If you’ve been paying more attention than the people he pranks, you’ve probably noticed Sacha Baron Cohen has been on a tear lately exposing right-wing morons as racist, child-arming extremists for his new Showtime show Who Is America? Cohen’s latest episode of brought him to small town of Kingman, Arizona where he appeared before a meeting of community members.
Cohen, posing as a hippie-like liberal, announced his plan to turn a showing center into a massive mosque, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia and the Clinton Foundation. The residents of the town in attendance reacted with, wait for it… appalling racism!
I know we get into whether or not it’s ok to call people “racist” a lot, but if someone says they’re racist then they’re racist.
But the residents didn’t stop there! One of them piped up to say the town was lucky to have black people in it. Cohen, never breaking character, agrees with the man and commends him on his commitment to multiculturalism. Then other members of the town jump in to correct Cohen and let him know black people are merely ‘tolerated’ there.
Sacha Baron Cohen does it again.
*There is actually a thriving Muslim community in Kingman, which I just visited a few weeks ago.
— Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi) July 25, 2018
To be clear, Kingman, Arizona already has a mosque, something these clearly very well-informed white folks don’t seem to be aware of.
Naturally, the town’s racist response caused quite a stir on social media:
Hurt by the portrayal of their town as really, really, REALLY racist, the city posted a response on Facebook. In the post, they veer into Trumpian criticisms of Cohen, calling his show “very low rated”:
“Every city has resident voices that challenge respect and dignity for others. They are wrong and unfortunate. That was no exception on Sunday’s ‘Who Is America?’ show on Showtime in which an actor baited purported residents to vociferously oppose a fictitious, supersized mosque in our city.”
After attempting to shift the blame to Cohen, the post then continues to cast doubt that the individuals in the tape are indeed Kingman residents, “numerous ‘focus group’ participants don’t even live in Kingman.” These rascally racists! They must have popped in from the racism dimension!
The city objects to the idea that black people are barely tolerated by pointing out that Kingman has “African-Americans applying for leadership positions with the city.” (Cool, are they gonna get those positions or nah?) They also (bizarrely) say they welcome tourists from “Asia fascinated by our Route 66 history.” Do tell!
Obviously, none of these lame excuses are going to fix what seems like a serious racism problem, so the post announces some changes going forward. They’re going to propose a National Hispanic Heritage Month, invite a black preacher to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day (which is like six months away), and “develop the community’s first Diversity Commission that will be charged with expanding what our city and community does for people of all types and persuasions that have contributed, and will contribute, to this great country.”
And that’s all well and good. But at the end of the day, racism is a problem for white people. As long as Kingman’s white residents tolerate the intolerance of their fellow white people, nothing’s going to change. There’s no easy fix, but papering over the issue by paying lip service to minorities isn’t going far enough.