Cancel-Proof (with W. Kamau Bell and Camonghne Felix) | Crooked Media
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May 25, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Cancel-Proof (with W. Kamau Bell and Camonghne Felix)

In This Episode

This week, comedian W. Kamau Bell joins Damon to discuss whether some of their past work would fly in today’s media landscape, and the importance for artists of all varieties to constantly evolve with the changing times. Then, on Dear Damon, poet Camonghne Felix helps Damon advise a white person who wants to explore the pros and cons of using darker skinned emojis to connect with their Black coworkers.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Damon Young: Since you are a political comic, I am curious like how you made that move from doing comedy right to now. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You’re a person who people look to [laughter] for opinions. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And advice about politics. And not even necessarily you, but like the content that you create. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: The work, yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know, where it’s, quote unquote. And I’m saying this with the biggest, strongest air quotes possible. “You’re taken seriously.” 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. No. 

 

Damon Young: Now.

 

W. Kamau Bell: It’s funny. I find myself in a position now where I feel like I’m struggling to be taken funny. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: Welcome back, everyone to Stuck with Damon Young. The show where we reflect, rethink, rebuild or revise because that’s just what we do here. Like there’s not even a joke here for real, only the wackest of the wack niggas believe that they’re finished products and we ain’t that. So anyway, on today’s show we’re joined by Emmy Award winning comedian, director, producer of cultural critic W. Kamau Bell for a long and sprawling conversation about writing and creating and having a willingness and the capacity to change and revise and basically just evolve. I’m especially curious with how the landscape and zeitgeist shift in events we’ve experienced over the last decade, namely the Trump presidency, MeToo, the pandemic, and the summer of George Floyd affected his work. And we talk about that, too. And then a world winning poet and author Camonghne Felix helps me answer a question from a presumably white person [laughter] who wants to know if it’s fine for them to use dark skin emojis. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] W. Kamau Bell is the host of the CNN series United Shades of America. He is also the director of the forthcoming documentary 1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed, which you will be able to find on HBO Max. Kamau what’s good man?

 

W. Kamau Bell: I’m [laughs] I’m at the age where I say things like, I’m above ground. [laughter] I’m at that age. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, there’s a man, older brother who lives in my neighborhood. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Uh huh. 

 

Damon Young: And I see him from time to time. And I remember one day I asked him how he was doing and he said, it’s better to be seen than viewed. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Ooh. Ooh, that’s. That’s some old— [laughter]

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: That’s some old man wisdom right there. Is he the originator of all Black slang? 

 

Damon Young: Maybe. [laughter] 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You always wonder where it comes from. Is it him? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. So I need your help. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: All right. 

 

Damon Young: I need your help with something. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I’m here, I’m here, whatever you need. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: I need your help [laughs] with something. All right. Six years ago, I went to my 20 year high school reunion. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: All right. 

 

Damon Young: And I’ve spoken about this before in the context of I went to a reunion, had a decent time. But one thing that stood out to me was you had some people who were dressed as if it was still 1997. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. With like, Karl Kani and like baggy hockey jerseys and Timberlands or whatever. And dress how you want to dress. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Do whatever you want to do. That’s fine. But I would use that story as like an analogy about politics. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And where I didn’t want to be the nigga whose politics stopped in 1997. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yep. Yep. 

 

Damon Young: You know, we still continue to evolve and.

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: You know, as time goes on. But one thing I haven’t really shared out loud about that experience is that I wrote a thing about it for VSB, Very Smart Brothas, and I wrote it with my usual little snark. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Little humor. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: With the quotables like a rap song. I know—

 

Damon Young: Yeah some quotables. It was a I thought it was a fun piece. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But there was a Facebook group about this reunion, and this piece made it to the Facebook group. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Uh oh.

 

Damon Young: And they were not happy. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: [laughs] Of course. 

 

Damon Young: With this. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: They were unhappy. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] And of course, in a moment, I’m like, man, fuck y’all. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: This is just this is what I do. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I didn’t go in. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: This was fun, this was funny.

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Etc., but in hindsight, they did not deserve. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: That. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Now again, I didn’t go in like I didn’t. I remember how I wrote it, and I didn’t go in—

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. But they just didn’t know they were showing up to end up on the Internet. On the blogosphere. Of a very popular website. 

 

Damon Young: They didn’t sign up to be caught. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And so that’s one of the many things I’ve written over the past that I if I had to do it again. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I would probably write it differently. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know, as a person who’s been a public comedian, a public face, a public performer for so long, you know, I’m curious what your relationship is to, like, not necessarily regret. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But like, revision things that you did or said that you wish if you had an opportunity do it again, you would have done differently. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I mean, yeah, there’s no end of that. [laughs] I mean, there’s you know, there’s things where I’m like, man, I wish I could delete that from the surface of, you know, I could Men in Black it from people. [laughter] Like. I wish I could do that. And there’s things where it’s like, I think differently about that. I wouldn’t do it that way, but that is how I thought then, you know, blah, blah, blah, I think. I think sometimes we want to like Men in Black, everything. But I think also evolving of how we think is a part of the process. It sounds like to me what you did is like if you’d had a moment when you were writing it, where you had thought to yourself, what if the people at the party read this? You might have like maybe not deleted it, but you would have shifted some things. And so I think that, like I am always sort of aware now who are the audience of haters [laughter] and who are the audience of of appreciating. And at some point you go, well, the haters hate it. That is what it is. But if someone who I like to appreciated hate it, then is there something I could have done differently? And sometimes the answer is like, no, [laughter] you just like you just, you know, I think we live in a time where think about if you’d written that in let’s go, let’s pretend it’s 40 years ago and you wrote that for Time magazine. You know. [laughter] You know, you never would have heard from your faith. They just would have talk to each other at the at the Rite Aid back in the day. They just would have run into each other at the Rite Aid [laughter] did you see that thing in Time magazine? It never would have come across your desk. Now we live in a time where, like, you’re going to have instant feedback. And so. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You know, some of that means that like you’re going to hear from people who don’t like it. But it’s hard because you’re always going to hear from people don’t like it. I just try to make sure it’s the people who don’t like it, who I want to not like it, but it is hurtful when the people don’t like it and you’re like, I thought you were the audience, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Well, and you brought up two really, really great points that I want to dig into a bit more. One is the concept of, you know, I don’t mind offending people. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You have to go in on people sometimes. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But what you don’t want to do is unintentionally offend. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: People. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Like you don’t want to hurt people that you didn’t intend. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You don’t want to disrespect people that you didn’t intend to disrespect. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: For sure. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And that sometimes takes a sensitivity read, you know, revision, editing, perspective, hindsight, whatever. You know, that to prevent you from any sort of collateral damage. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And to your point also, I think a lot of us have this idea of wanting to Men in Black. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. Things that we might have done or might have written in the past that we don’t necessarily want to still exist, but there is a value in something existing as like a capsule. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: In time where you could see, oh, this is how I felt and I don’t feel this way anymore. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But in 2016. 2012. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: 2020? 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: This is what I was thinking. This is how I felt. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. And I think there’s also a value of, like, a body of work that while you may zoom in on pieces and go, oh, that the body of work is actually bigger than those individual pieces that the body of work is pulling in a direction that is like, well, there are moments in this that are not good [laughter] or that are that are regressive or that I think differently. You know, we can’t all put out like the thing about like Jimi Hendrix three albums and be like, I’m done. It’s all genius. Good luck, everybody. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Like most of us, we only put out three albums. It’s going to be like, that’s all you got? [laughter] You know, so I feel like I’m not Jimi Hendrix. I got to put out a lot of things and hope that the body of work speaks to some sort of overlying truth or overlying aesthetic that if I just put out one comedy CD back in the day. [laughter] Called, called One Night Only or One Nigga Only depending on how you read it, but that would not have been enough. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, my all time favorite album is probably Ghostface Supreme Clientele. It’s either that or Kanye’s my Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And there were songs on both of those albums that I just don’t listen to when I listen to them. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah, there are comedians who in their day were progressive thinkers that if you listen to them now, they are regressive thinkers. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And I think that’s where cancellation culture comes in bad like if you don’t understand the context of where that comedian was at that time, it’s going to look backwards. But really it’s like in that context, that was a that was a progressive thought that comic had. 

