W. Kamau Bell - Tackling Tough Ideas in "The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell" - Extended Interview

Extended - May 2, 2017 - W. Kamau Bell 05/02/2017 Views: 38,007

W. Kamau Bell explains why he interviewed white supremacist Richard Spencer on "United Shades of America" and discusses his book "The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell." (9:10)

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W. Kamau Bell.

(cheers and applause)

Welcome to the show, my friend.

-Thank you for having me back,sir. -Great to have you.

Uh, just for the few viewerswho are asking themselves,

no, this is not Questlove.

Nor is it Dr. Cornel West.

Yes. You-you get that.Be honest.

-No. I get Questloveall the time. -Yeah.

I've signed autographs,I've kissed babies as Questlove.

I've deejayed-- make quitea little side gig,

deejaying as Questlove.

-It's good, it's a good living.-I like that, I like--

And then he's doing comedyon the other side,

-so everyone's doing it.-It's all fine, it's all fine.

Everyone is winning.Welcome back to the show, man.

Thanks, man.It's good to be back.

Uh, you are doing many things.

You're doing, uh, great, right?

-Look at him. -Oh, thank you.-(cheering and applause)

Thank you very much,thank you so much.

You-you're doing a great job.

Your show on CNN is coming back.

Let's talk about that beforewe get into the book.

Your show is back, you know, United Shades of America.

And you're going around America,you're meeting...

crazy people, let's be honest,in many places.

But this Sunday,what was interesting is,

-you had Richard Spenceron the show, -Yes.

-who is a Nazi, right?-Yeah.

Which he says he's not,but he is,

-I mean, essentially.-Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

And then people came after youand they said, "Hey, man.

"Why did you have himon the show?

Why are you giving this guya platform?"

Why did you have himon the show?

Uh, uh, we're getting-- the leftis getting caught up

in buzzwords like platformand normalizing,

which to me, what you're saying,

if you're afraid to lookat those ideas in the face,

you're sayingyou're afraid those ideas

are better than yours,as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not afraidof Richard Spencer's ideas,

and I know that there'sa lot of people out there--

-we all think we're allas woke as each other. -Yes.

We're not all #woke.

Some of us are #asleep.

-Yes.-(cheering and applause)

-See? Yeah.-So...

(cheers and applause)

So in that world, basically,what you're saying is,

you're not afraid that RichardSpencer's gonna have, like,

some new racismthat's gonna convince you?

Yeah, I'm gonna be like,"What? Oh, you're right.

"Black people aren't as goodas white people.

Thank you, sir."

And giving him a platform meansif I went and said, "Hey, man.

You take the show for the hour.I'm taking this week off."

-That's not how it works.-Right, right, right. Yeah.

It's very clear when you watchthe show whose side I'm on--

everybody else's, you know?

The election popular resultsshow that my ideas

-can win this country,-Oh, that's funny.

if we get rid of the, uh,you know, electoral college,

leftover slave holder math,then we'll be fine.

-The, uh...-(cheering and applause)

Let's talk about...

Let's talk aboutthat free speech,

because you live in Berkeley,last I checked, right?

-Yes, I'll fight you, yeah.-And then...

-Did you say "I'll fight you"?-Yeah, I live in Berkeley.

That's our new reputation."What? What did you say?"

Berkeley is the new Compton,yes.

How do you, how do youfeel about that?

Uh, it's-- Free speech meansfreedom speech-- you know this.

-I'm telling you like you don'tknow, you know. -Yes, yeah.

You had to take the testI didn't take

-to get in this country.-(laughter)

I just fell out of my mom.

Free speech is not thegovernment not stopping you

-from expressing yourself.-Yes.

If you're gonna show upsomeplace and bait people,

and intentionally, like,

-target students, the wayMilo has, -Yeah, yeah, yeah.

or intentionally start trouble,

then other peopleare gonna show up

and have a different versionof that free speech.

And my whole point with thatis that you can have

the freedom of speech,but have the responsibility

for your free speechand know what it might do.

You know, so if you're gonnago on a college campus

like Milo or Ann Coulteror Richard Spencer

-and intentionally startsomething... -Yeah.

...then be responsible.'Cause, you know,

Louis Farrakhanalso goes on college campuses

and speaks and knows thatpeople might be agitated.

You know what he also does?He brings security.

Because he knows,"I need to protect myself

"and I need to protectthe audience and the college

at whole or the whole...venue at whole."

So, I'm saying, Ann Coulter,call the Nation of Islam,

maybe they'll protect you.

(audience gasps, applauds)

-Wouldn't that be a combination?-I would love it.

I'm pitching itas a romantic comedy, yeah.

Oh. The White Devil Wears Prada.

-Yeah!-That's what it would be.

That's... that's the titleI'm gonna give you.

Yeah, that's good,I'll tell you... Yeah.

Let's, uh... Enough about that.Let's-let's, uh,

let's...let's talk about...let's talk about the book.

Um, The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell.

It really is a collectionof awkward thoughts,

and in some wayit feels look a memoir.

Uh, what really connectedwith me as-- and I'm biased--

was you talking about whatit felt like to have a TV show

as a young black personin America, in a space where,

you know, it wasn't a TV showon a black network, per se.

-Yeah. -It was a spacethat was, you know, infringing,

some may say,in-in a white world.

When you were working on that,what were

the toughest challengesthat you came across

when you-when you started makinga show from your point of view?

You know, there's... The...Like, we certainly had diversity

in the writing staff, but therewas... There's certainly issues

of, like, sometimes when youdeal with the people who are

the main producers... AndChris Rock produces the show.

