A clip native 2011 of the comedians discussing—and using—the N-word has caused a stir online. And with good reason.

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This was a bad look.

A clip from a 2011 HBO special referred to as Talking Funny resurfaced on society media the featured kris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld and also Louis C.K in conversation. In it, absent declares louis C.K. “the blackest white male I know.” He explains that “all the an adverse things us think about black people, this fucker ,” as C.K. Guffaws alongside him.

“You’re saying i’m a n---er?” a grinning C.K. Adds. “You are the n---er-est white man,” absent fires back, together Gervais laughs hysterically and also Jerry Seinfeld becomes significantly uncomfortable. Castle go back and soon in regards come the slur, and C.K.’s propensity for making use of it in his very own act. “Who says n---er on stage?” Gervais asks v no self-edit, and also Seinfeld concludes the he’s never uncovered the feeling in words as the other three men proceed to grin and also laugh.

The video clip has sparked a tide of criticism in the direction of the already-toxic C.K., who career has been in limbo ever due to the fact that sexual harassment allegations to be made against the comic by five female colleagues who stated he’d masturbated in front of them, and also towards Rock, who collection the entire exchange in activity by implying C.K. Has a “pass” to use that word and also in co-signing the racist implications that linked blackness v negativity. Rock has actually long been among America’s most commemorated comics largely since he’s tackled concerns such together race v a sharp focus and even sharper wit. However this details exchange is in no method shocking if you’ve to be paying attention.

At the elevation of his pop-culture sway, only Dave Chappelle might command an ext respect together a black comic. Rock arised as the post-Def Comedy Jam go-to black color stand-up, and also he rattled off a wire of classic stand-up specials and also albums that cemented his position. His speak show came to be a low-key hit because that HBO in the late-‘90s, and helped launch the careers of other comics prefer Wanda Sykes and also C.K. C.K. Also directed 2001’s comedy flop Pootie Tang, i beg your pardon co-starred Rock. Rock and also C.K.’s friendship goes earlier years, but the now-viral video exposes what has always been a troubling dynamic when the “edgy” white comic who additionally considers himself The Down-Ass White Guy has been offered too lot latitude by his Super-Cool black Friend.

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The pseudo-fraternity of male comedians has been the topic of much scrutiny lately however one angle that’s unable to do under-discussed is the brotherhood the the “edgy” comic. Both Rock and C.K. Are instances of comedians who ended up being famous tackling taboos, and they frequently worked with each other in the vein. The id that the edgy comic could and also should say whatever he desires leads to the defense of some pretty reprehensible things—from Kevin Hart’s homophobic tweets come Rock’s bigoted eastern bits when hosting the Oscars—and that that belief that preserved Rock from acknowledging the racism in his pal C.K.’s infatuation v that word, and it fed Rock’s need to offer him a slap ~ above the earlier for it. His must “express a truth”—as so numerous comics often explain these type of transgressions—has never superseded a higher truth: that a white man can never be a “n---er” in a white male world. And also no black male should ever before let that forget that.

Rock has constantly had glaring remote spots in his comment on race—the sort that frequently come when your contempt for racism is likewise tied to an anti-black filter born of bordering yourself with effective white people. Contact it “the Kanye lens.” because that every minute of biting prescience (“You’d think every when in a while the cops would certainly shoot a white kid simply to do it look good”), there has been one the was staggeringly obtuse (“Black civilization did no protest . Why? Because we had real points to protest in ~ the time. Us were too busy gift raped and also lynched to care around who won ideal cinematography”). And also while structure a job on undeniably topical comedy, Rock, like countless comics that his generation, has presented himself to be an essential of the current wave of society commentary permeating pop culture. When The Federalist wrote that “Tragedy-laced pleas for social activity may be having actually their moment in comedy, yet Jerry Seinfeld and also Comedians In Cars gaining Coffee are, mercifully, not part of it” in reaction to what was explained as “the insufferable wokeness the comedy,” Rock common the write-up with the comment: “Thank God for Jerry.”

For years, his much-derided “Niggas vs black People” little bit from 1995’s Bring the Pain, the HBO special that reinvented Chris absent from second-tier Saturday Night Live­-er right into a superstar, has actually served together a perfect example of what kris Rock gets wrong. That segment emphasize an anti-black contempt the wasn’t unusual among certain quarters of black folks but was no much less troubling in exactly how much that said around who gets looked under upon and why. “It’s choose a civil battle going on with black people and there two sides: there’s black color people and there’s niggas,” Rock said in the routine. “And niggas have obtained to go.”

One that the many galling elements of being roughly The Down-Ass White man is the consistent need because that you, the Super-Cool black color Friend, to let them off the hook. Luigi C.K. And also Chris Rock’s exchange highlights so lot of exactly how racism works—C.K. Wants to be referred to as a “n---er” together a display of false camaraderie the disavows exactly how his race has actually benefited him. Go C.K. Ever before want to be a “n---er” in key meetings with significant studios? walk it also matter come him that not being one is what obtained him come his place of influence in the first place?

The other interesting reaction to the clip has actually been some people’s over-eagerness to single out Jerry Seinfeld together the white male who “gets it.” Yes, Jerry plainly seems to understand the meaning of the word and also why white comics tossing it roughly is a problem; yet a white human understanding the the N-word is past the the pale in comedy is a pretty low bar—especially as soon as said comedian has gone defensive and also tone-deaf in the previous when dubbed out for his own history regarding diversity and race. Seinfeld expertise the heaviness of what was being joked about shouldn’t be celebrated inasmuch as what the various other three men involved in need to be chastised. There was no valor in any kind of of it—only ignorance and also one person’s straightforward recognition of claimed ignorance.

The public is seething over this video now. Chris Rock is without doubt taking the brunt the the criticism—and that’s understandable provided the role he dram in this dubious exchange. However no one need to downplay what luigi C.K.’s statement and stand-up background represent. Black world can’t give white civilization “permission” to use the N-word—we can allow the racism but, make no mistake, any type of white human that needs, wants or seeks “permission” to use it is only trying to find a co-signer come what castle are already comfortable doing. Louis C.K. Claims that word and so go Ricky Gervais. And also they both think it’s funny. Chris Rock should’ve called them out and never initiated this racist conversation. But I nothing think because that a 2nd they would’ve behaved any type of differently had he not even been in the room.