 

Damon Young: Well, I’m also curious for your like your own personal experience with this dynamic. Like, is there any anything recently [indistinct] anything within like the last five or six years that you know, you look back on now, it’s like, you know what, if I had a chance to do that again, maybe, maybe I would shift it. Maybe I would do it differently. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I mean, it’s funny because there are moments in every piece of work that I’ve put out [laughs] maybe ever? Where I’m like. That didn’t land. I don’t there’s times I don’t think that was wrong, but it certainly didn’t seem to land the way I thought it was going to land. So if I’d known that, I would have shifted that. I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve ever done. I mean, from things I’ve won awards for the things that like only three people saw that I’m not like that. I’m not in some way wrestling with it. Even thinking about it makes my sort of stomach start to churn over. You know, I wrote a whole chapter of my book about a bit I did on my first album that I’m like, ugh, you know, that it was basically like an apology [laughs] like, so I’m not against like when I hear people say, comics never apologize. I’m like, well, if the comic happens to be a human that I think sometimes you can apologize. I think. And also I think comics often you often have to apologize or feel put a position to apologize because. You because you want to keep whatever gig you have at the time that doesn’t care about your freedom of speech, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Do you mind sharing? [laughter]

 

W. Kamau Bell: It was a bit about Condoleezza Rice that conflated my disagreement with her politics, with her physical appearance. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: At the time it felt like an edgy joke for a comedian to do. And it was whatever, edgy and it was I’m not trying to say it was a back then. I’m not doing that. But it conflated those two things, like, I don’t agree with your politics, with I don’t agree with your physical appearance, which is not a thing that I that was in five years of that joke. I was like, oh, yeah, that was a mistake. Like, there are many jokes to get off about her politics that have nothing to do with whatever I think you know. And I’m not sitting here like, well, you know, people describe me as a mix between Denzel Washington young and Shemar Moore. No so I’m in no position to tell anybody anything about their looks. So yeah. So that was that was and I wrote a I wrote a whole chapter in my book apologizing for it because it was just like it’s, it just was like, of all the things I’ve done, that’s the one where I was like, that’s just not who I am. But at the time, I’m this is not excuse. This is an explanation. At the time, I was a young comic in the club trying to make some hay. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And I hadn’t made any hay and I started to go political direction and I saw hay in that direction [laughter] but I didn’t understand how to cut that hay. Like I said, I’m a person who I’m an only child. So in my head all the time. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And I always and I and I’m a person who walks down the street and will remember a thing that was embarrassing and suddenly you have to stop and take a knee like oof, like from the past. [laughter]  

 

Damon Young: I mean, we’re the, we’re the same person. Because asking this question. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Like everything, motherfucker. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah, yeah. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] Like the thing I’ve ever written, every, every one of these podcasts I’ve ever produced. Like, I just had a conversation with my producer. You just had to get used to this. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You’ve just, you’ve just got to hear it.

 

Damon Young: I’m not, I’m never going to be happy. [laughs] 

 

W. Kamau Bell: This is what working with me is yes, this is just like—

 

Damon Young: I’m never going to be satisfied. [laughs] So you just got to take a grain of salt. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Welcome to the your actual job description is dealing with my dissatisfaction. [laughter] Not actually editing and producing the show.

 

Damon Young: Well, I think this is a great, you know, I guess a bit of a veer because I think that that thing that you have that I have that many of the writers and comedians I admire have. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. It’s a dynamic psychology or even like a consciousness that makes you I’m not going to say it makes you foolproof from, quote unquote, “cancel culture,” but it makes you more equipped to deal with potential blowback. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Because you’re always canceling yourself. 

 

