Emmy-nominated political comedian W. Kamau Bell visited Berkshire School on Monday, Sept. 12 to present his show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour.
Bell’s visit was scheduled as part of the School’s All-School Read program, which this year focuses on race in America through the lens of the book Between The World and Me, by award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“You don’t end racism by asking people to explain their existence to you,” said Bell. “You can end racism by just being respectful to everyone else’s existence.”
During the hour-long show at Allen Theater, the host of CNN's United Shades of America told students, faculty, and staff that he uses comedy to elicit “uncomfortable” but necessary conversations about race and racism. He urged the audience to engage in conversation and to “keep your eyes open.”
"Bringing W. Kamau Bell to Berkshire was a very intentional choice to present a very complex topic in a light-hearted, less threatening way," said LeRhonda Greats, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion.
During his performance, Bell encouraged all groups to take pride in their culture. Bell said that if white people embrace the idea of white pride, they can in turn discourage racism in others. The idea, Greats said, has a positive message.
"[Bell's] call to instill white pride in white people, while foreign, is a good one. It goes hand in hand with our diversity mission statement and strategic priorities. We are using the National SEED [Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity] Project's models for building trust and vocabulary around equity and inclusion which provides our community with a structure for having difficult conversations. Through these conversations we will become a better community and will prepare our students 'For Life.'"
Following his performance, Bell answered questions from students and faculty and later visited classes where small discussion groups were held to continue the conversation.
“I feel energized by Bell's performance today,” said Lucia Mulder, chair of Berkshire’s All-School Read committee.
“I'm proud to be at a school where we are facing the issue of race head-on and providing students with tools that might be helpful when addressing this topic beyond Berkshire. As Bell said, it's about listening to each other. And all of us can always benefit from doing more of that.”
Mulder said Coates’ book will be integrated into English and History classes throughout the year, and that other All-School Read-related events are planned.
Click here to read more about Berkshire’s All-School Read Program.