Born on January 26, 1973, Walter Kamau Bell graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and subsequently attended the University of Pennsylvania for a brief period. Today he is best known as W. Kamau Bell, a “socio-political comic” and television host.
In 2009 Bell was a founding member of “Laughter Against the Machine,” a comedy collective that “roams the country bringing humor to the people who need it the most.”
From 2010-14, Bell and guitarist Vernon Reid co-hosted the podcast The Field Negro Guide to Arts & Culture.
In 2012-13, Bell hosted the FXX television series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, which presented social and political commentary infused with humor.
In August 2012, Bell characterized the conservative Tea Party movement as a racist phenomenon. “I don’t need the Tea Party to be 100 percent racist for me to feel perfectly fine calling them racist,” he said. “It could be way less than 100 percent. Ten percent is fine with me.” Drawing an analogy to a milkshake made of “10 percent shit,” Bell stated: “Ten percent’s kind of a lot!”
In the summer of 2013, Bell said that white people, because they themselves are inherently racist, are unqualified to speak about racism: “The worst thing [for a white person] to say to a person of color is, ‘I don’t think that’s racist.’ I don’t think that’s your area. You can have an opinion but I don’t think you are the final word. That’s what’s missing, white people. You’ve got a lot of jobs but should not have the ‘I know what’s racist’ job. ‘I know what’s imperialism’ – that’s your job.”
Since November 2014, Bell and comedian Kevin Avery have co-hosted the weekly podcast Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period, which reviews all of Washington's movies and has aired interviews with prominent actors, musicians, comedians, and filmmakers (including Spike Lee).
In December 2015, Bell said: “White people, you’ve created race, and then off of race, off the back of race, you created racism.” Thus, he expanded, “It’s your job to handle [Republican presidential candidate] Donald Trump,” a man who represented “the pinnacle of white privilege and white supremacy meeting in one place.”
Since January 2016, Bell has hosted Kamau Right Now, a live radio program and podcast that examines the political and cultural issues of the day.
In March 2016, Bell smeared the Republican Party as a thoroughly racist entity, saying: “If the Republican Party is a gumbo … the roux of that gumbo is white supremacy, and the core of that is the Ku Klux Klan.”
Since April 24, 2016, Bell has hosted the CNN documentary series United Shades of America, which explores how various “communities” across the United States are routinely confronted by racism and other serious “challenges.”
Since June 2016, Bell and comic Hari Kondabolu have co-hosted the podcast Politically Re-Active, which takes a comedic approach to helping people “survive in the age of [President Donald] Trump” and “be an active part of the resistance.”
In August 2016, Bell wrote an open letter to the legendary Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, urging him to relinquish the honor of carrying the U.S. flag at the upcoming Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, and to allow Ibtihad Muhammad, a Muslim member of the U.S. women's fencing team, to carry the flag instead. “It would be a symbol for our country,” said Bell, “in this moment when we are mostly known for one of the most contentious, controversial, scandal-ridden, hateful, xenophobic, jingoistic, and just generally unlikeable presidential elections in recent memory.” “Muhammad carrying the flag would be nearly a one-stop inclusion shop,” Bell added, noting that the fencer was “an African-American” as well as a “hijab-wearing Muslim woman,” meaning that she belonged to multiple “groups that could always use some more love, acceptance, and respect from this country” – a nation that already “has enough tall, successful, rich white guys hogging the spotlight trying to make America great ... again.” Notably, Miss Muhammad's recent Twitter posts showed her to be a committed anti-Semite who viewed Israel as a “terrorist state” that practiced “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.”
In a March 2017 appearance on CNN Tonight, Bell said he was not offended by a newly released music video in which the rapper Snoop Dogg was depicted conducting an execution-style murder of Donald Trump. Dismissing the video as harmless “satire,” and stating that it was “pretty harsh” for critics to call it a “mock execution,” Bell said: “Obama dealt with things like this all the time. What's more offensive? [The] Donald Trump character in this video or [Congressman] Joe Wilson standing on the floor of the Senate during the State of the Union saying 'you lie' to Obama? I feel like that's more offensive to me. So Obama dealt with this stuff all the time.”
In a May 2017 episode of United Shades of America, Bell tried to advance the notion that the Islamic faith has been woven into the fabric of American culture since time immemorial. “America has always had heroes who were Muslims,” he said, citing Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Malcolm X. Bell also praised Louis Farrakhan, the notoriously anti-Semitic, racist leader of the Nation of Islam.
In July 2017, Bell said that “President Trump is in office because he appealed to some of the basic fears of Americans” during the 2016 campaign. “[W]hen you start to sell the fear,” Bell continued, “you forget the fact, you're like, wait a minute, I actually do like my neighbors. I do like the undocumented Latino family across the street. They're very nice. They've very helpful.”
On August 27, 2017, Bell spoke at a so-called “No Hate In The Bay” rally in Berkeley, California, where members of the Marxist/anarchist Antifa movement engaged in brutal violence against Donald Trump supporters whom they falsely depicted as “fascists” and white supremacists. When Antifa chased away the pro-Trump people, Bell took a bullhorn and shouted, “Bye Nazis! Bye!” He subsequently stated, “[W]hen the Nazis leave, as they have left … you have to stand up for the brown people, the black people, the LGBT people, the immigrants–everybody everyday!”
Bell sits on the advisory board of Race Forward, a think tank that “brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people … dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all.” He also sits on the advisory board of Hollaback!, an organization whose mission is to protect “women, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, and people with disabilities” from “harassment.”
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