Comedian Dave Chappelle, known for his work on The Chappelle Show and numerous stand-up specials, has been in hot water since the release of his most recent Netflix special. Chappelle's "Team TERF" comments defending prominent transphobes and jokes about trans women's genitalia.
In an internal corporate memo, Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos informed employees the special would remain on the streaming platform, because "our members enjoy it, and it's an important part of our content offering."
While Netflix isn't holding Chappelle accountable for his comments, other institutions—such as Chappelle's former alma mater—took a stand against the comedian.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts, located in the Georgetown area of Washington DC, is well known as one of the few art schools that serves a predominantly Black student body.
The school announced a fundraising event and plan to rename the school's theater after Chappelle, who is arguably their most famous former student. The renaming of the theater was scheduled to take place on November 23, 2021.
Chappelle was one of Ellington's most beloved alums not just because of his post-graduate fame, but because he also regularly raised money for the school.
Chappelle was touched by the school's gesture to rename the theater in his name, calling it "the most significant honor of my life."
"I've been honored many ways, many times. This means the most."
In fact, Chappelle holds his alma mater so close to his heart he even once commented the school "saved his life."
"I used to skip school. I would hide in there when I was skipping class. Who would have thought that that theater would one day be named after me?"
"But I understand it because sometimes when you love things, they love you back. And I loved that school."
After the backlash over Chappelle's transphobic comments, however, the school canceled the event.
The reason for the cancelation was because the student body, many of whom identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, took a stand against Chappelle in the wake of his transphobic rhetoric.
The students made it clear Chappelle was not welcome on campus and even threatened to stage a walkout if the school allowed Chappelle on the premises.
Some Twitter users applauded the student body for holding Chappelle accountable...
...while others came to Chappelle's defense.
Chappelle's comments in the special included him declaring himself "Team TERF"—a transphobic acronym meaning "trans-exclusive radical feminist"—and likening transgender women to wearing blackface.
Chappelle has since made comments he would be willing to start a discussion with transgender representatives over his comments, but noted he wouldn't allow himself to be "summoned" by the community.
On Friday, the school reversed their position. They rescheduled the event—originally set for November 23, 2021—to April 22, 2022.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts said in an official statement on Friday, November 12:
"Using Chappelle's latest works as the impetus, we have expanded our Social Studies curriculum to include content related to political activism, civic engagement, arts activism, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality."
"Our objective is to uplift conversations around artistic freedom and artistic responsibility."
"We recognize that not everyone will accept or welcome a particular artist's point of view … but reject the notion that a 'cancel culture' is a healthy or constructive means to teach our students how society should balance creative freedom with protecting the right and dignity of all of its members."