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Dave Chappelle

Source: Lester Cohen / Courtesy of Netflix

No matter how one feels about comedy icon Dave Chappelle and his latest Netflix stand-up special The Closer, there’s one thing objective people should be able to agree on from both a business and human standpoint: The response to the backlash by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos was trash.

As previously reported, when viewers called The Closer out for transphobic and otherwise derogatory remarks made by Chappelle, and many were demanding the special be pulled from the platform, Sarandos sent out an internal memo to Netflix employees stating that “We don’t allow titles (on) Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.”

“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries,” the memo continued. He also told his employees, boldly, that The Closer does not “directly translate to real-world harm.”

Here’s the part where readers need to be reminded that Sarandos is a straight, cisgender white man and is in no position to tell people from any marginalized group was does or doesn’t “directly translate to real-world harm”—because, how TF would he know? Who the hell is he to tell people who have their own lived experiences that they’re having a difficult time “distinguishing between commentary and harm” as if he, in all his white male privilege, can personally identify with the harm or how the commentary might have caused it?

I don’t care how hard you stan for Chappelle, If Sarandos used the same language in addressing an issue Black people were collectively calling out, none of us would be having it. 

In a recent interview with Deadline, Sarandos at least appeared to have come to glory on how deeply and offensively he spoke out of turn.

“First, right up front, I screwed up the internal communication—and I don’t mean just mechanically,” he said. “I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.” He also admitted that, “of course storytelling has an impact on the real world.”

Of course, this all comes after Sarandos found out the hard way that he doesn’t speak for all of his employees. It seems to have taken a lot of speaking out and threats of a walkout by trans employees for him to finally get there.

Sarandos even said, “We are in uncharted grounds here; we have never had internal emails leaked to the press before, and I would say that the issue with that is, they were a conversation in progress.”

Nah, the issue was you making a statement you never should have made, bro, not the fact that the public found out about it. At the very least, he knew his LGBTQ employees would see the memo he meant for them to see.

Sometimes it helps to do less talking and more listening.