Dave Chappelle, Alternative Facts, and the Reinforcement of Racist Ideas

Curator's Note

In 2003, Dave Chappelle released a daring sketch comedy on the Chapelle Show titled, “The Black White Supremacist”. It shows a Black blind man that has grown up believing he was a White man. He turns becomes a White supremacist and speaks anti-Black profanity while thinking he is a White man.

The sketch comedy shows the unfortunate reality of “truth”: truth is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it. Once someone believes that something is “true” they will take all action to prove its validity by rationalizing their decisions and readjusting data to fit their personal belief. This ego-defensive strategy leads to “alternative facts”, which are used to defend government policies that reinforce inaccuracies.

“The Black White Supremacist” eventually expresses what he believed to be the White value-expressive attitude and aligned himself with the beliefs and behaviors he thought would support his personal belief of White superiority. Even once he realized the truth of his identity, he used ego-defensive strategies to protect himself from acknowledging the basic truth.

Ego-defensive strategies creating “Alternative Facts” is not a new phenomenon. I mean, multiple alternative facts did allow the murderers of Emmett Till to go free in 1955. Alternative facts have been used throughout the history of our country to justify political and economic self-interests. Unfortunately, alternative facts often hinder minorities and seek to boost the ego of the majority. Like, when Vice President Mike Pence posted on February 2 a tweet in celebration of Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves with the 13th amendment, which revels the alternative facts about the “freedoms” provided in the 13th Amendment to boost the ego of the majority during a month that celebrates the minority.

Therefore, while much of America coins the 21st century as the “post-truth era”, for many minorities this is nothing new and the Internet has just made alternative facts more evident to other groups. To rectify the idea that post-truth is new, rhetorical scholars should research and understand the policies that govern America and distill the “alternative facts” by which those policies are founded and continuously supported. Rhetoricians studying argumentation can specifically ask the question – “Is the basis of this argument’s defense in a self-interested belief reinforced by alternative facts?” In this way rhetoricians, can help in unveiling the “alternative facts” politicians use to support their exigence.

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