Dave Chappelle Hasn’t Done the Reading, and He Doesn’t Know What a C-section Is

Sam McKenzie Jr.
6 min readOct 12, 2021

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After Dave Chappelle’s SNL Monologue on Nov 7, 2020, professional smart person Tressie McMillan Cottom tweeted that she could hear the citations in Chappelle’s monologue. I agreed. But after viewing Chappelle’s Netflix special, I’m here to say Chappelle has not done the reading, and he doesn’t know what a c-section is.

Let’s start with the first part.

It’s important to “do the reading.” Race, gender, and sexuality require study; they require some expertise. I believe with other professionally smart people like Crystal Fleming and the late Charles Mills that living in a racist society has made us racially stupid. I’d extend the same statement to gender and sexuality.

I don’t claim to be a professionally smart person, particularly on gender and sexuality, but I try to do the reading. And I have little interest in writing words with no backing. For that reason, I read and research before I write, and I’m a member of the Race, Gender, and Class section of the American Sociological Association.

Chappelle’s words weren’t informed by the history and experiences of Black LGBTQ people. Chappelle’s words about LGBTQ people, and trans people specifically, at times targeted white LGBTQ people. I get that, and I welcome that. See my piece On White Female Leadership and Progress No One Needs.

Chappelle has a valid critique about white power changing it up and maintaining white dominance.

I’ve written that I’m not interested in the first white LGBTQ anything anymore because I don’t want to experience the entire bench of white leadership. I will not celebrate trans whites in power when whites hold 90% of the positions of power. Progressive whiteness is still whiteness. The expansion of whiteness gets my attention, but not my applause. The issue, as Chappelle says, at one point, is with whites, not with trans people. I’m with him on all of that.

But Chappelle’s generic and colorblind “jokes” about LGBTQ people, and trans people specifically, proves he has not done the reading.

It seems like Chappelle doesn’t recognize Black people as significant members of the LGBTQ community. Has he read the studies and polls about the percentage of LGBTQ people who identify as Black?

I think that’s another reason The National Black Justice Coalition put their emphasis on Black transgender people in their statement because any time you’re talking about trans people you need to be putting focus on Black trans people:

“‘With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better,’ NBJC executive director David Johns said in a statement. ‘Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately pull ‘The Closer’ from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community.”

When I say Chappelle hasn’t done the reading, I mean he’s ignorant of deep history and connections.

Even if you think Chappelle isn’t ignorant of this deep history and connections, the history and connections haven’t made an impact on him. And if the reading hasn’t made an impact, then you really haven’t done the reading.

Chappelle is at least ignorant to the extent that ignorant means he is ignoring history and realities. I wish he would read C. Riley Snorton’s book, “Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity.” The book says, “To feel black in the diaspora, then, might be a trans experience.”

Snorton also talks about blackness as “fungible,” which has implications for trans identity. The entire book, per its title, is giving a history lesson. At the very least, Chappelle omitted some history in his monologue. And that happens —when you don’t do the reading.

I must also add to my “Works Cited” the essay by Marquis Bey “The Trans-ness of Blackness, The Blackness of Trans-ness.”

The essay describes blackness and transness as “race and gender fugitivity.” And the essay seeks to “demonstrate the ways in which trans* is black and black is trans*. The essay asks questions like, “In what ways, and to what extent, is there a ‘blackness’ present within ‘trans-ness,’ and vice versa?”

I suppose Chappelle has not asked those questions or thought about the answers because he has not done the reading.

At the end of his talk, Chappelle compares trans women’s anatomy, to include Black trans women, to Beyond and Impossible meats.

He doesn’t speak of vegan meats in positive way or animal meats in a negative way. He also doesn’t offer any science. Instead, he leans on the full meanings of “beyond” and “impossible” and the mimicking of animal meats, and specifically blood, to connect them to trans women.

Chappelle analogized marketplace products and human flesh. As a Black gay vegan, this comparison hit me in all kinds of ways and sent me in a few directions. But it didn’t take me long to see the connection to Black citizenship and Black humanity. At the core, Chappelle is talking about innovation, debasement, and replacement in the marketplace.

Michael O’Malley has a great book about the history of race and money called “Face Value.” In his book, O’Malley recounts the belief that Black citizenship was counterfeit, inflated, inauthentic, unnatural, counterfactual, man-made, and invented by and like fiat.

The way Chappelle coupled trans women and vegan meats is the way whites, especially those who loved gold, coupled greenbacks and Black citizenship. Accordingly, p*ssy has a gold standard, like humanity and citizenship have a white gold standard, and now we’re off into some digital and crypto shit.

Somehow the same man who said “they have our baby clothes on” does not see or speak about the hand me down oppression LGBTQ people, and Black LGBTQ people in particular, face. Why? Because he has not done the reading.

Chappelle also hasn’t read a clock in a minute.

He’s been spreading “jokes” about trans people for 16 years. Did he read McMillan Cottom’s piece and tweet about creative endeavors and lifespans? Chappelle should’ve closed up a long time ago what he never should’ve started.

Now for the second part; the part where Chappelle says gender is fact and every human has passed through a woman’s legs.

My dead father would like to have a word with Chappelle. Growing up, for whatever reason, my dad made it clear to me and my brother that my mom had us by c-sections. It was as if her scar from the c-sections of the late 70s/early 80s was a stigmata; a wound for our trans-gressions or our trans-mission into the world.

Besides the fact that men who are recognized by the state as men have indeed had babies, the fact that people are born by c-section breaks down Chappelle’s argument and his claim to absolute fact. I did not pass through any woman’s legs.

And as a gay man, I’ve passed over women’s legs, which relates to my points here.

Damon Young wrote a piece worth reading called “Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People.” The title itself is almost a trans statement. As a writer, I’m known to come for white identity, but because straight Black men are “the white people of Black people,” inevitably I will come for some straight Black men too.

What Chappelle said was straight up white. His SNL monologue had citations, and this monologue has citations too. This time, Chappelle traded Du Bois for Don Jr’s twitter feed. Chappelle did not read the room. In a time when a political party started an insurrection, is actively rolling back rights, and obstructing democracy, this is what Chappelle has to say.

And what Chappelle said was white with ignorance, and it was white with power.

At the beginning of his monologue, Chappelle said he came in peace. But the injustice in his words makes peace impossible. The injustice in his words are a threat. Chappelle can say he has never had a problem with trans people, but Chappelle is a problem for trans people. And he’s always been a problem because he’s still punching down.

With his ignorance and power, Chappelle is an enemy on this subject, whether he wants to be or not. And Chappelle shouldn’t be underestimated, downplayed, or given a pass. He can identify and not support “mean laws,” but he can’t identify and disavowal his misinformed words.

That’s why uppercuts from b*tch n*ggas like me are required as a response. B*tch n*ggas of the past have issued warnings: James Baldwin told us “that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

Chappelle intends this to be a closing of a chapter. But I hope he opens some chapters. If not, he should shut the fuck up.

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