United Shades of America Episode 1

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W. Kamau Bell is a man who has been on my radar for ages (or so it seems). I’m trying to recall whether I saw his stand-up first or Totally Biased on FXX. Either way, it doesn’t matter – cuz he’s back on TV! His new show is called “United Shades of America” and man, is he amazing or what?

I’ve been following W. Kamau Bell through his blog since Totally Biased was cancelled and am always appreciative with how he can make me laugh even when terrible things are happening around him or to him. ¬†One of the best/worst posts was when he was accosted at a cafe he and his wife frequent regularly.

United Shades of America was a bit different for me. I was uncomfortable and sad most of the time while watching. Of course I can’t help but laugh at the wit that comes from Kamau, but the pilot for this episode was SO impactful.

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Kamau tasked himself with learning about the new Ku Klux Klan and there were times in the episode where I’m biting my nails down to the quick because I have NO idea how he’s going to get away from this situation.

As we go through the episode we learn so much about the thinking and ways of people raised around the Klan. The beauty of this episode? Kamau provides each person with a platform to be in their truth. And even though I felt that each perspective was so far from reality I was given an opportunity to really hear each individual. Kamau gives a bit of his perspective and you know he doesn’t agree, but he really listens. And this is the key. By allowing each person to speak we all get an opportunity to reach understanding of the other’s perspective. This is where we start. By getting to a place of understanding, we can grow.

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I loved everything about this episode even though I was uncomfortable throughout. Kamau ends the pilot by explaining that he may be the only black man in history that has been asked to witness a cross burning (or cross lighting) and walk away from it. At this point, I promptly began crying.

Kudos to CNN for putting such an amazing man on your network and for allowing him a platform to do amazing stuff. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.