It’s rarely advisable to speak for anyone but yourself, let alone an entire race.
But on a recent episode of “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert threw caution to the wind during an interview with Atlanta-based rapper, activist, and barber shop aficionado Michael Render (aka Killer Mike).
Segueing into some real talk about race relations, Colbert assumed the mantle of spokesperson for all white people.
Render, in turn, accepted a role as the bass-y voice of Black America. And so the stage was set for an exchange that, between lesser humans, could have gone horribly awry.
“This year, if I can speak for all white people … a lot of people in the white community have found out about the life of African-Americans in Ferguson, Baltimore, North Charleston, other places around the United States,” Colbert noted. “Do you think that the awareness that has risen through these tragedies has changed anything, at least in our national dialogue?”
With that, Colbert and millions of viewers entered the rap star’s classroom.
“If white people are just now discovering that it’s bad for black or working people in America, they’re a lot more blind than I thought,” said Render, clearly unburdened by political delicateness. (He does, after all, go by Killer Mike.)
He explains that the conversations about race these days are essentially the same ones people were having in the ’90s.
And the ’80s.
And the ’70s.
And the ’60s.
Colbert fired back with a question that gets to the heart (and head) of the matter.
“So again, speaking for all white people, what can we do to bridge the gap? … You own barber shops. Should white people start getting their hair cut at black barber shops? There are conversations going on there … that we’re not part of.”
“Yes, I hope so,” said Render. “And white people pay $50 for haircuts, so absolutely.”
With a hearty laugh and a hand through his mane, Colbert simply replied, “Yep.”
Jokes aside, Render went on to urge fortunate white people to step away from the familiar by mentoring poor black and brown kids. It’s not just about doing something good for another person or having a reason to pat themselves on the back.
More importantly, he says, it’s about building a culture of empathy toward people from all backgrounds and walks of life.
Watch the full interview: