Washington’s own Dave Chappelle, lately much in the news, needs to be careful. If he continues reasonably responding to his critics, he’s going to find himself transformed from a successful comedian to a first amendment superhero.
It’s probably not a role he covets. But the degree to which political correctness is out of control has forced the issue. The progressive practice of making mountains out of rhetorical molehills to enhance the victim status of this or that group has put entertainers and sports figures and other cultural icons in the left’s crosshairs in ways that will force them to eventually, as a memorable advertising campaign once put it, fight or switch.
The latest kerfuffle revolves around DC’s Duke Ellington Schools for the Arts’ announcement it would rename its theater after the comedian who at one time was a student there. Predictably, this set off a backlash among students who think Mr. Chappelle’s latest work is somehow a symphony in transphobia.
They pushed back and, to his credit, Mr. Chappelle responded to the uproar with a degree of creativity others could helpfully emulate. He didn’t cower. He didn’t bluster. What he did was challenge his admirers as well as his critics to voice their opinion on the renaming of the theater, which was not his idea, accompanied by a donation to the school.
“Whichever opinion donates the highest collective amount, wins. If by April, those against the ‘Chappelle’ theater exceed the donations of those who are neutral or in favor of the theater being named ‘Chappelle,” I will gladly stand aside. If not, I will happily attend the naming ceremony. And if you don’t care enough to donate … please shut the f-k up, forever,” the comedian wrote on Instagram.
It’s been a while since an entertainment industry figure challenged the PC crowd to put up or shut up like that, or in any way. That Mr. Chappelle’s response was mostly civil while directing financial support to the school is the cherry on top of the sundae.
School officials have said they’re going ahead with the renaming regardless of how the contest turns out. That’s to their credit as well. It’s well past time administrators and educators stopped caving to student demands that schools be a safe space instead of a place where rigorous intellectual debate occurs and presumptions are challenged.
To those who’ve missed it, that’s a critical part of the process we used to call “learning.” If no one is willing to learn, what’s the point of schools? Moreover, its time the nation’s student population learned a couple of other essential points, like how “being heard” doesn’t come with a guaranteed outcome. Or that civility matters, and that the right to not hear anything that offends you doesn’t exist while the right of others to express their views on issues is just as important as yours.
It’s a long way from here to there, but Mr. Chappelle’s pointing the way.
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