Racism in Berkeley Versus Texas

By Daisy Hernandez Feb 20, 2009

Scanning the reactions this week to Eric Holder’s speech reminded me of a skit from comedian Kamau Bell‘s show "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About An Hour" (which plays lives in Los Angeles on Feb. 24). Bell says Americans are familiar with two kinds of racism. One is where you tie the guy up to a pickup truck and drag him to his death. That would be called…Texas racism. The other kind of racism is where you have two guys at the water cooler and one says, "What’s the name of that guy in the mail room? The Puerto Rican?" and the other person says, "Puerto Rican? Why you have to make it about race?" That would be called… Berkeley racism. I might be off on the details of Kamau’s joke (I caught his show a few weeks ago), but the point stands: We get racism as either a hate crime or a personal thing. All the hoopla from media outlets about Holder’s phrase "nation of cowards" leads me to believe we just have a case of Americans who hear a speech about race and immediately jump to their primary understanding of racism, which is: "It’s personal. I’m being called a racist. I can’t believe it. I voted for Obama. Don’t you know that when a white man votes for Obama it means he’s not a racist?" I’m having one of those irritating "it’s not about you personally white boy" moments. But to be fair, it’s both: it’s not about you personally but we need each other personally to make conversations on race happen. All of which reminds me why comedy like Kamau Bell’s is so needed. His show is on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 8:00pm – 9:00pm Location:tComedy Central Stage at the Hudson 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard Los Angeles, CA