Chris Rock has gone on a race-talking spree that has caught the eyes of many these last few days.
The comedian is known for his hilarious rants in his stand-ups, but to call Rock’s recent words a “race rant” would be a disservice to the thoughtful deconstruction and criticism that the comedian has recently spoken and written on the subject of race in America and Hollywood.
It began earlier this month with a candid interview in New York Magazine on race and Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault allegations, later with a tweet in response to the Eric Garner decision and a now a scathing essay for The Hollywood Reporter on Hollywood’s race problems and the Mexican “slave state.”
Rock is no stranger to tackling race issues in his stand-up, but his critical (albeit slightly matter-of-fact) take on race relations in the country and in Hollywood arrived as Americans struggle with the fall out of Ferguson and Garner.
The interviews and essay are all hinged on Rock’s upcoming film “Top Five,” which he wrote, directed and starred in. But the THR essay is more than just a promotional piece for the movie, as Rock points out in the essay, the movie was made outside of the big “studio system” because of how the industry views “Black movies.”
Rock starts his essay by describing his first experience in Hollywood after Eddie Murphy had cast him in an upcoming movie, an experience that left him dazzled and wanting to follow in the actor’s footsteps.
“Now I'm not Murphy, but I've done fine,” Rock writes. “And I try to help young black guys coming up because those people took chances on me. Eddie didn't have to put me in Beverly Hills Cop II. Keenen Wayans didn't have to put me in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Arsenio didn't have to let me on his show. I'd do the same for a young white guy, but here's the difference: Someone's going to help the white guy. Multiple people will. The people whom I've tried to help, I'm not sure anybody was going to help them.”
As an example, Rock mentions how he recommended Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones to several big name managers before SNL’s Lorne Michael brought her onto the show.
“It's a white industry,” Rock wrote. “Just as the NBA is a black industry. I'm not even saying it's a bad thing. It just is.”
Before delving into how Hollywood can be especially hard to break into for Black actresses, Rock put race aside and spoke about a portion of the population that remains hidden in plain sight in Los Angeles:
But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans. It's the most liberal town in the world, and there's a part of it that's kind of racist — not racist like "F— you, nigger" racist, but just an acceptance that there's a slave state in L.A. There's this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn't exist anywhere else. I remember I was renting a house in Beverly Park while doing some movie, and you just see all of the Mexican people at 8 o'clock in the morning in a line driving into Beverly Park like it's General Motors. It's this weird town.
You're telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that's true? The odds are, because people are people, that there's probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody's company right now. The odds are that there's probably a Mexican who's that smart who's never going to be given a shot. And it's not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you've got to take that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it's the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It's like, "We only let white people do that." This is a system where only white people can chime in on that. There would be a little naivete to sitting around and going, "Oh, no black person has ever greenlighted a movie," but those other jobs? You're kidding me, right? They don't even require education. When you're on the lower levels, they're just about taste, nothing else. And you don't have to go to Harvard to have taste.
Take a look at Chris Rock’s full essay in The Hollywood Reporter here.