W. Kamau Bell - Starting Uncomfortable Discussions About Racism on "United Shades of America"

April 14, 2016 - W. Kamau Bell 04/14/2016 Views: 1,199

W. Kamau Bell explains what he learned about discrimination from talking to the KKK and other racist groups on his CNN documentary series "United Shades of America." (6:12)

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Please welcome W. Kamau Bell!

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Welcome to the show, my friend.

Thank you, sir. Thanksfor having me. I like this side

-of things. -What do you mean"thanks for having me"?

You had me on your show

before anyone knew who I was.

But that was, like,a web series, basically.

No, it wasn't. No, it...It was actually one

of my favorite shows.If you haven't watched it,

it was really funny.It was, uh, Totally Biased.

It was a fun show.It was really cool.

And, uh, now you're doingsomething very different.

Yes, I am. I-I left that showand said, "I need to hang out

with the Ku Klux Klan."

How bad was that experiencefor you?

I mean, I'm alive, so it wasgreat! It was awesome!

I'm here talking to youabout it, so it worked out.

-It worked out. -This is...this is a-a cool story.

You basically decidedto make a show where...

-It's like Anthony Bourdain,-Yeah.

where you... instead ofsampling food around the world,

you sample discriminationin America.

-You just go around...-Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I taste the racism.Mmm, mmm, mmm.

-That's a fine racismyou've concocted there. -Mmm.

It's very specific here. Yeah.

Why would you... why would yougo and meet with the Klan?

Like, why... Okay, let's startat the beginning.

Why would the Klan agreeto meet with you?

(laughs)Well, there's... I-I th...

Here's... This is America.Uh, everybody wants to be on TV,

it turns out, you know, f-fromthe Kardashians to the Klan,

everybody wantsto get out there.

So I think they thinkthey're gonna sell their me...

I got an e-mail from oneof 'em. He's excited

about the show coming out.


He's like, "I hope youdidn't make us look too bad."

-Uh... -Yeah, but...yeah, but here's my...

How do you make the people...You don't have

-to do anything. -No, youjust go... you just go, "Tada!"

-Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.-Just speak. Just speak.

You went to a cross burningas well. That-that...

I was just like,"You're going too far."

You know, like, in-in...so... in-in Africa...

-You sound like my mom now.-Yeah, I was about to say.

Let me tell you something.In Africa, you always...

you always want to die in a way

where your family will cryat your funeral.

-Oh, yeah. -That's what we...that's what we say, you know?

-Die in a way that the peoplewill cry for you. -Yeah.

-Yeah. -And if I died becauseI went to a Ku Klux Klan rall...

like, the questioneveryone would ask is,

"But what was he doing there?"

-(laughter)-You were at a cross burning.

But here's the thing.I'm thinking about my family.

My thought was,like, if we go...

If I go hang out with the Klan,

that's a good idea to get peopleto watch the show.

If die, that show's a hit,my family's rich forever.

You know what I'm saying?

-Like, they're just...-(audience groaning)


-I'm thinking about my family.-That is such a...

-I love that. Thinking...-I'm thinking about my kids.

-Yeah. -I got to get 'emin college and stuff.

This is... Yeah, well...

Your kids are gonna be like,"I'm glad I'm in college."

"Oh, do you have student loans?"

"No, my father diedat a cross burning."

-(laughter)-"My father died." "Ah, yes."

-Yeah.-Um, it's on CNN as, well.

-It is on CNN. -And it istechnically a comedy show.

-Meet the new black. Yes.-It is a comedy show.

-Yeah. -So, like, so, basically,CNN has gone,

"Okay, we're donewith the unintentional comedy.

We're going with the real..."Is that what happened here?

-No comment.-(laughter)

You know where the bread is...I like that.

-Exact... Yeah, yeah, yeah,yeah, yeah, yeah. -I like...

Got anythingto say about Comedy Central?

Well, that's...that's a... that's a...

-It's a wonderful place to work.Um... -Oh, yeah. -(laughter)

No, but that's... I mean, that'sthe... that's the weird thing.

Well, no, they-they have...

That is the weird thingabout the news in the world.

Like, people will go"Okay, The Daily Show.

-We want our news, want ournews, want our news." -Yeah.

