Substitute hosting MSNBC's The Ed Show, Georgtown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson defended comedian Chris Rock's recent lambasting of July 4 as "white people's Independence Day."
Dyson even invoked a quote from 19th century abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass expressing similar sentiments, missing the point that, in modern times, all Americans benefit from America's existence as an independent nation. By contrast, during the years slavery still existed in 19th century, it was more reasonable to complain that actual slaves were not benefiting from independence. Dyson rationalized:
What Chris Rock alluded to is hardly new. In 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth For the Negro." At the outset, he praised the fathers of the republic. "They were statesmen, patriots and heroes. And for the good they did and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory."
But later in the same speech, he addressed the reality of his time. "I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary. Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me."
Guest Dr. James Peterson of LeHigh University praised Rock:
Chris Rock is always abrasive, but he's always sharp, smart and intellectual. And people need to let a comedian be who he is.