Chris Rock says he tried to warn people about police violence: 'I got a lot of flak'

Madeline Roth
·3-min read
'Black women have the hardest gig in show business'
'Black women have the hardest gig in show business'

Amid this year's resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Chris Rock is reminding us that speaking out against racism and police violence is nothing new.

In a New York Times interview published on Wednesday, Mr Rock reflected on the lesson he offered on police brutality in his 2018 Netflix special, Tamborine. In the opening minutes of that set, Mr Rock explained, "Whenever the cops gun down an innocent black man, they always say the same thing: 'Well, it’s not most cops. It's just a few bad apples.'

"I know being a cop is hard," he continued in his set. "But some jobs can’t have bad apples. You know, American Airlines can't be like, 'Most of our pilots like to land. We just got a few bad apples that like to crash into mountains. Please bear with us.'"

Asked if it feels "futile" to have discussed those kinds of social issues years ago, only for nothing to change, the 55-year-old actor and comedian was candid.

"I remember when Tamborine dropped, I got a lot of flak over that cop thing," Rock recalled. "There was a lot of people trying to start a fire that never really picked up. It's so weird that, two years later, it's right on. I remember watching the news and Trump said 'bad apples.' It was like, you did it! You did it!"

Mr Rock pointed out, though, that he's far from the first public figure to speak out against systemic racism and police brutality against black people. Other entertainers have been doing it for decades, only to see the same issues come up again for every generation.

"I did. But so did Public Enemy. So did KRS-One. So did Marvin Gaye," he noted.

"It's real. It's not going away," he continued about racism in the US, likening the current moment to “the second civil rights movement.” He said, "Humanity isn't progress — it's only progress for the person that's taking your humanity. If a woman's in an abusive relationship and her husband stops beating her, you wouldn't say she’s made progress, right? But that's what we do with black people. We're constantly told that we’re making progress. The relationship we're in — the arranged marriage that we're in — it's that we’re getting beat less."

Elsewhere in his New York Times interview, Mr Rock addressed the controversy that arose this past spring when Jimmy Fallon's blackface impression of him from an old episode of Saturday Night Live was resurfaced.

Mr Rock ultimately gave his fellow comedian the benefit of the doubt, saying, "Hey, man, I'm friends with Jimmy. Jimmy's a great guy. And he didn't mean anything. A lot of people want to say intention doesn't matter, but it does. And I don't think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn't."

Mr Rock spoke to the Times to promote his starring role in Season 4 of FX's critically adored series Fargo, but the interview also touched on the upcoming presidential election, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and more. Read the full interview here.

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