tv KQED Newsroom PBS July 22, 2022 7:00pm-7:30pm PDT
we are going to talk about this fascinating book in just a moment. we are going to start talking about what is going on with úrace and racism in america today. apart from this book, he has a special vantage pointe on these issues. bell travels all over the country to talk to people for his tv series, united states of america. he took a deep dive into the legacy of the man known as america's dad, bill cosby. joining us now is author, director, activist, tv host, and funny man, w kamau bell. thank you for being here. talk to me about where we stand
right now with race and racism in today. >> i just wanted to be a comedian but times are changing. one of the first episodes, at the end of it i do this whole diatribe. i talk about how america is on fire. part of it was about california and the wildfires, that i really feel that the country is on fire. there is a sense of, whatever we feel america is today it could change dramatically tomorrow. it could be for the good or the worst. at this point it could go either way. >> do you think that is different than it was a couple of years ago? the same as it was during the summer of george floyd's murder and the protest marches? we do not see that sort of further regularly. >> the fervor is in people's brains and bodies. i think if we could only to take a break and say, has the
pandemic brokenness? we don't even have time to do that. there's mental health and things coming out of covid that we don't even have time to look at because the economy is, like, you need to get back to work and make money and you need your house payment. we are just sort of acting like things are normal when they clearly are not. there is a whole faction of this country that is taking the confusion as a way to further divide us with critical race theory or attacking trends kids. this is how they can really divide the country. >> in this series, united states of america, seventh season, one of the episodes is in california. your home state. your hometown. what is it that you wanted to learn about california firefighters? what did you want to learn about race in that particular segment?
>> it is funny. that episode is about me learning more about the fire, but every issue in america ends up being a race issue. i wanted to know how is california supposed to live with the fact that fire season is no longer and part of our planning at a certain point of the year. i have an app on my phone that tells me how the air is outside. i used to deleted at some point. now i don't think we are over out of fire season. there were times that we left town because the air was bad. i have asthma and an 85-year- old mom. >> we saw the ash coming down and coding windshields and cars and falling onto the sidewalks. >> the red sky day. >> i do not think i will ever
be the same again. it was also covid. it actually looked like the apocalypse. when you do the work and we talked to firefighters and people, native activists and firefighters that to me there are ways we can deal with it. we have to understand it's part of the landscape of california but then you hear that california does not have enough firefighters and you find out that we have actually trained inmates in prison to fight fires and a lot of them are black because that's how prison works in this country and state. when they get out, they are hired for firefighter jobs because they were inmates. so once again, that is when america's self owns. >> there's also a question about how the inmates are paid. >> it was pointed out that if you are an inmate you are the same as a slave. you do not need to be paid a
living wage. >> i know that there was actually an attempt to change that in california this year which failed. >> that's when we find out that the state is not as progressive as we give it credit for. >> this is the question i have for you. living in california we like to think we are better than every other state out there. >> the bar is pretty low if you compare us to some of the other states. we can get caught up in, we are not that state, i will not name those states out loud. >> i would love it. >> i have to travel to those states. they know who they are. the idea that we are certainly ahead of the curve on many things but the bar is so low in this country that i do not think we should be proud of ourselves. >> what do you think we are above the bar on. >> people outside a california think it is all blue. those of us that live here know
that the costar the blue parts. some of the university areas, but by landmass we are really a red state. it feels great to live in the bay area because i feel like he took covid seriously and listens to things like science and doctors with medical degrees. does not mean that people did not get exhausted. it does not mean that the lockdowns were fair or equitable. it at least felt like this town actually isn't trying to kill people like other places in the country that never seem to believe it. there are places where i go that i guess they did not hear about covid here. i traveled during the pandemic before the vaccine. he would go places and nobody was wearing masks. >> kind of like today. we do see masks a little bit, but it seems like the pandemic keeps raging. variants keep changing. are you feeling hopelessness? or are you on the side of people who are like, i'm just going to go about my business now. >> i am not on that side. i am a black man with all the
comorbidities. i have asthma and an elderly mom. i was in south carolina last week and there were places i would go with people that i was with and we were the only people wearing masks. that is in the gentrified coffee shops. that is why it is good to travel because i can see that whatever we are doing here we are still ahead of some other places but i keep googling new zealand and reaching out. if they are looking for a black comedian i am here. i do occasionally think about other places that i could live on the planet that are not in this country. >> let's talk a little bit about this work of antiracism. i am curious about your thoughts on how the terminology has come up to be antiracist. what that means and also what it would look like if the state of california, every person in the state of california was
antiracist. >> i think some of those ideas are scary to people. it's a different version of society. we are always reinventing terminology. those of us in that activist space. i don't reinvent terminology. i just give it to the people. if you think about it, all of this is just a way to say, hey, can we be cool. thinking about the first enslaved africans told what their jobs are and what they are here to do in this country. from that first moment, from the moment they got on the boat, they were like, this can't be reality. there has to be ways to explain that this is not right. yo are telling us about jesus and god. all of this is just a way to go, can't we just be cool? i think if we had a racist society, he would start with the native tribes in california. it would be a truly different
