS -- If, in a year or two, it turns out that the only gig black folk have for me is hosting the BET Awards, remember that when I wrote this letter, I was taking Ambien and had a mild head cold.