Chris Rock’s Culturally Competent Jokes
Trill or Not Trill?


Some were waiting to see if Leo would finally take home an Oscar. Others boycotted completely. I, like many of my friends,simply wanted to see Chris Rock’s monologue. We knew it would be edgy yet brilliant; which I thought it was. It was certain to be borderline offensive;which some thought it was. I was awaiting a hilarious leadership moment; which I somewhat got. He trivialized current activism and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Jada Pinkett Smith ether he delivered either. With that said, there were some insane expectations placed upon Rock and he didn’t always deliver but he certainly opened up a dialogue on cultural competence. Through some of his jokes, we can now keep some important conversations going.

There are a number of cultural competence models out there. I’m going to take this moment to introduce the Trill or Not Trill Cultural Competency Model and we’ll be using it to dissect some of Chris Rock’s opening monologue.

  1. It Ain’t Easy, Baby!
    This can’t be an easy process. If you are not prepared to ask the questions that nobody else will, you won’t discover growth. Put yourself in the fire and don’t be afraid to burn a little. It’ll totally be worth it. Pushing the envelope through the use of questions will get you the answers we all seek.

2.  It’s Not Just You It’s Me
This is where one must realize how many different people are involved in the conversation about being cultural competent. One must look in the mirror and see where they fit in, within the dialogue. What role do you play? It could be from an oppressive voice or an oppressed one. You must also understand that you are likely not the only one suffering. There are other, marginalized voices that aren’t being heard. As you listen to your voice, you must be listening to others who are facing similar issues. Self assessment is a major component to this space.

3. Any Day could Be Throwback Thursday
This means it’s important to understand the historical context of cultural differences. One must be prepared to recognize the significance of the past. Those actions that happened before us, helped shape the perception of cultures throughout the world. The same mistakes can’t constantly occur because you won’t look at what happened already.

4. Meet Me Outside
Cultural might be the most important part of cultural competence. One has to be ready to meet people, even if it’s outside of their comfort zone. It’s not always going to fun and simple.

Now on to the jokes…

When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short.
Cultural Competence Model: Any Day Could Be Throwback Thursday
Explanation: According to the Chestnutt archive, from 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched. This is a huge number that certainly doesn’t account for the countless unreported lynchings. Might not be funny, but now you know. There were some who felt this joke went too far.  Nobody should be laughing about such horrific times. The tragicomic is able point to at ugly times in humor and Rick did that here. People were uncomfortable in this space of historical truth. To truly reach levels of competence, one must be prepared to understand where things came from.

That’s right. Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to.
Cultural Competence Model: Ask the Uneasy Question
Explanation: Everyone in the theater knew the answer to that question. Alejandro Innaritu knew it as did Emily Blunt. The people watching at home and boycotting knew it too. The question needed to be asked, as it was an elephant in the room. The answer was just as important. You have to approach these issues head on with tough inquiries that will ultimately lead to more challenging answers. When Rock said, it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to, he opened another door to a conversation about racial disparities within Hollywood. It’s deeper than just asking, it’s about finding answers.

You don’t have to separate ‘em. You know, Robert De Niro’s never said, “I better slow this acting down, so Meryl Streep can catch up.”
Cultural Competence Model: It’s Not Just You, It’s Me.
Explanation: Just when you thought race was the only problem, Chris Rock hit us with this joke. Hollywood isn’t just racist, it’s sexist too. He is pointing out the invisible sexism that goes beyond the screen and into the boardrooms and wages. We have to wear the hats of all those who are treated unfairly.  Later in the show conversations about indigenous people and other marginalized groups were discussed.  Joe Biden talked about abused men and women. There’s struggle happening everywhere and we must prepared to walk that walk wherever it takes u.

“It’s not about boycotting anything. We just want opportunities. Black actors want the same opportunities.”
Cultural Competence Model: Meet Me Outside
Explanation: It’s really simple; to truly gain a grasp of culture, one must immerse themselves in other cultures. Boycotting is important in my eyes. It’s a necessary part of protest. Hollywood should recognize that people aren’t being treated fairly. They should also know that the best way to address it, is to meet us outside. Come meet the Black, Asian, LatinX outside and see what’s real.rock opportunity



jeff trill

Stay trill, folks.

MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 4 books of poetry, including his latest, Deconstructing Ratchet. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at