Opinion: Dave Chappelle’s unacceptable moment | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Opinion: Dave Chappelle’s unacceptable moment

Dave Chappelle recently delivered an antisemitic monologue on Saturday Night Live that included a defense of Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. It was an unacceptable moment in television.  

First, let’s look at SNL’s culpability and gain, at the expense of the Jews. SNL reportedly was surprised by Chappelle’s monologue because it differed from what had been rehearsed. But prior to his appearance, some SNL writers boycotted Chappelle, so SNL’s failure to prevent antisemitism or react appropriately afterwards is feeble. Chappelle’s stances are well known. Furthermore, to my knowledge SNL has not issued any kind of apology after the monologue. SNL was the beneficiary of high ratings from Chappelle and received a lot of attention after the monologue, a boon. 

The monologue 

It should have been clear from the start, with his charade denouncement of antisemitism, where the monologue was headed. Chappelle started this way for several reasons, one being to underscore a widespread but fallacious belief that no topic should be off the table for comedians. Another was to attempt to build legitimacy for his comments that followed. 

Chappelle is the archetype of a wolf in sheep’s clothing; he comes across as articulate and thoughtful but, as such, is far more lethal than both Kanye and Kyrie. Comments of his such as “I grew up with Jewish people” leads to a strategy we are well familiar with (“some of my best friends are Jews”). This tactic is used to introduce comments that are supposedly grounded in expertise but are usually just antisemitic. 

Chappelle seems to believe that Jews are untouchable when it comes to criticism, particularly in Hollywood where there are, in his words, “a lot of Jews.” Supposedly, Jewish control (how many times have we heard this) renders Kanye’s statements acceptable. Chappelle’s comment that “Kanye got in so much trouble that Kyrie got in trouble” is yet another indictment regarding the spread of Jewish control. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like I’m in control of anything.  

His most horrific, outrageous comment: one cannot blame Black Americans for the bad things the Jews have been through, including the Holocaust. Who is doing this? Kanye West and Kyrie Irving can absolutely be held accountable for their statements (clearly underscored by Kanye West’s more recent virulent antisemitism). Supposed blame for the Holocaust has nothing to do with this! Still another disgraceful moment from Chappelle was the mocking of “Schindler’s List” and subsequent laughter about Kyrie being nowhere near the Holocaust. All of this is completely reprehensible. 

Chappelle equates the number of Jews in Hollywood with the number of Blacks in Ferguson. This is superficial social commentary about influence and power.  

David Chappelle drew the wrong kind of line for Irving’s abhorrent conduct. His position apparently is that what happened with Kyrie Irving’s punishment went far over the top because of Jewish control. Still more nauseating rhetoric. 

Backhanded commentary 

I find it disturbing that people in the audience did not get up and leave (maybe a few did). While there were a couple moments of mostly silence and possibly confusion, for the most part Chappelle received applause and laughter for his comments. 

David Chappelle’s words might have more veracity if he would not have been a long-time hater of the LGBTQ community. Chappelle is a charlatan; articulate but with his own agenda and manipulative. His backhanded social commentary demeans the initiatives of verity made decades ago from the likes of luminaries such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, even Malcolm X, and scores of others. The world needs open, honest and direct communication not driven by hate or jealousy. Chappelle did not continue along this noble, righteous path. While I was unable to find out how much he was paid for the monologue, he has received huge contracts in the past and assuredly he did well financially with SNL. 

Jews had a variety of responses to the monologue. I am highly disappointed and saddened by my brethren who are not only defending Chappelle, but thought it was humorous. While in many ways I am as irreverent as anybody I know, being pseudo-intellectual in finding new ways to bolster antisemitic canards is neither funny nor clever; it is indefensible. Others such as Seinfeld have distanced themselves; this is also unacceptable. Jewish celebrities should be using their status to cry out against bigotry. 

David Chappelle does not seem to care that antisemitism is on the rise and things are not good for many Jews around the globe. Stereotypical comments that Jews are primarily rich and in control while many Blacks are victims do not help create positive change. 

Finally, Chappelle is a Muslim and refers to Islam as a “beautiful thing.” Well, Mr. Chappelle, Judaism is an equally “beautiful thing” despite your attempts to besmirch it. I challenge you to find out about the beauty, love and kindness in Judaism instead of taking a significant part in lies and propaganda used to build hate against Jews. Tell funny jokes; do not spread hate. 

Commentaries, like this one, are not necessarily the opinion of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. We welcome a diversity of opinions.  

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Writer Joel Altman-Shafer is a Wisconsin native, originally from Racine. He is a fan of local sports teams and a coach of The Shul Black Hats Softball Team. He likes to say, he’s proud to be Jewish, proud husband of Tziporah Altman-Shafer, three incredible children, and a terrific son-in-law!