Damon Young: Because you’re always canceling yourself, because you always know that you know what shit you might be, right? 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know, this criticism that you have of my work. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: This blind spot that I might have, you might be right now, it might hurt. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know, to get that criticism in the moment. But there are people and again, a lot of people who I admire who have that gene where it’s like, you know what? Shit, I need to change. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I need to evolve and reevaluate. Whereas you have people who are so determined. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Not to give an inch. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: So determined not to change and it’s like, I don’t know. What is your what are your thoughts on that as someone who I guess has been a standup, has done comedy and now is creating these shows and obviously, you know, a lot of these people who are in this industry and I’m just curious, like from an insider. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I think that it’s funny when sometimes when I see either peers of mine or people who I’m friendly with or people who I just know that I don’t know, but observed that are currently in the business, especially when these people are Black folks, people of color, indigenous folks, sometimes I’m like, you have like the position that we have in this business as Black folks, people of color. Is this two fold position of like make a thing that people like, but also [laughs] dismantle white supremacy while you do it. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Whereas like white folks just get to make a thing they like. And so sometimes I will see people get pushback over things that I’m like, while I get the pushback is legitimate on some level, you have no idea how hard it is for that person to get to that door, go to those meetings, uphold their creative vision, hire the people they want to hire, and sort of navigate all that. And I think sometimes we are doing so much behind closed doors that we can’t really complain about out loud because it looks like then you look like you’re you’re whining and complaining like, man,. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Whining is so complicated. [laughter] Like that. That it just makes sense that you would sometimes miss things because you were because you’re just doing too much. You know what I mean? Like, you’re like. You’re like walking the tightrope and balancing plates while is like a white creator the tightrope is a foot wide, and they don’t have the plates. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And that’s the thing I feel about, like, when I see peers of mine get pushback on things. Not that I’m saying those things are legitimate, but it’s just like I feel like, man, you have no idea how hard it is for that person to even hold that position. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. And it’s, you know, you saying that kind of contradicts the general narrative about cancel culture, particularly what’s coming from like white men. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Where they feel like they can’t say or do any the ones who complain about this. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Stop it. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, say or do [laughs] anything, whereas they’re the ones who have more rope. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: If you can’t say stuff, it’s because nobody trusts you to say that thing. It’s just it’s just quite simple. It’s because if you feel like I feel like sometimes it’s like like, for example, there are comedians who will be on stage later tonight, white men saying awful things, racist things, sexist things [laughs] transphobic things. And they’ll be like, come back. I’ll be here all week and they will be there all week, you know what I mean [laughter] because on some level they have established that this is what I’m here to do and I’m going to do that thing. And I’ve built up an audience for it so I will get paid for it. So like, if if you as a white man find you can’t say the thing. Maybe it’s because you’re president of a corporation where they don’t want that to be their brand, is you saying whatever you want to say.  

 

Damon Young: You know, in your career, I guess there are three major, you know, political events that have happened that I think have shifted the way people think and the way people write, particularly people who work in publishing, work in comedy, work on TV, work in any capacity that has to do with writing. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. Trump’s win. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. That that completely shifted the political landscape. I think that for good reason. People who consider themselves on the left, I think, have had to become more combative. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: With with what we do, what we say now. I think we probably should have been more that way anyway. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But that that that election just made everything just more just so much more immediate. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: So much more palpable. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. MeToo. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Also, you know, has shifted the way that that people interact, the way that we. The way that we work, the way the way that, you know, we receive, you know, our comedy and then also, obviously, the pandemic. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Too. And I’m wondering, you know, and all this has happened. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And I would add one fourth, George Floyd’s murder. 

 

Damon Young: Well, you know, I was thinking of Floyd, and I was wondering, like, if that was distinct enough from, like, Trump. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I think it was because I think the current pushback that we’re getting with Woke and anti CRT is a direct result of the, quote unquote, “racial reckoning of Floyd.” And I think that is something we will be reckoning with for years, you know what I mean, like it’s going to inform a lot of who the next president is. So I think of the pandemic as being a one two punch. It was the lockdown, it was COVID, and then it was Floyd, which were two things that revealed America not being the thing that it claimed it wants to be. Now, I don’t say Floyd is like because we came to a new racial understanding and we all duh duh duh.

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I say because the fact that when we [laughs] when when Black folks went out and marched with people of different races, there were people there were people on the right wing and some on the left who were like. How do we fight back against this? And they went deep, deep, deep and fighting back against it. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. Yeah. I was thinking, Floyd, and I think I misspoke earlier in in saying, how it was distinct from Trump. What I meant to say really was how, Floyd, if you trace back, might’ve even been an extension of Obama hysteria and some of this stuff, you know, the reaction to to wokeness and the banning of the books and all of that. I mean, the seeds have always been there because it’s always been America. Right. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah, I feel like it’s like it’s that meme that Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme of like the guy looking at the thing like [laughs] it’s all connected. 

 

Damon Young: But like the new batch of seeds was planted in 2008, I think, and now I think they are starting to bloom. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: We’re starting to see shit that again. These grievances that have really weaponized, you know, in in that particular. You know, thing is what led to the weaponization. But what I wanted to ask you is that with all this shit that has happened while you are in the midst of your career, how has it impacted your work particularly? [laughter]

 

W. Kamau Bell: So when I was making the the Bill Cosby documentary, We Need to Talk About Cosby. And every now and again, I would say to like producers or, you know, editors, like, man, I sure would like to make a documentary about how tasty noodles are [laughter] because I don’t think I’m allowed to. 

 

Damon Young: Uh huh. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I don’t think I and I don’t think I would feel responsible to myself if I was doing that. But I think what it means is that everything I do has to, again, as we talked about earlier, has to in some way address white supremacy, even if it’s trying to have a good time. You know, they mean like and I’m not saying everybody’s like this I’m talking about me. I think there is certainly plenty of Black. But I [indistinct] that’s true even like when Black folks make things that are just supposed to be fun, you will then see a think piece or 12,000 that are like, okay, even though we’re having fun. Why bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah. You know what I mean? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: So I think for me, what it is, is like I was a kid who wanted to be a comedian because of Eddie Murphy on SNL. And I wanted to sort of like one day I want to become a standup comedian and I’m gonna get on SNL. Duh duh duh. And then my career path didn’t go that way. And it feels like it gets further and further away from that every day. [laughter] And while I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t have a good time some time, and that I am proud of the work I make and that I do have fun even in making it, even when it’s about difficult things. And I try to figure out ways to bring humor into it. I feel like I’m not in a position to pitch something that, for example, that Netflix would put in the background television category. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Like, you know, the whatever that or they call slow TV, which is TV to have on when you’re just in your house doing some house chores. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You know, I don’t I’m not in a position where I can do that, even though I would be I think I’d be great at that. 

 

Damon Young: Well, yeah, I agree that there is like an increased expectation of like not just for your work to be political and not just you, but I’m thinking you in a collective. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: It’s not an expectation of your work to be political, but also for it to be politically rigorous. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm yes. 

 

Damon Young: You like for your politics to be airtight, right? 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You’ve never seen me come out with anything about like and that’s why we got to support the Democratic Party. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You know? [laughs] Because that’s not politically rigorous. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, it’s just today, you know, and there are certain things like, okay, for instance, my kids recently went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game, right? And at the game, they were giving away hats. Memorial Day weekend is coming, etc., etc.. So they’re like military themed Pirate hats. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And so. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: Ten years ago. Maybe I don’t have an issue with this, but now I feel a way about my kids walking around with these hats that they love, these free hats that they love. But the Pittsburgh Pirate p underneath the p is like an American flag. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And I wouldn’t have thought twice about that ten years ago. But now it’s like, is this people in the city know who I am. And because they know who I am, they know who—

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. 

