I have a poster in my basement with a quote from Albert Einstein, which states, “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.”
I’m not going to lie. Those words weighed heavily on my mind as I purposely tuned into Netflix to watch Dave Chappelle’s The Closer special. I have never really been a fan of Chappelle because I didn’t have cable, so I never saw any of his shows. Then this latest special came out and caused such outrage from a certain segment of our society that my curiosity was piqued.
Unlike many folks who profess to not be judgmental, I was in that mindset. I wanted to see and judge for myself the basis for all the hoopla being raised. One hour and 12 minutes later, I can affirm with 100% certainty that I stand with Dave, even though I personally didn’t care for the way Chappelle tossed the word “nigga” about. In the Ivory soap reality (99.9% pure), the words “fool,” “idiot,” “moron” or “brother” could have easily replaced his usage of the n-word at various times and not lost any of the effects of his commentary.
However, what Chappelle did in that special was to juxtapose certain realities that we are not supposed to think about next to the propaganda we are being fed! His special was educating us in the most kiss (keep it simple stupid) method there is. I found myself nodding my head in agreement while also experiencing several light-bulb moments. I even laughed at some of the stuff. What Chappelle had masterfully accomplished was to educate us so that we gave deep thought to certain realities.
Thinking, as the great Einstein once stated, makes us more educated on the subject so that the wool can’t be pulled over our eyes. Thinking also gives us the opportunity to judge the different sides of a controversy. The ironies that Chappelle set forth also triggered my indignation buttons. As an example, rapper DaBaby kills a man in Walmart, and it’s really no big deal. His career continues without missing a beat. But DaBaby expresses musings that offend the gay community, and he is immediately shut down, his appearance at concerts cancelled, and made to apologize. Is that not a situation that should be pondered? At whose feet should the responsibility for becoming indignant be placed in the former? It’s the age-old battle of tolerant versus non-tolerant and where one falls in between the two.
If the current cancel culture continues to thrive, why do we have a First Amendment that gives us freedom of speech? And if the current Chappelle controversy is about anything, it’s the ability of a comedian to offer humor, ponderings and musings without the swift sword of the cancel culture shutting them down.
The presumed power of cancel culture may be at a crossroads — finding out just how far it can go or if it has met its limit from those with education who take offense at its burgeoning display of power.
And that is good. Because any power that goes unchecked can become the exact monster it was created to prevent.
Arlene Jones is an Austin resident and writes a weekly column in our sister publication, the Austin Weekly News.