W. Kamau Bell


Episode #319

Date February 27, 2012

Run Time 31:08

W. Kamau Bell wows the crowd at our big Wesleyan University shows.

Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner & John Sondericker

Song:  We Don’t Have Much Time by Yuki Suzuki

Live Story: Baby Got Gas by W. Kamau Bell

Song: Shake It Out (Acoustic Version) by Florence and the Machine



Download: MP3

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nicole freire
12 years ago

That was a million ways awesome. W. Kamau Bell is fantastic to listen to. What a treat!

Dave Williams
12 years ago

Just listened to the W. Kamau Bell episode. Don’t waste people’s time with this fucking shit. Take out skin colour of his act and this guy’s got nothing! It is so hypocritical to hear a black person talk about ethnicity!!! I thought we were trying to leave it in the past?! Yes racism may still be a problem but his stupid “act” is not helping the issue.

12 years ago

@Dave Williams, Kamau’s piece here is not his “act.” It’s a personal story from his life experience, like all of the pieces on the RISK! podcast. Nancy Sullivan may be trying to leave her child molestation “in the past,” as you say. But our experiences never really go away. We have to look into them from time to time and see how they’re affecting us now, what we make of them now that we’ve evolved or maybe have some evolving still to do. You never totally and completely escape this stuff — especially if you just pretend it doesn’t exist anymore. You work on it. This nation will be working on racism for many decades to come. Have you not noticed the explosive, over-the-top, completely delusional panic that ensued on the right in America in the years since a black man was elected president? – B.B.

12 years ago

I thought some of his claims of racism were a little questionable. Was the woman at the gas station being racist, or was she just nosy? I guess the argument could be made that if he were white she never would have offered her opinion, but I’m white and I often get unsolicited advice and admonishments from strangers about my kids. Right after hearing this podcast I was at my dentist. The hygienist (white) was telling me about how her daughter is bartending in our downtown area. I live in Charlotte and this week and we have a basketball tournament for a predominantly black college conference. She told me she wished her daughter wasn’t working there because she fears for her safety. Now this struck me as very racist and the contrast with Kamau’s examples was pretty stark to me. I guess to Kamau’s point, since we were both white in this conversation, maybe she was being more overt with me than the would have around a black person, but still.

Mercedes Roman-Manson
12 years ago

His “stupid act” is dead on on some points. Talking about his kid, I knew what he was talking about. My father is Mexican, my mom is Irish and I am a white girl with red hair/blue eyes. My father had similar experiences, he used to tell us hilarious stories all the time of people’s reactions to us out together. I once had a nice seeming white lady smile at us when he & my uncles were out food shopping, then ask me if I needed help when they went off to grab something. I had to explain that he was my dad. Then I told her to go screw. W. Kamau Bell tells it well.

Jimmy Jam
12 years ago

Worst Risk Episode Ever. I actually feel sorry for this guy. My wife and I are a mixed race couple and I understand that it is not always easy but this guy is nuts. What a horrible existence he must lead looking so hard for racism in everything. I hope he finds peace.

12 years ago

I’m glad other people feel the same. Racism is definetely an issue, but the examples that Kamau gives are flimsy. Especially the situation at the has station. My white husband encounters at least as much unsollicited parenting advice as I do. It did not sound particularly racist to me.

12 years ago

What’s sad about this is that Bell is as much a caricature as his portrayed oppressors. And the fact that he cements his identity in making a career out of being a victim elevates the sadness to at least a slightly tragic level. What he’s doing is neither liberating nor brave. It’s safe, cliched, and self-negating and he’ll cripple that child if he imposes his poison on it. His holding onto the the gas station impression for so long says more about his flawed perspective than it does about the state of racism today as he chooses to frame it. Damn. What a pity. I hate to see people living so fearfully.

12 years ago

The apostrophe after the word white is nsaecensury. I wish people would perform a grammar and spelling check before vandalizing our buildings. signed, whitey

12 years ago

Hey Greg – How exactly is he being a “victim” here? To be a victim would be to allow these casual daily instances of racism to just beat him into the ground, or to remain silent because it makes some white people feel uncomfortable to hear about experiences other than their own, ESPECIALLY when it comes to issues of race.

The fact that he can push so many of your buttons, when he’s talking about these stories in a humbling and hilarious way – neither strident nor didactic – is testament to your own issues. Get over yourself. You have no idea what it is like to walk in his shoes and have no right to try and pretend like the racism he experiences doesn’t exist, just because YOU don’t experience it. You are centering things on yourself, dude.

11 years ago

KBear, you’re right. I do have a tendency to center things on myself and am prone to seeing the world through my eyes and interpreting data based upon my own experience-based impressions. How that makes me different from anyone else (ever), I don’t know. So you got that right in your portrait of me, but what you failed to extrapolate is that like Mr. Bell, I am also one of the “marginalized”. I, also like Mr. Bell it would seem, let that dominate and skew my sense of identity and my thinking to an unhealthy degree. There’s a dominion that comes with such obsession that does indeed “victimize” you if you allow it to as I did. If it doesn’t go so far as “beating you into the ground”, it sure as hell keeps you far from being in the now.

I never intended to imply (as you perceived) a belief that racism as experienced by Mr. Bell doesn’t exist. I’m sure it does. But if you let that poison sublet your psyche to such a degree that it bleeds all over everything, you lose the ability to responsibly transact and legitimately grow. I started to get healthy when I finally realized there was no profit in perpetually “noticing” and shouldering offense. I (like we all eventually, hopefully do) realized that the great majority of my wounds were self-inflicted.

A few years back I was in the Village with a great friend from Trinidad and I witnessed a subtle, nasty bit of racist fear being directed at her. When she seemed completely unscathed by it, I asked her how the hell she didn’t get thoroughly pissed. She laughed at this and said, “Dear, I never gave that man permission to offend me!”. I, myself, would have relived this over and over, fought and re-fought this battle in my mind for decades. She seemingly dispensed with it on the spot. She had the strength and perspective to handle the matter in a graceful, powerful and definitive way. She told me that she’d learned this from her father, how he’d taught her to define such moments, rather than allowing them to define her. I wish my folks had demonstrated such strength and so empowered me when I needed it.

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