 

Damon Young: Some people know who my kids are. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Like, oh, that’s what he’s doing—

 

Damon Young: This is a statement. Right. And you know, to your point about the expectation that political rigor having something that is devoid of politics, even though that’s nearly impossible. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: No it’s impossible. 

 

Damon Young: Making that effort is also a statement if you are a Black American right now. I was tempted to say POC, but I don’t want to speak for other POC. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: For sure for sure. 

 

Damon Young: The way I can for the Black experience. But I know that if you’re a Black creative and you try to remove politics from your work, then that will be seen as an insertion. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Of politics. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Cause  to be apolitical now means that you have taken a side. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah, I remember like I think about this all the time. I, for some reason I feel like Issa Rae’s career is just like if I was, if I was a PhD person, I would do a PhD on Issa Rae’s career [laughter] because I think there’s just so much to be learned as what Black creatives have to go through in America, through this country, through America, through her career, and also how she has navigated in a way that is like, you know, she’s having a Hall of Fame career as I like to. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You know, and this. And so I remember at one point there was sort of critique around the show, around Black people on the show not using condoms. 

 

Damon Young: That, you know, you know where that came from. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Where? 

 

Damon Young: [laughs]

 

W. Kamau Bell: You? 

 

Damon Young: That came from, that came from, not from me but that came from Very Smart Brothas. That came from one of our writers. [laughter]

 

W. Kamau Bell: Okay. Okay. Okay, okay. 

 

Damon Young: And Issa, and Issa had a and Issa in an interview actually named dropped. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Oh. 

 

Damon Young: The article, writer, everything. It was a thing. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Whew okay—

 

Damon Young: So we didn’t we didn’t write it. [laughs] I didn’t. I didn’t write it, but I published it. [laughter[

 

W. Kamau Bell: But I had no idea that’s funny, when I started bringing it up, I was like, this is so random. Apparently it was not random. 

 

Damon Young: Not random. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Apparently I’m a genius. 

 

Damon Young: Everything is connected. [laughs]

 

W. Kamau Bell: Everything is connected. Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Everything is connected. [laughs]

 

W. Kamau Bell: So and here’s the thing. So this I’m not trying to go at the writer I wanna be clear about that because it was like I was in this position of like, I get what this critique is about. Also, Issa Rae just wants to make a show about people who live the way people live and isn’t trying to, like, necessarily insert a public service announcement into the middle of the show. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: But I think as a Black person, again, you’re tasked with not that like wearing condoms is a way to dismantle white [laughs] maybe, you know, I don’t know how to but you’re you’re tasked with a responsibility that white creatives aren’t tasked with. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: So I was like, I get that we want people where to practice safe sex. I get that. I get that we want Black male practices specifically, I get that. But I also thought like in that writers room, when they’re writing that show, I understand why they would be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Who? Where do we insert the condom putting on?

 

Damon Young: I mean, I’m thinking specifically of like, Girls, the show on HBO. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: They had they had literal ass eating scenes. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. No there’s just—

 

Damon Young: Then that was a big thing. And I don’t think anyone was. She didn’t have a dental dam. [laughter] She was. When she was nose deep in that ass.

 

W. Kamau Bell: I mean, let me be clear. [laughter] I did not watch. I don’t know if I saw a whole episode of Girls all the way through my wife, I think, saw the whole series as people know I’m married to a white woman. So that would be a thing she you know, she was in that thing. But in in watching it. But like I remember when there was a creative on Blackness like Donald Glover didn’t he just sort of like airdrop in and airdrop out just to sort of go, let’s just get this out of the way. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, yeah. I mean I’ve, I’ve that, that part like that, that expectation that white creatives. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean. Insert Blackness. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know, into what they’re doing. It’s like I want them to create a world that is real to them. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And if that world that is real to them doesn’t include us, that’s fine. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: What’s not fine is when Black people don’t get the same opportunities to create. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Sure. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean? That you know Lena Dunham, you know, maybe. Maybe has as we see if that’s the issue. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But whatever she decides to do with her opportunity is, what she’s that has to do with her opportunity. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know, also for you, you know, and you’ve made a conscious, you know, intentional decision to be a political comic, right? 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. For sure. 

 

Damon Young: And so have you felt like like everyone today who is a Black comic is kind of a political comic. [laughter] Like, are you do you feel like, you know what, I didn’t fight all you niggas in this building just to start trying to elbow people who are trying [laughter] like you know this is my thing. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: This is my thing I was here myself. Yeah yeah.

 

Damon Young: I made a choice when it wasn’t as popular. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: No when I had like a major Hollywood management company be like, there’s no money in that. Don’t do that. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: You know, no bad ideas in a brainstorm, I always say. So if you got a political point to make and I’m with it, even though if you normally juggle, fine. [laughs] You know what I mean? So like, because I do know that like when I choose to do stand up comedy, it is clearly different from whatever other people’s examples of it are. So I think for me it’s just like it all it is is a challenge to me to like deepen my approach and get more specific because whatever I might have been doing ten years ago is not the same level of political as it would be now. So yeah, it’s just like it’s just it’s more like now I’m not comparing myself in any way. I’m just making a fun analogy. It’s like when Michael Jordan’s like, huh, I think I need to turn around, fade away [laughter] like, you know, like what I was doing before is not going to is not accomplishing the same things. So let me get a turnaround fade away so I can actually still be just as good, but in a different way. 

 

Damon Young: I always need to add to that bag. You need a deeper bag. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. And I think even like becoming a director and a producer is a way to go. How do I get the content out here that I want to get out here without being wedded to stand up comedy is the way to do it. 

 

Damon Young: Well, you know, since you are a political comic, I am curious, like how you made that move from doing comedy right to now. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You’re a person who people look to [laughter] for opinions and advice about politics. And not even necessarily you, but like the content that you create. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: The work. Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know, where it’s, quote unquote and I’m saying this with the with the biggest, strongest air quotes possible. “You’re taken seriously.”

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. No. 

