In a revealing interview with New York's Frank Rich, Chris Rock talks Bill Cosby, the president, and what "racial progress" really means in America today. When asked how he'd cover the ongoing crisis in Ferguson as a journalist, Rock suggests, "I'd do a special on race, but I'd have no black people."
Rock explains that he'd interview only white people in Missouri. "We know how black people feel about Ferguson—outraged, upset, cheated by the system, all these things." He continues:
Here's the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it's all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they're not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.
RICH: Right. It's ridiculous.
ROCK: So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he's the first black person that is qualified to be president. That's not black progress. That's white progress. There's been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship's improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, "Oh, he stopped punching her in the face." It's not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner's relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn't. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let's hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
So "it's about white people adjusting to a new reality?" Rich asks. "Owning their actions," Rock explains. "Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it's unfair that you can get judged by something you didn't do, but it's also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn't work for."
Rock goes on to point out the weirdness of being a "rich black guy" to show racism isn't over:
I don't think I've had any meetings with black film execs. Maybe one. It is what it is. As I told Bill Murray, Lost in Translation is a black movie: That's what it feels like to be black and rich. Not in the sense that people are being mean to you. Bill Murray's in Tokyo, and it's just weird. He seems kind of isolated. He's always around Japanese people. Look at me right now.
RICH: We're sitting on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park.
ROCK: And there's only really one black person here who's not working. Bill Murray in Lost in Translation is what Bryant Gumble experiences every day. Or Al Roker. Rich black guys. It's a little off.
But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it's a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You've got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it's immune to and what breaks it down.
Earlier in the interview, Rock touches on Obama's legacy—"Everybody wanted Michael Jordan, right? We got Shaq. That's not a disappointment"—and addresses the multiple women who've accused Bill Cosby of rape. "I don't know what to say. What do you say? I hope it's not true," Rock says. "That's all you can say. I really do. I grew up on Cosby. I love Cosby, and I just hope it's not true. It's a weird year for comedy. We lost Robin, we lost Joan, and we kind of lost Cosby."