He's great. This is not abouthim at all, to be clear.

-(woman whoops)-Yeah, Chris Rock.


There would sometimes, becausethere wasn't other black people

-at the highest levels...-Right.

Like, I would be in a positionwhere I'd be arguing

with white peopleabout what black people think.

And it just... and it's justthat thing where if you don't...

And you know this from here.Like, you brought some...

some Africans to the show soyou could have people you could

-turn to, be like... -I broughtmany Africans to the show.

-Yeah, exactly, yeah.-Yeah.

So that when you get to apoin... So you're not always

having to representthe African point of view

or south African point of viewand so that you can have

a space to go sometimes, like,"Are these people crazy?"

You know what I mean?W... That's w...

You know-you know what's goodabout it is

is it also gives you a spacewhere you're reminded

-of what you believe,you know what I mean? -Yes.

And I think that's importantfor everyone, whether it be,

uh, black performers,whether it be women.

Whoever it is, you go, like...If you're in a group

that hasn't always had aplatform, you take for granted

that the norm is something

that may not representyour point of view, so, I mean,

that-that makes sensewhen you talk about that.

But you make a show now--when you did your first season

of Shades... United Shades, you had, like,

-an all-white everything, right?-Yeah, exactly, yeah.

It was like a...it was like a Diddy party.

A white...all-white party, yeah.

-And now?-And now we hired, like...

You know, 'cause in the firstseason there'd be times

we would film with the Klanand I would, like, be like,

having this really intensemoment and feel like,

"I need a black person."It's all white guys, like...

So, the second season,we really...

I called myself outon CNN and talked about it

and made sure that we went outand made sure that it was

a priority to hire black people.But even that seems crazy.

We hired, like, fourblack people. That's not...

You know what I mean?Like, we didn't hire... Yeah.

Whoa, whoa, whoa-- three.

-Kamau, come on. Yeah.-Exactly, exactly.

But it meant that, like, afterwe talked to Richard Spencer,

all the black people gettogether and go, "White people,

we're gonna take a breakfor a second and just go..."

(humming "Amazing Grace")

And sort of move through itin a very sort of black way.

"All right, white people, we'reready to talk to you again.

-We're ready to talkto you again." Yeah. -Oh, man.

Um, dude, I could talk to youforever on this.

But before I let you go, one...

there's one piece of the bookthat really connected with me.

'Cause you talkabout being, uh, a dad, right?

-Yeah.-And, uh, you are the father

-to two beautiful daughters,right? -Yeah.

And this, this was...this was really...

it was... it was poignant,and it was...

it was vulnerable of you.But you say here,

"Being a big black man iswhy I realized I was so happy

"to have a daughter,and it's why I was so happy

"to then have a second daughter.

"I felt some sense of relief.

"I didn't want to have tofigure out how to talk to them

"about how to be a black manin America.

"I recognizethat it's extremely selfish...

"it's an extremely selfishthought to have.

"I need to be talkingto every black man I know

about being a black man in thiscountry now more than ever."

Like, that is, uh,an insane thought to have,

when you are having childrenand you're saying,

"Thank God you're not a male,because you may live longer."

Mm-hmm. And I want to be clear--I don't think

that black women have itsomehow easier than black men.

Right.It's a different challenge.

It's a different challenge.But I just know that, like,

to sit down and have to havethat black male discussion,

it was like...that I had to have and that I...

that I feel every day,it just felt like... (exhales)

-Right.-And-and I... Like I said, I...

they have different challenges.But I feel like it just...

it's... (stammers)it's intense, man, you know?

Do you... do you thinkit's less frightening, maybe?

Because, I mean, we do knowthat, in many ways,

African-American womenhave it the worst.

-Statistically, everythingspeaks to that. -Yes. Yeah.

But maybe it's just a little bitless frightening for you,

going as a black man,you-you see your daughters

as less of a threat.Is that what it might be?

It's-it's...There's a sense of, like,

if I'd had a black son, at-atwhat age do I have to tell him,

-"Be careful"?-Right.

Like, there's this thing that,black men, we always look ol...

-people always thinkwe're older than we are. -Right.

My mom, when I was,like, 11, was like,

"When you go outside,you're a grownup now."

-Wow. -Yeah. And so,to me, it's like...

it's... there's a different typeof conversation to have

with black women. I have a lotof black women in my life

to supportmy two black daughters--

my mixed-race black daughters--but there's a different...

that conversation is a...i-it's a bummer, man.

And I can't... and I ca...That's why the book is awkward.

I feel awkward talkingabout it right now,

you know what I'm saying?Like, I don't want to say

the wrong thing,but it was really like...

there was this thing about,like, the conversation

about you are identifiedas a...

-either a threat currentlyor a future threat. -Right.

-Which as we know with Jordan...uh, Jordan Edwards, -Yes.

it's like just 'cause he wasblack, he was a threat.

Nobody cared about his reportcard or what he was doing

with his life, you know?And so that's a...

It's a conversation I was,in some sense, relieved

not to have and then feltreally bad about the fact

that I was relievednot to have it, you know?

And then I wrote it in a bookso everybody could feel awkward

-with me.-(laughter)

Can I tell you? It comes across.

We appreciate you sharing.It's a really fantastic story.

-Thank you so much, dude.-Thank you very much.

Appreciate your time.Kamau's show,

United Shades of America, airsSundays at 10:00 p.m. on CNN.

And The Awkward Thoughtsof Kamau Bell is available now.

W. Kamau Bell, everybody.

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