On Tuesday, late-night show host Jimmy Fallon became the center of a lot of outrage brigade Twitter’s anger when a skit he did back in 2000 was dug up and shown for all the internet to see.
The skit features Fallon dressing and acting as Chris Rock would, but completely with blackface.
— s🅰️m🐀 (@chefboyohdear) May 26, 2020
Fallon soon apologized for doing the skit, saying there wasn’t any excuse for what he did.
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this,” tweeted Fallon. “I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this.
I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) May 26, 2020
Actually, there is an excuse. He was doing a harmless comedy bit that was devoid of racism.
Fallon shouldn’t have apologized because what Fallon did wasn’t racist.
Firstly, Fallon was impersonating Chris Rock, and was doing a fabulous job of it too. Reportedly, Rock even thought Fallon’s impression was spot on and funny. Moreover, Fallon wasn’t engaging in stereotypes, degrading the black population, or making a pointed statement about the black community. He was literally impersonating Chris Rock.
But let’s say that he was making comedy around stereotypes. Would it be racist then?
It depends on how the stereotype is portrayed. Not all portrayals of stereotypes are hateful and the people who use them for comedy are usually just having harmless fun.
Dave Chappelle did whiteface multiple times during the Chappelle Show and nobody batted an eye despite his portrayal as a stereotypical representative of a white culture that no one else liked.
The Wayans brothers also donned whiteface in order to do the movie White Chicks with zero outrage from the overall culture despite consistently mocking white women.
Robert Downey Jr.’s role in Tropic Thunder is actually celebrated as he did blackface while literally acting out a stereotypical black soldier.
All of it was done to comedic effect and all of it was ultimately harmless.
Fallon’s portrayal of Rock was also a harmless skit done in the name of comedy. He, like comedians who played races they didn’t belong to, did nothing wrong.
Fallon made a mistake by apologizing, in no small part because apologizing confirms to his accusers that he is guilty of having done something wrong. This only teaches race-obsessed people that they were correct in their outrage and that mobbing someone will result in the desired knee-bending.
Fallon’s apology effectively made the racism problem in America worse by not defending himself.