Chris Rock is coming under fire for an Instagram post invoking Betty White in response to a recent spate of mass shootings, with some critics accusing the comedian of racism for sharing the meme to his 3.4 million followers.
Rock took to Instagram on Wednesday to share a post that showed the caption “The first thing people say when a mass shooting is announced” with a picture of actress Betty White underneath (meant to be read as “Bet-He white”). The post drew an immediate reaction, with some saying that the post was racist.
“If a white person posted this about black people their career would be over but when it’s the other way around nobody gives two sh**s,” one person wrote. “You can’t fight racism with racism you’re just contributing to the problem.”
Others saw the post as insensitive given the number of people killed in recent mass shootings. Over the weekend, there were two random attacks in a span of 13 hours, with an attack at a Walmart shopping plaza in El Paso claiming 22 lives and another attack hours later in downtown Dayton claiming nine more lives, including the person identified by police as the shooter. Both perpetrators were white, as was another suspected shooter from a mass shooting in Northern California less than a week before the weekend’s pair of mass shootings.
While police in Dayton are still determining a motive for the attack, authorities in El Paso said that shooting is being investigated as a potential hate crime after a manifesto appeared online claiming that the attack was in reaction to a “Hispanic invasion” and echoing arguments used by white supremacist groups.
Chris Rock has made several posts referencing racial disparities in the treatment of criminals, including others pointing out that the suspected El Paso shooter was apprehended safely and carefully by police while men of color who are unarmed and have committed no crimes have been killed by police.
Chris Rock has never shied away from taking to social media to make racial observations, much as he has done in his stand-up comedy. Back in 2012, he drew criticism by taking to Twitter to wish people a “happy white peoples independence day.” As CBS New York reported, many responded negatively to the tweet and accused the comedian of being racially insensitive. But others pointed out that Rock was correct, as it would be close to a century after America’s Independence Day that black people would be freed from slavery.