 

Damon Young: Now. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: It’s funny. I find myself position now where I feel like I’m struggling to be taken funny. [laughter] Like people have no problem taking me seriously. It’s interesting. I have seen the way people approach me in the street or if I’m in the airport, what they say has changed over time. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: So initially it’s like, oh my God, you’re so funny from like you’re doing stand I’m doing stand up, I’m doing podcasts, whatever. And then it became for a while it was like, you’re the KKK guy. [laughter] Like it was the like I was the guy who met the KKK. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And now the number one thing I hear from people and I hear it and I hear it when I’m with my kids, I really hear because I’m looking at them hearing this is thank you for your work, as if I’m some sort of like essential worker, first responder [laughter] you know what I mean? Like, just thank you for your work. You know, And I find that to be interesting because it says to me that, like, again, it’s about the body of work and it’s not the direction I thought I was heading. But the thing I do know about me is I’m always headed my own direction, like, so. So I can’t be surprised about where. Like, how did I not end up on Saturday Night Live? It’s like, Negro you weren’t headed toward Saturday Night Live and you know that. So for me, I think it starts with my mom, like growing up in that post-civil rights era and right after the, like, really like, you know, right post-civil rights in the early seventies. And I was an only child and my mom didn’t like that babysitting money. So I was always hearing conversations about the struggle and the post-civil rights struggle to like, wait, aren’t we supposed to be succeeding now? Why aren’t we succeeding? Why aren’t we all succeeding? You know, that was in the post-racial era, I think was post the civil rights era. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And I think in some way and also my mom was a self-starter, published her own books of Black quotations. I didn’t realize, but my mom was basically saying, like your responsibility, no matter what you do, is to dismantle white supremacy. [laughter] So she prepared me for this moment. So while I was like a young comedian making jokes, I was also figuring out how to work, race, race commentary into it that I moved to the Bay, that expanded my whole political perspective. I moved here to do stand up, didn’t though I really moved here to like, go to grad school in in humanity. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And I’m always pretty clear about what I don’t want to do. So I realized and then figuring out, well, if not going to do that. I got to do something else. So when I realized I don’t want to move to L.A. and start auditioning for commercials in movies like my friends are doing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just knew that life was going to destroy me. And I just started to like well what do I want to do? I want to write a whole show about racism, which was the W. Kamau Bell Curve ending racism in about an hour. And that show sort of put me on a path of like theater festivals and not stand up comedy clubs. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And then that show is the show that Chris Rock saw that helped make Chris Rock as essential to me getting my first TV show. But then after that show was canceled, Totally Biased, which is my first TV show. Again, I found myself, like, now the industry knows me as a Black comic who has a read on politics. And that sort of set me up perfectly to go to CNN and then go, we got Anthony Bourdain, but we would like to figure out if there’s more versions of this. As a young man who’d been sitting on my girlfriend’s couch, who’s now my wife, watching Bourdain going, how do you get that job? I was like, I can’t like, it’s sort of like I was always aimed towards that, even if I didn’t know I was. And then you find yourself in positions where I found myself in a position where I met good people who would like you should direct something. And I was like, but I don’t know how to direct. And they’ll go, we’ll figure it out. Like being around people who felt like, I know you have a perspective in here. I’m going to teach you the nuts and bolts of this because the perspective is actually the key part of this. And so once I started to get a taste for that, I really was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. You know? So I feel like I was always sort of headed here as a kid who would like in the early seventies, my mom would be like, sit down, we’re watching Eyes on the Prize. But this is boring. [laughter] I don’t give a shit, you know? [laughter] And my mom was like, sit down. We’re watching Roots. And I mean, the old school one that with, you know, O.J. Simpson was in. I don’t want to. This is boring. We’re doing this. So there was just a sense of, like my mom, like, really putting me in front of content like that. But now I sort of feel like, oh, so I was I was in school and didn’t even know it. 

 

Damon Young: So I have a question for you. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: You’ve heard the. I’m so thankful for your work. Thank you. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You’ve heard that. And you’ve also, at some point in your career have heard the you’re so funny. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, wow. This bit that you had. The thing that you said. Oh, it was the—

 

W. Kamau Bell: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Which do you prefer? 

 

W. Kamau Bell: I mean, I got to admit, I love a thank you for my work, but this is so funny. Is the one that actually makes me feel [laughs] like alive. I’m not mad at thank you for your work, but this is so funny. Is actually the thing that makes you go yeah. Like, you know, it’s like the. I don’t know, it’s like the quick hit. Thank you for your work is like the drug that hits you slowly, like the mushroom. [laughter] But, like. But this is so funny is like a quick endorphin rush because making somebody laugh. I was talking to my kids actually, in the car about this. Like my daughter said this so I’m going to tell a story about my cute, funny kid. Here we go. It’s okay. We’ve already brought I— 

 

Damon Young: It’s fine. It’s fine. We’re both we’re parents—

 

W. Kamau Bell: So we went yesterday. Over the weekend, we went to this indoor I don’t know if I wanna advertise it, but indoor water park in Calif— In Northern California. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And it’s like a Target, but with waterslides, it’s that kind of people [laughter] like it, you know? And so we’re walking. We’re doing see, we got to go on this thing. We had to go over here. And my oldest daughter yesterday as we’re getting ready to go, goes Dada, you know how sometimes I say I can’t take you anywhere because everybody always recognizes you? I said, yeah. She goes, well, I think I can take you here. Because nobody had recognized me over the whole weekend [laughter] because it’s this water park in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of nowhere, California. 

 

Damon Young: Uh huh. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And it was not my demographic. [laughter] Like it was not my, so and so she was like, I think I can take you here. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And she was sort of her way of saying, nobody has recognized you and she didn’t say that part. She said, I think I can take you here. And I laughed out loud [laughter] cause it was such a funny, clever turn of phrase. And then my wife later was like, in the car this is funny how my family goes, man nobody knew who you were at that place. And I go, Sami, tell Mama what you said to me. And she said it. And Melissa laughed. I think I can take you here. And Sami goes, why is that funny? And I go, wait, do you mean you don’t know why we’re laughing? Or you literally want to know why it is funny? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: And she said she said, I know you’re laughing because I said something that I was trying, like were you trying to be funny? She’s like, sort of. I was like were you trying to be clever, she goes, yeah. I go, okay, well, clever, can sometimes equal, funny, but if you want to know, I can tell you why it is funny. And I explain sort of how humor works to her in a very sort of short abridged way. And that thing, knowing that you’ve done that math equation, is super satisfying when you when somebody laughs at what you say because it means you’ve successfully done the math equation. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Like, I prefer that too. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I prefer the, you know, the funny, like even with my book, like the, the acknowledgments that I receive for being funny. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: They supersede the, the oh, this was important. And this, you know, this is vital. And you know, all, all of that is like, yes, thank you for that. But when you say it’s funny—

 

W. Kamau Bell: It’s basically the difference being like a conscious rapper from the nineties or being Eminem. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: And it’s like, thank you for your work again. I appreciate that. But you know, you could say that to like a service animal [laughter] basically like you could say thank you—

 

W. Kamau Bell: Thank you for—

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.