experience. there would be a lot of land that was given back to them. you have to talk about that and reparations. california has started to talk about that the have to talk about reparations in an individual and systemic way. the relationship of the latin community. what is our relationship to mexico. there are a lot of ways in which we could completely transform society. a lot of it also goes down what does policing in america look like if it is not the system that was based in the collection of escape slaves which is what it is based on. >> let's talk about the work he did recently on bill cosby. you have done the stocky series. i have heard you say that it was hard to tackle, but you chose to do it anyway. why is that and what is it about? >> there is something about me that i have come to accept. i don't know if i understand it that i am drawn to complicated
conversations. i'm the guy that talked to the in my first episode. it does not make sense but i'm drawn to go somewhere and figure out, is there a way to have this conversation or something i can learn from this to no culturalfigure in my life have i had a bigger struggle with than bill cosby because i was one of those kids that grew up in his america. i was watching felt albert, the cosby show, i wanted to be a standup comic like him. to find out what we found out in the early 2000's about all the women who have come forward to talk about that he had sexually assaulted them. at the same time, people were asking me who are your favorite úcomedians growing up. how do i say bill cosby but not say bill cosby. this was an effort to try to address how do we deal with the legacy of his career. unlike a lot of men in the entertainment industry they were not heroes. they were not cultural figures. they were not international icons. to cosby, that's what we talk
about in the series. this was good work he did but he also did all of this. >> it is disappointing. when what we see as a shining exemplar of our color skin. i'm a minority, you may have noticed. so are you. i think we are a little bit public facing. you much more than me but we still sort of experience that. i'm curious about how much you úfeel that way to being a good role model, of being that model minority. >> a good role model, i don't know if i feel that way because i think everybody defines role model differently. i think that i do feel the weight to use the platform that i have been given to do good with. i think that no matter what your role is in show business as a black person, and this applies to more than just black people. i think you are in a place of, there is a the work to make
myself more famous and more successful and the work to make sure i'm doing things either clearly for my community are behind the scenes making it easier for the people coming behind me or the people that will never be in that position. role model, some people would say the things i am doing a like and some would say they hate those things. i'm not going to try to be a role model for everyone that you feel the pressure. if you get through the door of success you have to put your foot in the door and you have to make sure you are successful enough to stay. you also don't want to do things that we lose your soul. >> let's talk about some of that work that is hopefully fulfilling and satisfying. 's book has just come out. you have your co-author in the studio with us. thank you for being here. while she is coming on, i want to read this fabulous description you have of the book that explains who it is for and what it is about.
to do the work for all the people overwhelmed by racial injustice and white supremacy in america who have taken some action and know they can do more but don't always know what to do or how to do it or are afraid of getting it wrong or not doing enough and are left wondering, what do i do. thank you for being here. kate, you are a best-selling children's author. i found your bio so delightful that i wanted to read it out loud. you are a new york times best- selling author of the rad women series. you are also a writer, public speaker, educator and left- handed vegetarian bay area born and bred queer activist and
mom. so you two collaborated on this book. we know that you have been doing this work and engaged to get in fighting against racism for years. how did you come to this work? >> i was one of those kids. grew up in the bay area so i was exposed to a lot of progressive activist work. i loved reading the news. i would watch kqed as a kid. about current events. was really interested in justice in the world. i often say that environmentalism and animal rights was my gateway to activism. it hit me, oh people also. very quickly i came to understand my position as a white person in all of these fights for social justice. i give enormous credit to my undergraduate education at uc santa cruz. i really came to understand
intersection led. >> go, banana slugs. how did you meet and start collaborating? >> we are both east bay residents and we are both loud and public. i heard about the first red american women book. i knew somebody that knew somebody that knew the artist on the book, miriam. she was in my backyard and then i saw the book. that's how we started hanging out together. kate had solidarity sundays to get active in politics in a real way. my wife and i went and took our kids because the events had childcare. that's when we started hanging around each other. >> tell me about this book. is this mainly for white people? >> it is not not for white people. we say in the book it is for white people just to be clear. it is not that a person of color or a black person or
indigenous person will not have things they can get out of it. the heart of the problem is white people sitting on the fence thinking there is no way for them to get into antiracism. >> how do you suggest people use the book? >> use it anyway you want. this is a coffee stain book, not a coffee table book. you want to use the book. you want to start at the beginning and go through? great we organized it that way. if you want to skip to the list of actions you can take. >> if you want to flip through and to a coloring page, >> i might be coming back to that in a minute. i flipped through it and i thought one of the interesting pages was check your privilege. there is a picture of you with a large pencil. it says check the privileges that apply to you. i am going down. you start with white, fair or
light-skinned, middle-class, upper-middle-class, rich, i'm not all of those things but i am some of them. college-educated. conventionally attractive, good at taking tests. thin, tall, can the right places. hearing, seeing, live in a safe neighborhood. you go from this to having a úl you go along. you say things like you are or have been the president of the united states. that is a position of privilege. you are george clooney. >> that is the highest level of privilege. you get the benefits of privilege without the problems. >> you took a selfie with a cop storming the u.s. capitol. so when you go through what are you hoping people will do with this? >> you turn the page. the next few pages really try
