Once again, a Black Comedian proves that the most powerful tool for social change is humor

Barbara Bedont
4 min readMar 5

Chris Rock’s Netflix special is a brilliant critique of American society, of corporate hypocrisy, and of Will Smith’s marriage

Chris Rock performing “Selective Outrage”, Netflix special, Saturday 5 March 2023.

“I know I’m rich,” says Chris Rock, “but I identify as poor. My pronoun is BROKE!”

Although the word “intersectionality” is never mentioned in the 69 minutes of comedy that Rock performed on Saturday night in his Netflix show “Selective Outrage”, this joke is dripping in the ideology. Rock is making the point, through humor, that a white rich person is not the same as a black rich person, and a rich person who grew up poor is not the same as a rich person who grew up rich. The combination of race and class is such that money has a different effect for different people. I’ve sat through hundreds of classes, meetings, and discussions about critical theory and no one has been able to capture intersectionality in such a satisfying way as Mr. Rock.

In the first few minutes of the show, Rock states that he’s going to try to not offend anyone, then, to prove how futile this is, he proceeds to defiantly break this promise over and over again. Rock takes delight in exposing the hypocrisy of those who try to take the moral high ground. “One person does something, they get cancelled. Somebody else does the exact same thing, nothing.” For example, he points out, it’s acceptable to play Michael Jackson songs, but not R. Kelly. “Same crime. Some of them just got better songs.”

This is a valuable contribution to the debate about wokeness. Society has always been more tolerant of the crimes of those who are more popular, who entertain us more or serve our interests in some way. The more dispensable you are to others, the more you will be punished for transgressing society’s moral code. Pointing out the relativity of acceptable behaviour leads to a more nuanced discussion about that code.

Rock also takes aim at corporate hypocrisy. He lambasts Lululemon’s corporate statement that they don’t tolerate racism or hate. “They sell $100 yoga pants. They hate somebody,” he jokes. “They hate the poor.” This is both funny and insightful. Anti-racism has become a marketing strategy but in…

Barbara Bedont

professional trouble-maker, lawyer (not the kind that makes lots of money), writer, activist. I write about current events with a gender and class perspective.