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Professor P

ENGL 101

15 November 2018

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle is one of the most famous comedians to ever live and has used his

spotlight for positive growth. He was born in Washington D.C and is recognized in many

comedy movies but mainly for his stand up comedy specials. Almost 2 decades ago in 2000 at

the Lincoln Theatre in Washington D.C, Chappelle performed his stand up special “Killin Them

Softly”. He used his comedic talents to highlight numerous differences between an African

American’s life and a Caucasian's life, depicting obstacles African Americans have to deal with.

Chappelle tells stories that include spot-on impersonations that focus on African American’s

while allowing a moment for himself to display the more significant meaning behind his bits.

During the early 20th century, a practice of redlining was implemented which impacted many

minorities lives in a negative way. During the special “Killin Them Softly”, Chappelle describes

many extraordinary stories and the hardships in an African Americans daily life that represent

how the redlining crisis heightened the disenfranchisement of African Americans.

The effects of redlining are still in play to this very day; however, it has been overlooked

because now people have jobs that are helping to increase the standard of living across the world.

Redlining is a term that simplifies the wrongdoings of the government and countless banks that

sanctioned off areas for African Americans to live in. These areas tended to be the houses or

apartments with the most basic living essentials possible and were not up to code standards. The

reason it is called redlining is because on maps where minorities, specifically African


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Americans, lived would be outlined in red. This showed where the more ‘dangerous’ areas were

located. It started in the 1930’s and continued to take place because of federal organizations such

as The Home Owners Loan Corporation, and the Federal Housing Authority. These

organizations rejected African Americans to acquire loans which destroyed their ability to

expand their company or better themselves for a new home or apartment. It was stated by Martha

Mahoney in the chapter Residential Segregation and White Privilege “These programs refused to

lend money to blacks.” and further added, “the HOLC and the FHA actually refused to lend

money or underwrite loans for whites if whites moved to areas where people of color lived”

(MAHONEY 273-275). The refusal to lend money to a specified race is completely unethical

and immoral. However, during this time, the federal organizations found a way to implement a

social separation between the races. The threats to stop giving out loans to white people for

living in a neighborhood containing African Americans was ultimately a discreet way of

implementing segregation. This threat from banks created a massive movement of white families

to only buy in neighborhoods of whites and to turn away from communities that may have a

couple of African American families. The real estate companies did their very best to convince

white families to sell their homes and move to different communities that were advertised as

white only.

This redlining tactic was effective in creating segregation amongst African Americans

and whites in residential housing. Adding to the outrageous acts of malpractice, it was written in

the journal How Banks Color Community Development “these decisions were often based on

subjective perceptions--bankers’ views of certain neighborhoods as risky--rather than on

objective reality. Stable working-class families, for example, were denied for home improvement

loans, despite their ability to pay. Small businesses were unable to obtain loans to start or expand
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their operation despite evidence of consumer demand for their products and services” (DREIER,

PETER). No person or group should have the power to deprive an entire race of self-

improvement by not being able to receive investments for housing or career benefits. The applied

tag to these African American communities of being dangerous or risky was not factual

statements but a strategy from banks to get more business from whites when they would move in

and out of communities. It also allowed the banks to control where African Americans would be

living because of their power to dish out loans whenever they would like. Another outcome of

redlining was a high concentration of African Americans moving into overloaded apartment

buildings in big cities. These apartments generally were rundown and unsuitable to live but the

federal organizations still decided to pack as many families as they could in. The apartments

were in locations that had a high unemployment rate which placed the families living in there

with a challenging financial situation.

