Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones: On Patriarchy, Cancel Culture and Dave Chappelle

Max S. Gordon
44 min readSep 10, 2019
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by Max S. Gordon

“Whole lot of things you’ve yet to understand. But instead of measuring the distance between your little-boy understanding and big-boy wisdom, you standing there plotting how to get past me. You so scarce in understanding, you think you can get past your own flesh and blood.”

— Toni Cade Bambara, These Bones Are Not My Child

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What I was looking for was a way to quiet my mind, a reason to laugh in these troubled times. So, I turned on Netflix to watch Dave Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones. While I’ll admit I haven’t seen everything Chappelle has done, I consider myself a fan; I appreciate that he is a master. The great stand-up comics give you the impression that they are up there just talking. And they make their personalities felt; if a comedian does his job right, you talk about “Dave Chappelle” the way you talk about “Seinfeld”, with great affection, as if he were someone you went to high school with, or a friend you are meeting for dinner next week.

And because Dave Chappelle very publicly walked away from the industry at a high point in his career, there is the presumption of a deep personal and professional integrity. We may assume because of his choices — and it’s not easy to walk away from money in America — that Chappelle, both as a man and an artist, is free. This freedom gives him the reputation of being a performer who says whatever the hell he wants, which can be exhilarating for an audience.

Many of us feel we are bound to silence because of issues related to money and survival. In some cases, we may even fear physical harm if we tell people in our lives what we really think. The black artist who speaks her mind in America is dangerous (and often in danger.) While comedy helps soften the blow, the truth is the truth, and stand-up comics are some of the most influential artists in our society; and, at times, the most courageous. Richard Pryor burned himself up for it, Lenny Bruce went to jail for it. I’ve appreciated some of Chappelle’s insights in the past and I wanted to hear what he had to say.

It was good to see him; Dave Chappelle has a particular gift rare in comics — he is…

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Max S. Gordon

Max S. Gordon is a writer and activist. His work has appeared in on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally. Follow Max on twitter:@maxgordon19