Chappelle’s Show Sketch Becomes Historical Reenactment

One (in)famous Chapelle’s Show sketch was about a famous Klansman who, though blind, had written several anti-black books and delivered stirring speeches on record, and only appeared in public with his hood on. The joke? He was black and didn’t know it.

Now comes word that an American fascist leader from the 30s was actually “black.” Though as my girlfriend would point out, this says a lot more about different constructions about who is “white” and “black” than it does about this particular guy.

It should be noted, of course, that not all fascists were necessarily as virulently racist as Hitler’s Nazis or the KKK…but there was probably a lot of crossover, and Dennis was an anti-Semite. Of course, this doesn’t separate him much from aspects of mainstream black American culture. Lots of examples of this kind of oppressed-group-on-oppressed-group hate exist, and there have even been other recent examples of “passing” as the dominant group in order to cast aspersions on the group you don’t want to be associated with.

So, while an interesting tidbit, the tone of “wow look at that crazy racist history” in the Guardian (leaving aside their portrayal of Southern miscegenation laws as “American”) should probably be “look, another example of an established but not much-discussed trend.”

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