 

W. Kamau Bell: You can say it to Sisyphus every day for getting the rock up the hill. 

 

Damon Young: Thank you fire hydrant for working when we needed you, you know what I mean? 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Damon Young: All right, so what you got going on? I know you have this documentary that you are working on. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Can you tell me a bit about that?

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah. So the new doc is out on HBO Max, right now, which I guess will be Max soon. But [laughs] when I did it, it was HBO Max called 1,000% Me: Growing Up Mixed. And it features my oldest daughter, her, my middle kid and my youngest daughter sort of in and out through the back. But they my youngest daughter and my middle kid talk, Sami and Juno, and some of Sami’s friends are in it. And it’s all mixed race kids talking about their experience. And then we talk to some of their families. So sometimes it’s their parents, sometimes it’s siblings, sometimes it’s like with my kids, we don’t talk to me and my wife. We talk to their grandmothers. My mom and my wife’s mom sit down and have a conversation about race when they grew up, about how it was when they grew up. And then we talked to some mixed race adults, an elder in the community, to talk about the mixed race experience. And really it’s funny, it’s the closest to a noodle doc that I’ve ever done because it’s really like I want it to be lyrical and hopeful in a way that my work is not normally lyrical and hopeful. 

 

Damon Young: Did you interview any members of the Golden State Warriors? Because I feel like that is [laughter] one of the most light skinned teams of all time and presumably, presumably mixed—

 

W. Kamau Bell: It is a light skinned team. It’s funny but some of those light skin—

 

Damon Young: Yeah, there are two Black there are two light skinned Black players.

 

W. Kamau Bell: —at least not the way we. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. It’s, you know. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Yeah, there’s yeah. So it’s like it’s, it’s, it’s mixed race in the south means something different. It doesn’t mean the same thing. It means on the coast than in the north. 

 

Damon Young: Thank you for joining us. This was a lot of fun. Appreciate you. Thank you. 

 

W. Kamau Bell: Thanks for having me. 

 

Damon Young: No doubt. [music plays] Up next for dear Damon. I’m joined by award winning poet and author Camonghne Felix, who helps me advise a person who wants to know if using dark skinned emoji is racially problematic. But first, Damon hates. [music plays] Okay. There’s a dynamic that exists that is a recurring theme that exists in my neighborhood where I’ll be sitting on my stoop and people will walk past on the sidewalk and it’s always white people. There’s literally always white people who do this, they’ll be walking past. And my house is somewhat distinct. Okay. It doesn’t look like the rest of the houses in the neighborhood. It’s a it’s a new build. It was built in 2018. We were the first people to live in it. And it has a distinct look. We know that. But these people will walk by and they will start inspecting my house, not necessarily peering inside the windows, but just making comments and just acting like they’re out of a fucking museum while I’m like, sitting right there. And there have been countless times where I’ve had to be like, yo. Hello? Can I help you? And it, like, it almost shocks them into a response or into reality because it’s like they don’t even process that. It’s possible for me to be living there. [laughter] You know what I mean? It’s like I’m sitting on the steps and they don’t even see me. They see the house and some random nigga sitting on the steps and is like, you know what? I’m not going to acknowledge a random nigga. But this house, I have to say a thing or I have to acknowledge it with the person I’m walking with, right? Or maybe I’ll take a picture. Or maybe I make a comment. Or maybe I say something and it’s like. Of course, you know, with all racial microaggressions, you know, there’s always a way that you could say, you know, it’s not really about race. You know, maybe these people are just really, you know, taken by the house and it’s really distinct looking. And they just want to comment on that and whatever. And, you know, the first couple of times a thing like this happened, maybe you’re willing to give a person the benefit of doubt. But after it’s a repeated sort of thing, where this happens with multiple white people and it, it kind of reminds me back when we used to have a dog, and I walked a dog. And white people, always white people. Would speak to the dog, but not speak to me. And if you are a white person who is listening to this, you know, I don’t really give nuggets of advice. I save that for dear Damon, I don’t do this with Damon hates,  but stop doing that fucking shit. If you see a Black person and you like the Black person’s child, you like the Black person’s car, you like a Black person’s house, you like a Black person’s dog. Acknowledge the person first and then maybe compliment them and then maybe say a thing, but acknowledge the person first. And you know what? You don’t have to say anything to me either. Like you don’t have to say anything. [laughs] Right. You don’t have to speak to my child. You don’t have to speak to my pet. You don’t have to stare at my house. It’s just a house. You don’t. You don’t have to make any comment. You could. You could wait until you’re going to wherever you’re going. And then you had a conversation with your friend about the thing you just witnessed. The engagement part of it is not necessary. But if you do choose to engage, if you do choose to speak, you need to speak to the motherfucking human that is sitting or standing right there first. [music plays] Up next, for dear Damon. We’re joined by Camonghne Felix whose debut poetry collection Build Yourself A Boat was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award. Morgan the producer, what we got this week? 

 

Morgan Moody: Dear Damon, is it okay for a white person to use the darker skin color emojis? I want to be inclusive, but I don’t want to come across as obnoxious. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] So this. Camonghne how are you doing today? 

 

Camonghne Felix: I’m, you know, after this question. We’ll see. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, with some of these questions. There are easy answers. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: It’s a clear like, fuck no. Or clear, like, hell, yes. With this. What do you think? 

 

Camonghne Felix: It’s funny. I am in a Slack chat where a person who is non-Black, I will not call them white because they do not identify as white, though in pretty much any world they are white. But not. Not for me to say this person is using an emoji that is about my complexion. I saw it and laughed. I think that by itself is an indicator as to whether or not it’s appropriate. I feel like it’s not appropriate like. But also what is the desire? Like why do you need to cosplay via emoji? What does that do for you? 

 

Damon Young: That’s the question. I feel like it’s like. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: It’s not whether or not you should use it. It’s why. Like, why? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Right. 

 

Damon Young: Why do you want. What is the intent behind doing this? I’m also curious about the person you know, who doesn’t identify as white, even though they’re white. Like, how does that actually work? But, you know, I think that. Okay, so you have this spectrum of bad shit that can happen I’m not even gonna say, microaggressions, but just fucked up shit that can happen to you based on your race. Right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yep

 

Damon Young: Spectrum of behavior. This is on the far end of the okay whatever section of the spectrum is not. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Sure. 

 

Damon Young: I’m not going to lose any sleep over someone using [laughs] I don’t know, dark skin emoji. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Right. 