to show readers. you have identified your privileges and those are advantages that you have. the work is not to be overwhelmed and feel guilty. it does not mean you are a terrible person. what matters is what you do with those things. how can you leverage those things in service of others and service of racial justice. we have examples of ways people have leveraged their privileges and suggestions to think about how you can take the things that you have and use it to make the world a better place. >> what are some ways in which you feel you have done that, that you work to make the world a better place? we see your work. are there other things you think for people daily that you throw out as suggestions but since you have an opportunity to talk directly, what do you think people should do? >> one of the things that became clear to me as i got into this business. the thing i was very clear
about was that if i am not getting other people like me through the store, of everything i'm saying publicly is nonsense. it is virtue signaling. >> like mentor rain? >> also getting people paid. reaching out to people that may not even be in the line to get the job because they have been told that you're not the right person for the job. a lot of the work that i do is really trying to identify talent on the outside of show business and bring them in. not only does it help me, it helps the business as a whole. that is something that everybody that has a job in the workplace can look, how can i make this feel more equitable and just? it is putting people in the job that maybe would not the be put forward, you can do that. >> we did this with the book. we wanted a black graphic designer and a black woman on the editorial team.
the art and illustrations are done by artists of color. it's not just something we asked for or suggested. we had it in the contract. that is something that was important to us and a way to get people in the door and to give a lot of folks opportunities to be part of the book. >> there is so much in here. there are beautiful illustrations and quizzes. there's matthew can do. there's an antiracism contract there are crosswords. i brought coloring pens so i will do a little bit of that. i am curious about your experiences these days. kamau you are living in a rarefied air with privilege you have not had before . i saw you the other day on a tv show or web show with steph curry. you and your wife are on. >> it's your bay area responsibility to call when he to show up when he calls.
>> give us a little look into that piece of your life and a window into that world. >> i'm fairly happy about the fact that we did not move out of the bay area. by all rights i should be los angeles or new york. it was important for me to be really clear that i still live here. i live in oakland and i go to the farmers market. i have a person that i buy honey from and i am accessible úto people because there are times when people want me to help them out. i feel happy with the fact that people see me as something that can and want to help. also, when i moved here the warriors could not give tickets away. now you cannot get tickets. i feel happy about the fact, i'm not saying he text me back every time i text him, but he's pretty cool. he grew up in chicago living
michael jordan. never imagined that i would be friends with the basketball star of by era. it is cool, but i probably do not enjoy it as much as people might see from the outside. that is the hard part. >> i will let you color here for a few minutes so you can have a turn at this as well. have you covered all the pages in your own book? >> i have to say we have been working on this book and planning it for so long. it is so satisfying to have it out in the world and to see so many people on social media have in posting pictures of them doing the work, engaging with it. it's an act the book. we wanted people to be interacting with it. we wanted it to be something that people are using and writing in. it is so fun and satisfying work >> to you know who is doing the work at my house?
my 11-year-old. she did the privilege checklist. she found out i have a lot of privilege. it was an interesting conversation with her to talk about. even the things he looked at like in my thin and conventionally attractive? i don't own a house but i live in a house. it becomes a conversation of what privileges and what it means to have it and your connection to it. >> kates, if there's one page in here that you would say i really would love for everybody to see this page. >> folks that know my rad women books know that i love talking about and writing about history. the third chapter goes over a lot of really horrific american history. i also really like shedding the light on people who have made really great changes. times like this that we are so overwhelmed and everything seems terrible it is so important to learn about and think about the people that
worked really hard to change. we have this spread that is the radical activists and artists and freedom fighters. it is all these names of people . you color it in and you get to learn about all these different histories. >> you color it in once you know who they are. >> learn as you go. the book is called do the work. thank you both for coming here and being with us. >> thank you so much. san francisco has a new feather in its cap as of this week. 14 acres of national parkland. how do you create a new parking this densely populated city? the planners got creative and built the park near the golden gate bridge with traffic whizzing underneath. our something beautiful this week is a project years in the making. the presidio tunnel tots.
>> family fun for everyone. that is the end of our show tonight. you can find us online or on twitter or you can email us and reach me on social media. thank you for joining us. i will be off for the next couple of weeks. we do have some fabulous guest hosts lined up. come back next friday night. i will see you on august 12, have a great weekend. >> trump a
convicted, and joe biden gets covid. >> i don't want to say the election is over. >> january 6 committee holds another hearing. showing never before seen video. >> president trump didn't fail to act during the 187 minutes, he chose not to act. >> lawmakers focus on what president trump did not call off the mob during the capital attack. >> donald trump knows that millions of americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were threatened. on january 6, donald trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our capital and our constitution. >>
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