The last main negative outcome of redlining came from the increased patrol from police

officers around places of concentrated African Americans. Even though African Americans did

not choose to be in a segregated community, they were considered aggressive’ by the public and

were intensely monitored by the police. As the public view of these communities was false, the

police were not put in place to protect and serve the residents of the apartments but to enforce the

law on the African American race on a microscopic level. This brutal enforcement of the law by

the government instilled fear of the police force that many African Americans still see as true

today. African Americans have created a fear of police based on many cases of false accusations

or police brutality and that has stemmed from the creation of redlining and dangerous African

American neighborhoods.
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This in part is an indirect result of redlining, and it is an example of how negative

stereotypes of people of color continue to be a part of our culture. Redlining resulted in an

increased number police officers in the areas with high volumes of Black people. Due to the

coercive nature of redlining, tension increased between the Black citizens and the police officers,

and the situation further perpetuated stereotypes on both sides. Chappelle’s special addresses

these issues and how contemporary police brutality exists today. Although Chapelle doesn’t

specifically mention redlining, his special focuses on issue that stem from that, since the impact

is still evident in modern-day society.

In the special “Killin Them Softly”, Chappelle has been a positive impact on the growth

of African American rights. He is a valuable activist by being able to put forth support for the

equality of African Americans on display not only in his free time but during his time at work,

up on stage. A comedian will generally not take too much time to explain a joke or even be

serious for a moment, but Chappelle is able to pause and drive home the more significant

message. For example, he states, “So black people are very afraid of the police, that is a big part

of our culture, it don’t matter how rich you are, how old you are... we’re just afraid of them. We

got every reason to be afraid of them” (3:40-3:55). Chappelle is describing the belief how all

African Americans hold this belief, contain no matter who they are within the African American

community, and he continues to tell the story of an officer pulling up to his left at a stop light. He

says “It may not be a big deal for you but I ******* fall apart, Oh! Don’t look over there, nuh

uh” (4:55-5:07). Chappelle portrays how his fear increases as an officer drove up near him,

creating a panic for an African American but to a white person that would be nothing out of the

ordinary. Chappelle expands on his statement about how it is only African Americans who

obtain this cultural trait of being afraid of the police. However, Chappelle never knew this until
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he reflected on personal stories about him and his white friend Chip from New York City who is

extremely nonchalant especially when around the presence of an officer. The first story about

Chip and Dave, they were smoking a joint in New York City and got lost. Chip decides it is a

great idea to poke a cop a bunch of times to find out directions, and even showing his arrogance

by confessing to smoking reefer. After Chip found out directions and walked away like no big

deal, Dave being an African American, demonstrated his fear on stage by saying “Now, I know

that is not amazing to some of you, but if you ask one of these black fellows, that shit is fucking

incredible isn’t it (6:54-7:05). Chappelle is mind blown about the idea of talking to the cops

when high, but because Chip is white he is able to get away with it, even in front of the cops.

Another quick story about Chip to show the inequality of law enforcement is when Chip decided

to drive while drunk and then decided to race a car who pulled up next to them. They were

eventually pulled over by an officer and the best excuse Chip could have come up with was

“Sorry Officer, I didn’t know I couldn't do that” (9:40-10:02). This is the perfect representation

of how African Americans and whites are viewed and treated differently amongst police officers.

Chip is given the benefit of the doubt because he is white, whereas a Black person may feel far

more uncomfortable and likely would be treated more unfairly.

From the beginning of redlining, it has affected each and every African American

member of the community whether they were actually placed into lousy residence areas or not.

The negative effects of redlining are still all around the United States, mainly in the lack of

protection law enforcement provides African Americans. It has been hard for African Americans

to improve equality for all, but for too long, redlining has brought a burden that white people do

not understand because they did not go through the pain rather than give it out. Dave Chappelle

has done an outstanding job in his stand up, “Killin Them Softly” by joking about critical topics
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that happen in daily African American’s lives in order to bring public attention to problems we

have to fix in this world.

MAHONEY, MARTHA R. “Residential Segregation and White Privilege.” Critical White Studies,
edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Temple University Press, 1997, pp. 273–275.
JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1bw1kc5.60.

DREIER, PETER. “Redlining Cities: How Banks Color Community Development.” Challenge,
vol. 34, no. 6, 1991, pp. 15–23. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40721297.