 

Damon Young: When they are, you know, Caucasian, whatever. But it is one of those circumstances where, you know, if I were in regular conversation with someone who did that, I would be like, okay, what is that? What is happening? Like, are you only using the dark skin emoji cause you’re talking to me?

 

Camonghne Felix: Right. 

 

Damon Young: And you feel like this is a way of connecting. This is this is this is actually you trying to overcorrect where you’re not trying to do any microaggressions. You know, like, you know what? I’m talking to Damon Young. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Totally. 

 

Damon Young: So maybe, maybe, maybe communicating with a Black man. I’m going to use Black emoji. 

 

Camonghne Felix: That just makes me feel like this is a person who wants to use the N-word extremely badly. [laughter] Like that’s what it gives. It gives I want to say the N-word, but I know I’ll get dragged so instead I’ll just use a Black thumbs up. [laughter] And the worst part is when the white person uses like the darker, the darkest skin tone that they can find on the gradient scale. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Like, you just for whatever reason, like that is that is validating for them to be as Black as possible via emoji. 

 

Damon Young: I don’t see the person who wants to say nigga or I don’t I don’t see that here. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I’m more I, I see the person. This is the white person who refers to Black people as African-American. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Totally. 

 

Damon Young: Or maybe even goes even further and says person of color, POC [laughter] where there is this general uncomfortability because again, I see this, I’m seeing this and I’m interpreting this and I could be wrong, but I’m turning this as someone who is so this tension or this collision of anxiousness and cluelessness. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: That creates an overcorrection where they do things and you’re just like, you’re what the fuck? 

 

Camonghne Felix: What just happened? 

 

Damon Young: I feel like this isn’t necessarily the person who wants to say the N-word, right? But this is the person who doesn’t just doesn’t know how to exist around Black people. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And. 

 

Camonghne Felix: I’ve met a couple of those. 

 

Damon Young: Well, I mean, there are a lot of those. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: There are a lot of those who are in, quote unquote, “progressive spaces.”. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And who show up, who come to the events. Who come to the panels, who come to the readings, come through all the things. And then you start talking to them. It’s like, oh, I, am I the first Black person that you’ve ever met [laughter] before in your life?

 

Camonghne Felix: When they’re like, well, in the context of BIPOC, you’re like, did you just describe me as a title? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah [laughter] yeah they’re the people they, they get all of the acronyms, right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Course. 

 

Damon Young: But they don’t fit the context that there’s there’s no contextual way of, of, of talking to someone, of understanding someone of, of just having a, a fucking conversation with a person who is Black is just something that they’re, they are incapable of doing they think themselves out of it. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And you know, when I first of the question, you know, and I didn’t necessarily think that this was the sort of person who also wants to say the N-word. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Right. 

 

Damon Young: Right. That just didn’t come to mind. But that was your first response. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. I think that it’s to me it makes sense that it’s a person who wants to say the N-word. But I feel like there are a couple of different kinds of people who want to say the N-word, right? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Like, there’s the like, white kid in college who, like, listens to a lot of Tyler, the Creator, who, like, wants to say the N-word because it if he feels like offended that he doesn’t get to participate in this way, in the way that like the stars that he cares about participate. Then there’s the the white guy. It’s always a man. Then there’s the white guy who wants to say the N-word because he, like, knows that it’s offensive, but he, like low key, likes to piss people off. But then there are the white people who want to say the N-word because they feel like language should be an egalitarian like offer and that everyone should have the right to use whatever language they want as a way to, like, equalize and neutralize the negativity of a particular word. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Camonghne Felix: And I feel like the the white person who, like, uses a dark skinned thumb in the emojis is the same person who thinks that, like, if everyone could say the N-word, then it would lose its power, you know, like those kinds of people. 

 

Damon Young: You know, it’s it’s funny. Like, I didn’t necessarily gender this question. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But the point that you made about the person who wants to say the N-word is always a male. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Or 95% of the time. That is true. And that’s something I didn’t necessarily think about until this moment. [laughs] Right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Where white women for all of the things that you could say they’re usually not the usually. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Usually. 

 

Damon Young: Not the ones who are, like so pressed to say it. And if they do say it, they know that they’re being subversive. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Sure. 

 

Damon Young: By saying it, they they know that whereas the white guy is like, well, I’m just repeating rap lyrics. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Or I’m just a stand up comedian and I’m edgy. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Or [indistinct]. But this emoji question, there wasn’t a gender indicated with the question. But I do not think that this was a cis man. 

 

Camonghne Felix: I don’t think so either. I think the emoji question is almost certainly a woman. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And so that’s that’s interesting. Just the way that. The gendered way in terms of how white people respond to race. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: But ultimately, it’s the same thing, right? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Like both of these genders, which is not to presume that there are only two genders that should be said, but both of these genders, what they’re. Showing is that they want to have access to Blackness in a way that they do not have access to it. And both of them, like understand that there is a limitation, understand that there’s a boundary, and like desperately need to get past it to feel like they are living their truth for whatever reason. Right. I’m willing to gamble that the person, likely woman who wants to use a dark skin emoji or is curious about it, I’m willing to gamble that if you asked her why she would say something around, like feeling like she wanted to connect better with the Black people around her. Right. Which is a question of access you want to be able to access to Black people around you in a way that you don’t already. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. [laughs] I get. I mean, I could see it. And again, it brings me back because again, what I’m thinking of, like the person at the panel, the person who, you know, has that that strange question about race. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. It is 92% of the time it is a woman who asked who asked that question. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Who shows up, who who, who does show up, who has read the book. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But then has like this this question or this takeaway it’s like, wait, what? 

 

Camonghne Felix: And it just makes you wonder.

 

Damon Young: [laughs] What planet are you on?

 

Camonghne Felix: [laughs] Exactly. What book were you reading? 

 

Damon Young: Yes. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Did we read the same book? 

 

Damon Young: Yes. 

 

Camonghne Felix: That you come away with it with such a ridiculous question. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. Did you did you read the book that I wrote or did you. [laughter] Did you read another person’s book? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Are you familiar with the concept of digital blackface? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. And I think this term was coined by Lauren Michele Jackson. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: A few years back about the, I guess, the dynamic where white people use, use memes online and in other sorts of stand ins for for language, for jokes. But they use stuff that is that is from Black people or darker skinned people. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: In place of of themselves. And would you consider this a form of that? 

