Daily Distraction: Read Saeed Jones on Dave Chappelle

The Columbus poet and essayist reflects on the damage done by the comedian's most recent Netflix special

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Dave Chappelle.

In his new Netflix comedy special "The Closer," Dave Chappelle delivers a series of transphobic remarks, continuing a pattern for the standup, who has long drawn the ire of LGBTQ groups for some of his material. In "The Closer," for instance, Chappelle positions himself on "Team TERF" alongside J.K. Rowling and declares that "gender is a fact."

In the days after the special's release, Terra Field, a transgender Netflix software engineer, posted a thoughtful criticism of Chappelle's words and their potential for damage in a Twitter post that soon went viral.

Earlier this week, Netflix suspended Field, along with two other employees, though the streaming giant said the suspension had nothing to do with the posts made by Field to social media.

"It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show," a company spokesperson said. "Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly, and we support their right to do so."

Amid all of this, a number of writers have weighed in on the situation, perhaps none more thoughtfully than Columbus poet and essayist Saeed Jones, who wrote about the sense of betrayal he felt in a new piece for GQ.

"Watching Chappelle contort himself to justify ashy ideas about gender, queerness and identity is harrowing, because the only thing more brutal than someone saying hurtful shit is someone saying hurtful shit moments after making you laugh, moments after cracking you up in a way that’s both fun and deeply needed, moments after making you feel like you all got free together," writes Jones, who turned the special off not long after Chappelle labeled gender a fact. (The essayist did read the entirety of "The Closer" transcript online, however, so save your angry DMs.) "America has only gotten better at trying to kill me. Laughter is no joke, which makes the betrayal, years in the making at this point, all the more devastating. I feel like a fool to have rooted for Dave Chappelle for so long. Things were easier when the men who wanted to hurt me just said so at the jump."

Definitely take some time to read the whole thing here.