Alex Blaze

Louis CK on being white

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 31, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Louis ck, white privilege

What do you all think about this Louis CK sketch? Adam Serwer observed that "that fear animates a larger part of American racial politics," and Rose at Feministing argues, "C.K. can't celebrate his whiteness without him celebrating the effects his white privilege has on people of color: racism." I have a few thoughts after the jump.

First, I'll just put out there that it's surprising to see a white person in any public capacity recognizing the fact that white privilege exists. Our nation's discourse on race is so messed up on this point, what with the tea baggers dominating news coverage with their conspiracy theories about black people working in various conspiracies to take away what naturally belongs to white people (ACORN voter fraud, Obama birtherism, Shirley Sherrod mentioning that she considered not helping a white farmer, the same-old same-old about Democrats only being elected because black people want social services, as if black votes count less and white people never use social services). Add in the pundits who are also sitting in positions of privilege and treating these crackpots on the right like they're a serious part of the national discourse and liberal folks who (at best) try to appease the racist right fringe or (at worst) actually agree, and you've got little room for saying, yeah, slavery leaves a mark, and white people are still benefiting from that.

Since I first even heard anyone discuss concepts like power and privilege when I turned 18 and went off to college. Coming from a conservative part of the country going to a conservative school with my conservative friends with conservative families and being taught by conservative teachers, that sort of analysis just never happened. Comedy can go places that serious political debates can't, and I wonder if there are other people out there who've never heard the world articulated in quite this way who will stop and think.

Anyway, I'm the worst person out there to judge comedy since the most I ever find funny is bathroom humor and The Daily Show. What do you all think?

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I think the sketch is quite funny - much funnier than the wearying and pedantic Tim Wise who makes similar points, but with such an air of grandstanding and an implicit plea for the Nobel Prize in White Man Saving People of Colour that I often wish he would shut up and go away. I agree with you on this: "Comedy can go places that serious political debates can't, and I wonder if there are other people out there who've never heard the world articulated in quite this way who will stop and think."

Louis CK was interviewed on Fresh Air, if I'm not mistaken about which show I'm thinking of, and he made some similar and incisive points about race and our flaccid discourse on the same. His family's from Mexico, btw, but mostly white Mexicans, and he has a pretty sharp analysis of what that kind of racial identity means in the context of a United States where race falls into, well, black and white categories.

It's smart, trenchant, very funny. Great stuff.

Feministing is completely tone deaf. Does she not know that it's comedy?

I agree with Yasmin. I thought it was funny and it gave me that little uncomfortable pit in the bottom of my stomach that reminds me to think.

Louis CK (and think about the brilliance of that name) does a great job in this of tackling white talk -- oh hell, all racial conversation -- for the inherent fraud it is. And Louis just runs for that taboo and skewers it for all its worth. It's not only straight-up funny but incredibly daring at the same time. He's not some White Supremicist spouting off: he knows exactly what he's saying within the context of telling everyone, "Look, this is what all of you believe about yourselves, right?" Bravo!

I think it's funny and a pretty good commentary on white privilege.

I appreciate deceptively smart comedy. But I think sometimes it's like, you have to be in on the joke. He's obviously not celebrating white privilege...he's being sarcastic.

Regan DuCasse | July 31, 2010 8:58 PM

THIS black woman thinks this guy is funny. His opinion there is honest and I wish more people could discuss race, honestly about who is truly advantaged by it and disadvantaged by it.

Little things, subtler things go unnoticed and cluelessness about those little things are annoying.
For example, when Barack Obama became a serious presidential contender, there were bold faced questions about the choice black people would make because BO was black.

As IF, no white people ever voted (especially since white men have ALWAYS had the vote), for ALL the other Presidents for the same damn reason?

And when the affirmative action issue was debated, why didn't anyone white question the qualifications or merits of advancement of their white competition for ANYTHING?

Those sorts of questioning the motives of black people is in and of itself, if not racist, certainly racially insensitive.
And sometimes folks like me have bitten our tongues a LOT more than we get credit for.

I liked it. It didn't seem put upon or demeaning instead much more like it's an inside joke that he's letting us in on.

I liked it, It was needed. My was a comic and comedy writer through the 70s 80s and 90s. She taught me to use performance for activism and I have as a comic and musician tried to do that.
My favorite was when she helped to create a character for TV who happened to be gay but not the standard stereotypical hollywood/tv homosexual. I means a lot to me that my mom did that but also means a lot that it helped to expand the dialog in its own way.
I feel like it is the duty of those of us who are white for all intents and purposes (I have some African ancestors but you would never guess it until I told you) to speak up on the issues of racism and how it functions in our society. I try to never let that "post racism" crap slide by me without speaking up about it.

bigolpoofter | August 1, 2010 7:52 AM

The dirty truth about what rolls around the minds of white people, regardless of class, sex, gender, or sexuality. We learn it so well from coded messages in our youth, and it takes the rest of our lifetimes to unlearn.

Satire and comedy are often the first scratches at what is, but should be. He's funny and yet in the uncomfortable moments that follow our laughter we learn something.

White men just don't realize the privilege they have; it is taken for granted. It is, to them, unseen, because they've never experienced anything else.

If Louise can kick any of them to think even a little, even for a moment then it is the best form of comedy.

Argggh! It's a mistake. I meant to say "... scratches at what is, but SHOULDN'T be..." I'm so sorry about that.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | August 1, 2010 11:26 AM

Ha! I think this is brilliant.
You're totally right, Alex: comedy can go places, and with more impact, than the tried and true political commentary. But comedy can also walk a fine line between "reclaiming racism" and having the comedic effect colonized, if you will: Dave Chappelle did the same thing as CK, and, sadly, found his humor being used against him.


Um... I grew up in the white old south during the civil rights struggles... I know a lot of the bad jokes and humor that is depreciating of people of color.
Louis CK pointly laughs at himself and his 'white male privilege' that infers such power to him. It’s good to laugh at one self and bring others along for the ride, it’s great when it makes people think.

Loved it! It’s actually very tame but manages to address a serious issue that we Americans hate to address, in a perspective that is humorous. Would love to hear how he addresses the heterosexist perspective.

I think racists find this funny. I thought comedy was where you take something true, and make a commentray on it- in a way thats funny but true.

Just telling me, a black guy, all the shit that I already knew about white privilege is not funny. Its just rubbing it in.

Here's my act: Its great being hung. Glad I dont have a little penis like white guys.

Yeah its hilarious right.

This here is propaganda people. That is how you seperate one group from another. He is basically saying whites are superior, Same mentality during the holocaust. I don't care what no one says, this guy is racist. And one more thing, I'm guessing the audience was not a majority of blacks? just guessing lol