Warning: angry generalizations herein because I am pissed.
So, the other night, Dave Chappelle, in conjunction with the Flight of the Conchords and a few other makers-of-mirth, played a show in my capital city, Hartford, at the OddBall Comedy Festival. When heckled, he returned insults and walked off stage. People around here are livid. Here's a clip of said "meltdown."
I do not blame him at all. When he followed up his Hartford show with jibes at my fair state in Chicago, saying he'd like to see Hartford nuked, people around here practically shit their tighty whities.
The truth is: Chappelle isn't wrong. He was performing in front of an audience of mostly white, suburban drunks. That in itself is in no way untrue. How do I know this? I've lived here all my life. I know the people in that audience because I've lived among them for almost 30 years. I can't speak to race here (that's the "almost" in my headline), as I am as white and privileged as the majority of his audience that night. But I can speak to my observations of race relations in Connecticut, and they are the pits.
My boyfriend calls many of our fellow Connecticutitians "fiberals;" folks who will espouse progressive ideals while trying to keep 'those kinds of people' (whatever you'd like that to mean) out of our upper-middle class town. The only African American kids I knew in school were bused in from Hartford. Let me repeat that. The only African American kids I knew in school were bused in from Hartford. And that only came about when I started high school.
Connecticut has one of the world's largest discrepancies between wealthy and poor, and tops the nation's wealth gap, and you bet your ass race plays a part in that. The fiberals, the nationally left-leaning, locally conservative insurance-company denizens, are the kinds who make racist and bigoted jokes when they feel able. (Just today, I overheard a co-worker call Rosh Hashanah "Rush a Homo." People laughed uproariously.*)
And I understand why Chappelle got pissed, livid, even (though the term "meltdown" is downright absurd). He should have been. I've been at several comedy shows where comedians of color are heckled mercilessly, by largely white audiences, and they had no recourse but to throw back a few punches and keep on, because that is their livelihood. Hecklers prevent a person from doing his or her job, which is so often lost on crowds here. But then, so much can be. Crowds in Hartford, and Connecticut, are brutal.
How do I know?
These people are my peers:
They burn things at dippy-hippy Dave Mathews Band Shows. And now tear gas is a regular feature at such gatherings at the Meadows (the same venue Chappelle was playing).
Slate's Aisha Harris does a much better breakdown of this whole Chappelle shitshow than I ever could. But all of these incidents are connected, in one way or another.
Entitlement, especially that timeworn and heady combination of race + wealth, is a heinous beast. And it definitely lives - nay, thrives - in Connecticut, like Smaug atop the pile of jewels.
I'm not sure why I wanted to write this, why I felt compelled to defend Dave Chappelle, he doesn't need me to do so, only that I wanted to confirm to everyone that he's not wrong. And I feel bad for those who would tell him otherwise.
*And I said nothing, because my job is too important to my ability to survive and am I but a temp. That doesn't make this okay; and I feel like shit about my inaction.