Comedian W. Kamau Bell appeared on Thursday’s episode of A Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk discussing George Floyd with his daughter, learning about white supremacy from his mother and how his CNN show United Shades of America plans to tackle those issues.
Early in the interview, Bell noted that his 9-year-old daughter was particularly precocious — on top of being a news junkie – and while Bell was pushing her on a tire swing she requested a full explanation of Floyd’s death and police brutality. Although Bell acknowledged the request took him back a little, he said having that conversation ultimately felt great: “I would rather have that conversation with her, or have my wife have it with her, then for her to go through the world and not have had that conversation, and then have somebody else spring it on her.”
Bell’s comments resonated later while speaking about his mother, who will feature in an upcoming episode about white supremacy when United Shades of America returns for its fifth season this month. To describe his mother, Bell recounted an old joke from his stand-up act: “My mom is such a hardcore black woman that I was 11 years old before I realized that a cracker was also a delicious snack.”
He continued: “My mom growing up was always talking about racism, white supremacy, the man — back in the Seventies, it was ‘the man’ — and she didn’t shy away from talking to me about those things. Even to the point that the talk that people say that black parents give kids, I remember that talk. I remember when my mom took me to the store and said, ‘This is what’s gonna happen when you’re in the store by yourself as a little black boy.’ My mom wouldn’t let me leave the house with knowing that I was black and what that meant in the world.”
Earlier in the interview, Bell spoke a bit about the episode in which his mom will appear, titled, “Where do We Even Start With White Supremacy?” — a question Colbert turned on his guest.
After joking that the title “sounds like a B-side from Hamilton, “ Bell said: “We start with accepting the fact that America is built on white supremacy. That the whole history of this country started on genocide and slavery; and from that, everything that’s been built has been built on top of that, and been built in ways to make sure that people who created the genocide and the slavery, that them and all their descendants could benefit from it. In the first few minutes of the show, we say, ‘Don’t get confused between white supremacist and white supremacy.’ A white supremacist is the Klan or neo-Nazi; but white supremacy is the fact that 44 out of 45 presidents have been white men.”