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When it comes to navigating the world as a Black woman, Ziwe Fumudoh is comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“I’ve gone through several white institutions as sort of an other, so I am constantly having conversations where I’m the person who’s uncomfortable and the people I’m talking to are none the wiser,” the comedian and Desus & Mero writer shared with Vanity Fair in June. “I’m confronted with these issues when I’m talking to someone and they say, ‘Oh, I got married on a plantation.’ Well, why did you get married on a plantation? The subtext is uncomfortable for me, so I want to bring the subtext to the foreground.”
This subtext is the key ingredient that makes her Instagram live series so salient. Unflinching and unabashed, Fumudoh makes you laugh. But like many great comedians, she also challenges her audience — and particularly her white guests — to sit with some thorny questions (e.g. “How many Black friends do you have?” “Why do you hate Black women?” “Have you ever called the police on a Black person before?”).
Most of the time, the answers she receives are utterly cringeworthy. But she’s not here to get folks in trouble. Rather, through this crucial and pointed dialogue, she hopes to create a space where folks can be humbled to learn and grow. This is the nucleus of her Instagram broadcasts, which are based on her popular YouTube series, Baited with Ziwe.
“I would find myself in conversation with white peers, and they’d ask me, ‘Are you baiting me?’ No, I’m not baiting you. You were just talking about race, and I’m following up about what I would consider really, really problematic answers,” she explained. “This is me just trying to delve deeper into what it is about this country that creates this climate for race and conversations about race.” And that’s precisely what we need in this moment.
Beyond Baited, Fumudoh’s finishing up The Book of Ziwe — a book of essays about race that will double as a look into her life and her sociopolitical views. We we won’t be getting that until January 2022, but in the meantime, we’ll be staying tuned in so we don’t miss the “@ziwef has started a live video” notification. You should, too.
Black Is The New Black is Refinery29’s celebration of Black women who are changing the game. Black women who are reminding the world that we are not a trend or “a moment.” We’re here — and we’ve been here. Check out the full list.