Spotlight: Jay Smooth

Why his vlogs on race hit more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

By Quince Mountain Jul 21, 2009

Before videoblogging, Jay Smooth didn’t even have a mirror in his house, except that tiny mirror in the bathroom near the sink.

“Being aware of how I look or relating to myself [visually] didn’t come naturally to me,” says the self-taught video producer who these days spends upwards of 10 hours staring at various shots of his face, splicing together expressive close-ups ranging from manic contortion to heavy-lidded serenity.  

And all that work pays off.

One of Smooth’s most popular videos, “How to Tell People They Sound Racist,” has had more than 200,000 views on YouTube and is being used in workplace trainings and college courses.

With wry humor, Smooth explains that he doesn’t chase down a pickpocket to “figure out whether he thinks he’s a thief deep down in his heart.”  He chases him down so he can get his wallet back.  

Likewise, we should focus our accusations of racism to hold people accountable for particular racist comments or actions, not to determine if someone is a racist. Doing the latter, we make it easy for the offender to frame the conversation in terms sure to maintain the status quo.

While Smooth describes himself as a biracial nerd, he’s also a kind and gentle provocateur—the anti-Bill O’Reilly. And smarter. Much smarter.

Check out his videos at