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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

arts community events

CNN host W. Kamau Bell spoke on racism and change


“White people, you need to have some white pride,” W. Kamau Bell, host of “United Shades of America,” told students and community members on campus. 

A bout of hesitant laughter arose.


“You have to be able to be proud and be white so you can defeat other evil whiteness," Bell said. "It’s on you.”

Bell spoke Monday at the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Leadership Breakfast at Alumni Hall of the Indiana Memorial Union.

Bell talked about racism and oppression in different spheres of American culture, including sports team names, the Dakota Access Pipeline and President Trump.

Bell also discussed more subtle forms of racism in his comedy. He displayed Trump’s tweet from May 5, 2016.

“There’s not a true statement in that tweet,” Bell said. 

Before arriving at Indiana University, Bell tweeted about Trump in relation to speaking in Bloomington in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

"President Trump,  Tomorrow, I'm performing at Indiana University to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. & every time I think I'm done writing my show you say something that makes me rewrite it," Bell tweeted. "So can you please save some racism for Tuesday so I can go to bed?  Thanks!"

See tweet below.

Bell talked about the responsibility of Trump in relation to white people. It's on white people to have discussions the same way black people have Bill Cosby and Kobe Bryant discussions, Bell said.

“White people, let’s be clear," Bell said. "This is on you. When we go to work and somebody goes, ‘You see what that black person did?’ and you have to be the spokesperson of the race.”

CNN host W. Kamau Bell talks with a woman who came to hear him speak Jan. 15 at the Indiana Memorial Union. Bell spoke in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and offered commentary on racism and whiteness in American society.  Photo courtesy of Keenan Rhodes

“What was really important for Kamau Bell was that he addressed a lot of things that white people can do to be effective participants in making this a different world,” IU junior Maya Fernandez said.

Bell is a former host of FXX television series “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” and current host of the Emmy-award winning show “United Shades of America,” where he explores American subcultures by interviewing groups, such as spring breakers and prison inmates.

In one episode of the show, Bell visited with members of the KKK. At the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Leadership Breakfast, he posted a photo of him standing with three members in white robes with the subtitle, “Me and the KKK on CNN.”

“I was just like, ‘Whoa, okay, this is uncomfortable,’ but I guess he wanted to make us uncomfortable,” Fernandez said. “It’s different for white people to say, ‘I’m white and I’m proud,’ versus black people saying, ‘I’m black and I’m proud.’”

After the event, Bell signed copies of his book, “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell,” which details his thoughts on race relations, fatherhood, law enforcement, society and politics.

“We should all be engaged in this fight,” Bell said. “We have to keep evolving the conversation.”

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