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Dave Chappelle Calls Students Who Criticized His Transphobia 'Instruments' Of 'Oppression'—And Huh?

Dave Chappelle Calls Students Who Criticized His Transphobia 'Instruments' Of 'Oppression'—And Huh?
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Comedian Dave Chappelle's newest release on Netflix has once again put him at the center of controversy over his jokes and comments about trans people and transphobia.

In his latest Netflix special, What's In a Name, Chappelle details an incident that occurred at a ceremony to name the new theater at the high school he graduated from, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts' in Washington DC, after him.

During the event, Chappelle detailed being called a "bigot" by some of the school's students because of the transphobic jokes he has made in his Netflix specials, especially last year's The Closer.

Chappelle called them "instruments of oppression."

When the naming plan was announced last October, Chappelle called it "the most significant honor of my life."

But he has since declined the honor due to the criticisms he has received from students because of his now-infamous special The Closer, in which he made several jokes about trans people and classified himself as "team TERF"—or "Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist," a name for transphobic feminists who reject trans women's gender identity.

The controversy over the special resulted in resignations and walkouts by Netflix employees and heated criticism by many of Chappelle's colleagues.

Students at Duke Ellington also threatened a walkout over their school's theater being named after Chappelle, a response he has said "sincerely hurt" him.

In What's In a Name Chappelle details the conversation he had with some students who were offended by his work.

"I said to the kids, I go, ‘well, OK, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’"
"And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender, and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art..."
"...[T[hese kids didn't understand that they were instruments of oppression."

Chappelle went on to claim the criticisms about his jokes take his words out of context.

“[I]t would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man shot in the face by a six-foot rabbit expected to survive.'"
"You’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they never tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon."

He went on to double down on his jokes even further, chalking them up to an exercise of his right to free speech.

"The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it."

For critics of Chappelle On Twitter, his words only served to reignite the already simmering anger about his transphobia.

Despite the controversy, Chappelle has a number of forthcoming projects at Netflix