After months of silence, comedian Chris Rock has come to the defense of late-night host Jimmy Fallon for doing an impersonation of him in blackface in the early-2000s.
In May, the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty began trending on Twitter when the clip of his SNL sketch from 2000 went viral. After enough backlash, he addressed the social media outrage with an apology, saying he made a “terrible decision” while thanking everyone for holding him “accountable.”
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface,” Fallon tweeted. “There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this.
I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) May 26, 2020
Speaking with The New York Times, Rock said that he was never offended by Fallon’s impersonation and that Fallon never intended to hurt anyone — though Rock did concede that “blackface ain’t cool”
“Hey, man, I’m friends with Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy,” he told the outlet. “And he didn’t mean anything. A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t.”
On top of his Twitter apology, Fallon also told viewers of his show in June that he felt it was necessary for him to speak out.
“I had to really examine myself in the mirror this week because a story came out about me on ‘SNL,’ doing an impression of Chris Rock in blackface,” Fallon said in June, as reported by Fox News.
“Not at the fact that people were trying to cancel me, or cancel the show – which is scary enough – but the thing that haunted me the most was how do I say, ‘I love this person, I respect this guy more than I respect most humans, I am not a racist, I don’t feel this way,'” he continued. “And instead, what I kept getting advised was to just stay quiet and to not say anything. And that’s the advice because we’re all afraid.”
“I realized that the silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me, and the rest of us, are doing,” he concluded.
Some people on Twitter did come to Fallon’s defense, saying that he should not be made to apologize for a 20-year-old comedic sketch.
“It’s sad that a comedian that has done nothing but give back to his community has to apologize for a skit that was written by someone else 20 years ago,” said one user.
“Mannnnnnnnnnn that was 20 years ago, ask Chris Rock what he thinks about it and that should be the level to gauge the outrage, okay other white people?” said comedian Dave Weasel. “People should seek Fallon’s intent here. Was he meaning to be racist or was it a silly impression? There are real racial injustices RIGHT NOW to point the pitchforks at, that’s all I’m saying. Okay, other white people?”
Jimmy Fallon is hardly the first comedian to do blackface; Billy Crystal, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Kimmel, and Robert Downey Jr. have all performed in blackface for one artistic reason or another.
On the flipside, whiteface has been performed by Eddie Murphy, Donald Glover, and the Wayans Brothers.
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