Comedian-Activist Speaks Out

On Tuesday, February 17, world-renowned comedian, writer and social activist Dick Gregory spoke in Love Auditorium. The event was sponsored by Brothers, a group of Colgate students devoted to promoting awareness of issues concerning multicultural males both on and off campus.

Gregory got his start performing stand-up comedy in the Army in the late 1950s and continued performing in small nightclubs with predominantly African-American clienteles. After being hired by Hugh Hefner to perform at the Chicago Playboy Club in 1961, Gregory became well-known to white audiences as well and eventually became a regular on late night television talk shows.

In 1964, he published his autobiography, entitled Nigger, and began getting involved in the promotion of civil rights and other social issues such as economic reform and the war on drugs. Gregory has continued to use his fame and persona toward creating a better world, blending comedy and spirited social criticism to expose the hypocrisy of the American system.

Gregory’s discussion on Tuesday focused primarily on the manner in which the American system manipulates the vast majority of the population into cooperating with those on top, as well as the failure of the American press to truly inform the public of what’s really going on.

“If this democracy we’ve got is so great, why do we have to run around the world shoving it down other people’s with a gun?” Gregory asked.

At multiple points throughout the speech, he had audience members stand up and read headlines from major newspapers such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, afterwards adding his own perspective on them, or inserting facts that ought to have been included but weren’t. Perhaps most disturbing was his presentation of the recent plane crash in Buffalo, in which he implied that the crash may have been a bit too convenient to have been accident, particularly given that Beverly Eckert, one of the passengers on board, had only two days earlier requested that the investigation regarding her husband’s death in the 9/11 attacks be re-opened.

“When was the last time you saw a pilot aim a plane downwards when he thought he was about to crash?” Gregory asked.

His speech also included hilarious and biting observations on the absurdity of many long-held American beliefs, such as Columbus Day.

“How can you discover a country when there’s already people there? If that’s how it is, I could go out into the parking lot right now and discover your car, with you in it. I’ll get in the back seat and we’ll have Thanksgiving.”

Gregory also discussed capital punishment.

“You Christians out there weep for Jesus being put to death on the cross, and then vote for capital punishment every year. Don’t you know that Jesus was put to death by the state?”

Although Gregory is generally associated with black activism, his speech made it clear that African-Americans aren’t the only ones falling victim to the American system.

“White’s not a color, it’s an attitude,” said Gregory. “And if you ain’t got three billion dollars in the bank that you don’t even want to use, you can’t have that attitude. Some of you people might think you’re white, but you’re actually just light-inflected niggers.”