W. Kamau Bell snapped up the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program for his show United Shades of America on Saturday night at the Creative Arts Emmys—his third consecutive win in this category.
Accepting the statuette up on stage, he took the opportunity to call out the industry for falling short on inclusivity. “White people,” He said, “I’m asking you to bring more diversity and inclusion on these shows.”
Comedian Bell hosts the CNN docuseries, which explores race-based issues and subcultures across America.
Asked backstage what change he wanted to see, Bell said, “It feels like the same issues I saw with the first season of the show, where I had to work to get people of color behind the camera, Black people behind the camera. It’s still not perfect; it’s still not great. So I feel like I have to not only call my team out, but I have to call the industry out.”
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Bell pointed out that the issue goes way beyond what we see on television. “You talk about more diversity on screen,” he said. “I still sit in a lot of meetings where it’s mostly white dudes. It’s not about white allies, it’s about white power brokers who want to be allies.”
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Bell made it clear that, as a winner, he doesn’t feel he can rest on his laurels. “If I’m going to be about it, I’ve got to talk about it,” he said, “and I’ve got and really represent. It’s not enough for me to get these awards and feel like, ‘Yay, I’m doing something’. As any black person or person of color knows, we have to keep the door open for more people.”
Bell had also said in his acceptance speech that the industry was “full of s–t” for not giving more opportunity to Born This way, which was nominated in this same category. He said he’d spoken to some people from that show on the red carpet before the awards and they had said they didn’t expect to be back next year.
Bell sees this as hypocrisy on the part of the industry. “If this show’s being nominated for all these things, and being shown as this change maker…Born This Way—it feels like these people have been nominated for all these awards, shouldn’t they be pitching more shows, and being out there in more shows, and produce shows, and bring through other stories? Maybe that’s happening to them, but I didn’t get that impression.”
He wanted to reach the widest audience in speaking out in the wake of winning, and said it wasn’t about pushing the people in Born This Way personally. “It’s not to put the idea in their heads,” he said, it’s to put the idea to everybody in this room, because these are the people who actually make TV, these are the people who have the power to have general meetings and to greenlight things.”
He added he really hopes the issues his show raises can change things. “I just hope you have different conversations without me being there.”
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