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ken_bw.jpg Ethicalego Speaks

Ethicalego (Kenneth Brooks) discusses current events from a critical thinking perspective rarely expressed elsewhere


Chris Rock’s Independence Day remark offensive or critical thinking?

By Kenneth Brooks



"Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks." A San Francisco Examiner article reported this remark by comedian Chris Rock in a tweet about the Independence Day celebration and negative reaction to it. Most responses I read were negative with many of them calling the remark racist.

Chris Rock gained national acclaim for his humor as a former cast member of "Saturday Night Live" television comedy. Remarks about society that defy social expectations of conformity to set values have been a characteristic of his humor. Let us analyze the basis for the controversy to see if the facts justify the objections to his remarks.

The Independence Day celebration on July 4 honors the goals of the Declaration of Independence of self-determination for Americans. In addition, it honors historic figures like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Hancock that helped write and helped gain approval for the declaration. Nobody can dispute this assertion based on fact. We do not hear people associating leaders of this era like President Barrack Obama, or former presidents George W. Bush and William J Clinton with the celebration.

Chris Rock is correct only white-labeled Americans had reasons to celebrate when Congress approved the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776 and not black-labeled people still enslaved after its approval. The men that wrote and approved the Declaration of Independence mostly were enslavers of black-labeled people. Those enslavers did not intend to include the people they enslaved under the declaration's umbrella of freedom. Freedom day for black-labeled Americans was December 6, 1865 when the States approved and adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Chris Rock only reported an obvious fact. His enslaved ancestors did not gain freedom or self-determination from the Declaration of Independence. They did not find its approval a joyful occasion. Therefore, people did not have a rational reason to resent Chris Rock's statement of fact or to characterize it racist.

Someone could rightly criticize Rock for generalizing happiness about Independence Day to all white-labeled people. He could have reflected about women's feelings on Independence Day. "Happy white males' Independence Day, the women weren't free to take part in government, but I'm sure the enjoyed the fireworks."

On the other hand, he could have reflected on the disenfranchised white-labeled males that did not own property. "Happy white male property owners' Independence Day, the white males without property weren't free to take part in government, but I'm sure they enjoyed the fireworks."

Critics' attacks on Chris Rock's Independence Day remarks are attacks on Higher Order Thinking skills that challenge their fixed beliefs and values. Perhaps they do not see the connection. In contrast, the Texas Republican Party saw the connection between Higher Order Thinking Skills as reasoning that challenges fixed beliefs and values. It included the following plank in the 2012 to 2014 platform.

"We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

The Texas Republican Party is correct the inclination and ability to examine or challenge fixed beliefs and values are fundamental traits of Higher Order Thinking. Fixed beliefs and fixed values limit Americans' ability to reason about their government. This is why many political leaders oppose their constituents learning critical thinking skills.

Rock's remark challenges the common belief the nation's founders intended to secure self-determination for all people in America by approving the Declaration of Independence. In addition, he challenged the fixed belief of the founders as models of virtue above criticism and its extension that material wealth and position of power indicate someone's high moral standards.

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