 

Camonghne Felix: For sure. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Camonghne Felix: I mean, digital Blackface for the most part is a white person using pretty much any apparatus to, like weaponize what is unique to Black people towards their own benefit, towards humor, towards—

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Camonghne Felix: —the desire to connect, etc.. Right. So if you’re a white person who says, you know, I’m going to use this particular meme because I just think it’s funny, right? Which is always the caveat. I just think it’s funny. But the only way that you were able to illustrate the humor that you found was like by using a Black person image or a Black person’s likeness, right? That is not radically different from a person who says, I feel like I need to connect with my friends better, so I’m going to use the Black thumb either way. Right. There is a process of trying to interact with Blackness by like by interacting in a way that, like, you actually can’t that’s unavailable to you. 

 

Damon Young: Well, it’s a superficial interaction. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Correct. 

 

Damon Young: It’s the sort of interaction that, you know, that possesses like the veneer of like community. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And the veneer of actual engagement when it’s just it’s a stand in. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: It’s a it’s a symbol. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: It’s like a peace sign or like a Black fist or whatever that you give to another Black person. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: When you’re not a Black person. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And it’s just like the. And the only message is not a message that, like, the message that I receive when I see a thing like that, it’s not of solidarity. It’s not of, you know, allyship, alliedom. Allyship? Which is it? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Allyship. 

 

Damon Young: Allyship. It’s of confusion. [laughs]

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But it’s not even anger is not even, like, even annoyance. It’s more like, wait, what? What is happening? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Why? Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Why are you doing this? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Just say hi. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. It’s just uncomfortable.

 

Damon Young: It’s like. I’m at breakfast. I’m pancakes, eggs or pancakes, bacon, whatever. And the server asked me if I want hot sauce, and I’m like, I mean, yes— 

 

Camonghne Felix: I’m [?] say no. 

 

Damon Young: I’m like, okay, I’m Black, but who puts hot sauce on pancakes? 

 

Camonghne Felix: On pancakes? 

 

Damon Young: Right? [laughs] Like, I. I understand. You think, Okay, Black man, you probably want some hot sauce, with his food. But look at the food that I’m eating. [laughter] There’s no chicken here. [laughter] There’s no starches. Right? It’s. It’s a motherfucking pancake, so I’m not putting hot sauce on it. I’m not a heathen. 

 

Camonghne Felix: [laughs] It’s just so ridiculous. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Camonghne Felix: I have to know that I want to interview this person. Like, what was the thought explain it to me? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah

 

Camonghne Felix: Where did you think the hot sauce would go on the bacon? [laughter] On the dry ass bacon? 

 

Damon Young: I mean, I, I again, this happened probably about six years ago at a breakfast spot I, I, I frequented and I still go to. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean? But it just was like, what do you want me to do with this hot sauce— 

 

Camonghne Felix: I wonder if he felt like he was connecting. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, again, it the overcorrection. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: The it’s it’s it’s almost like a I don’t know, like some sort of like. Okay. So you could there is interpretation here where it’s like, oh, this, this, this nigga of course he wants hot sauce. Here let me let me, let me get a super soaker full of hot sauce and spray it on—

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: —a nigga at my table. [laughter] Like, there’s that, there’s that. Right. But then there’s also oh, I want, I want to make him feel comfortable. I want him I you know what he is probably he’s probably [laughs] desiring some hot sauce [laughter] with his pancakes. So let me make sure that he has the proper thing that he needs to feel comfortable in this white space. He probably he’s probably anxious. All these white people around him. A white server. I’m white. So let me let me let me offer him a like a olive branch. Right. To let him know that I see him. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Wow. [laughter] Miraculous. 

 

Damon Young: Mira— Yeah. I did not take the hot sauce. 

 

Camonghne Felix: That makes sense. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, because, again, who puts hot sauce on pancakes? 

 

Camonghne Felix: That’s right. 

 

Damon Young: All right, so for the person who wrote in, is it okay to use a dark skin emoji if you’re not Black? If you want to but it’s just weird. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Like, no one’s going to come to your door. No one’s going to cancel you for doing this. But people would just be like this, this motherfucker’s weird. [laughs] Like why are you doing this? What’s wrong with you?

 

Camonghne Felix: We actually can’t promise that you won’t be canceled. Like, if you do it in a public forum, like a Slack. You know. 

 

Damon Young: That that is true that is true.

 

Camonghne Felix: If you do it at work, somebody might report you to H.R. and that might be fair. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, that. You know what? I’m. I misspoke. I take back what I just said. It’s it’s too weird to continue. Just don’t do it. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Just don’t do it. 

 

Damon Young: Because again. The question that we asked you at the beginning is why? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Right. 

 

Damon Young: Why do you want to? And you need to ask yourself that. Why do you want to do it? Camonghne Felix, what do you have happening? What do you have going on? Where can people find you? What’s new in your world? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Ooh. Hmm. Well, you can find me on Instagram. That’s about the only sometimes Twitter at my name which is c a m o n g h n e. I don’t have a website because apparently I’m not adult enough. Like, I just haven’t gotten it together, you know. 

 

Damon Young: Uh huh. 

 

Camonghne Felix: It’s just one of those things. But I’ll be working on it at some point. What do I have going on? I just put out a new book a couple of months ago. Um, that has been—

 

Damon Young: Can you tell us can you tell us about about this book? 

 

Camonghne Felix: Yeah, it’s called Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation. It is about heartbreak, but with the sort of maximalist approach, heartbreak in every context, in the context of romance, in the context of in the familial context, in the friendship context, basically about all of the little things that break your heart and how the math of all of that adds up to who you are. I’m very proud of it. I love it. It’s my baby. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. Thank you—

 

Camonghne Felix: You’re welcome. 

 

Damon Young: —for coming through. Thank you. It was a blast. It was a pleasure. And I’ll see you soon. 

 

Camonghne Felix: Thank you. [music plays]

 

Damon Young: Again. I just want to thank W. Kamau Bell, Camonghne Felix coming through. Great episode. I mean, every episode is great, but this. This was even greater. All of them are great. Some are greater than others. [laughs] Also, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You know, tell a friend. Tell a friend to tell a friend Stuck with Damon Young. Also, if you’re on Spotify, if you’re on the platform. We have these interactive polls and questions that you could go to ask and answer and interact and do all the things that people do when they’re on apps interacting with each other. So please go and do that. Also, if you have any questions that you want to ask me and you want to exist on the show, hit me up at deardamon@crooked.com. All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. Our executive producers are Kendra James. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. From Gimlet and Spotify our executive producers are Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Lauren Silverman, Nicole Beemsterboer, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. All you have to do is hit the bell icon at the upper left section of the show page to get notifications every time an episode drops.