And then,the news people are like,

-"We're gonna make some comedy."-Yeah, yeah.

No, they... Well, the daily...I mean, the, uh...

CNN-- they have, like, Bourdain,and they got Spurlock.

-Yeah. Yeah.-And these are all people

I used to watch,and I'd be fans of theirs.

And so, I'm excitedto be there,

and I just got to take the brandone step further.

Bourdain can go to a beachand eat tacos

-and just sort of relax.-Yes.

-I got to go hang outwith the Klan. -(laughter)

In all of the storiesthat you're making,

are you trying to changethese people's points of view?

Are you tryingto show them a different side?

Like, are you going,"Hey, man, we can be friends.

I could change your life."

Well, here's the thingabout that. I think that I...

I just went in thereto sort of experience the thing.

I am curious about the Klan.I had questions, and I...

And also to sort of...It's about...

I believe in the power

of awkward conversationto initiate change.

That if people sort of shut upand listen to other people talk,

and go, "This is making meuncomfortable,

but I'll keep listening,"you start to learn things.

I live in the Bay Area,

so therefore, everybody doeseverything all the time.

And a lot of timesin the Bay Area, you're like,

"This is strange,but I'll just pay attention."

-(laughter) -And so,I believe in that power.

And also, I knowfrom hanging out with those guys

that by the timeI left with the...

especially at the cross burning,I was there for four hours.

We had to waitfor it to get dark.

-I never wanted it to get darkso bad in my life. -(laughter)

And by the timeit was over, like,

-a couple of those dudes likedme. -You know what I find...?

You know what I find funnyabout that situation?

Is the Klan has to waitfor it to get dark.

-Yeah, yeah.-(laughter)

-Oh, irony.-(applause and cheering)

-They need the darkness. Oh.-They need the dark.

-They need the dark.-Oh, man.

And so... so they liked youby the end of the...?

-Yeah, by the end, I...-Did you like them?

Well, we had easy conversation.

-Like, it was just 'causeit was... -Did you like them?

Did I like...?I liked one of 'em.

I think we had like a wholeEd Norton, Guy Torry,

American History X thing,

where you're, like...you're folding laundry.

You're, like, "Hey,black people aren't so bad."

"You're not so bad, either,Klanny."

-You know what I mean?Like, it just... -(laughter)

I'm sure one of them wentto bed and was like,

-"I think I like a black guynow. What happened?" -(laughter)

I'm just picturing you nowat home,

every time you fold the sheets,you're like,

-"Oh, Billy. Oh, Billy."-Oh, yeah, yeah.

-"Oh, Billy."-Oh.

-"All the memories."-I miss you.

What was the...?I mean, the Klan is gonna be

a great episode,obviously, to watch.

What are the other episodeswe can look forward to?

What are the craziest thingsyou've done in the series?

Well, after I did the Klan,

I said, "Where should we gonext?," and I went to prison.

I spent a week in San Quentin,uh, and which...

The scariest thingabout that was, like,

"Can I leave at the endof the week?" -(laughter)

You know, black menin America in prison--

they tend to liketo collect us there, so, uh...

-Too soon? Too soon? Uh...-(laughter)

No, no, it's passed.It's been like a week now.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.So, I also went...

I also spent time with copsin Camden, New Jersey.

-And I also went... -In what waydid you spend time with them?

-Like, on which side?-Not being arrested side.

-Oh, not. Oh, okay, cool,all right. -Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Like, they were doing the wholething with community policing.

I... We have to have moreawkward conversations,

we got reach across the aisle,we have to figure out a way

to get along in thisUnited States of America.

Yeah, well, dude,you do a great job of it.

A very funny man, as well. Thestand-up-- when is the special?

My special, uh, April 29, called Semi-Prominent Negro.

-On Showtime?-On Showtime, yeah.

-I'm looking forward to it, man.-Thank you, prominent Negro.

-Thank you so muchfor being here. -Thank you.

-(applause and cheering)-Kamau's stand-up special--

Semi-Prominent Negro, airs April 29

at 10:00 p.m. on Showtime.

And the United Shades of America premieres April 24

at 10:00 p.m. on CNN.W. Kamau Bell!

(cheers and applause)