Marlon Wayans: Racism is resurgent, but comedy can help

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Part of the reason that I address racism in my comedy is because race is too often seen from a place of hate, and hate breeds fear. Fear creates racism and prejudice. I talk about all those things and try to bring us all together through laughter, because I see it’s starting to spread.

I see the hate and prejudice spreading every day: I see it on the internet, I see it on Twitter, I see when my kids come home from school and they talk about the issues that that are going on today. I think, because of Facebook and Twitter, the seeds of bringing racism back, or bringing supremacy back, are being planted. You have to talk about it; you can’t sweep it under the rug like it doesn’t exist.

We — the older generation — see race more and see color more than our kids do. I have to teach my kids about race, whereas I just grew up knowing racism. But when I look at my children (who are black and Japanese) and I look at their friends, they aren’t just black, or white, or Asian. They’re multi-cultural; they’re mixed kids. They don’t see race as much as we do, until something weird happens to them, and they’ve then experienced racism in some fashion.

There are a lot of things going on in the black community involving police officers, there are a lot problems with our president, there is a lot of bullying going on in the world, and there is a lot of separatism and segregation starting to happen. I like talking about these things because I feel like somebody gotta do it; comedians have a license to go out there and be brave enough to talk about those things.

Still, there are things that bond us all: Art bonds us, music bonds us, movies bond us. When I did “White Chicks,” it wasn’t just white women that went to see the movie: That was black people, that was Asian people, that was everybody. “Black Panther” couldn’t have done $763 million in two weeks because black people went to see the movie. There’s a lot of black people, but that number is because everybody went to see that movie.

I do see another kind of shift happening, even as racism is growing, and you can tell with the audience. I know that, when I do my shows, I look in the crowds, it’s not just a bunch of black faces. There’s women, there’s men, they’re young, they’re old. It’s everybody, even though race is one of my comedy mainstays.

Although race is a divisive topic, what you find is that the laugh is what we all share in common. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye, and you don’t have to agree with what I say, but when you laugh, at least you understand what I’m talking about. For that moment, we’re all feeling that same thing — that elation of laughter. It’s a bonding force.

That’s why, for me, putting smiles on people’s faces is my contribution to the world. Talking about race, and any kind of dark, taboo topic, if I can find a laugh in it, I have fulfilled my God-given purpose here, to make people laugh.

I try to do comedy that appeals to most people. You’re going to get people that are sensitive, you can’t help that, and they may cut out of your stuff early before they get the message. Hopefully, one day they’ll be strong enough to hear about these things. Until then, I just do my jokes.

As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.

Marlon Wayans is a writer, producer, actor, director, comedian and creator. His comedy special, “Woke-ish,” premiered on Netflix on February 27.