Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian feminist author who was sampled in Beyoncé's "Flawless," appeared on BBC Newsnight alongside R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., founder and editor-in-chief of the conservative magazine The American Spectator. Both Adichie and Tyrrell were discussing the role of racism in the U.S. presidential election, particularly in relation to President-elect Trump's campaign, when Adichie made a salient point about the conversation around racism that has resonated with viewers, creating a viral clip that's being shared across the internet.
When BBC reporter Emily Maitlis tried to point out that Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, had acknowledged that Trump has used racist language, Tyrrell immediately jumped to Trump's defense.
“That’s not true,” Tyrrell said. “He hasn’t been racist.” Adichie's initial reaction was a smile that was equal parts amused and irritated. But after a beat, she interrupted Tyrrell's defense. “I am sorry, but if you are a white man, you don’t get to define what racism is," she said. "You really don’t.” Of course, Tyrrell tried to push back and launched into an explanation of the Marxist theory of false consciousness. He also complained, “I can’t even open my mouth here, because I am a white male.” But Adichie wasn't having any of it. She said, “No, you don’t get to sit there and say that he hasn’t been racist when, objectively, he has." Things had already gotten testy earlier in the interview, when Maitlis brought up the Ku Klux Klan’s support of Donald Trump. Tyrrell tried to downplay the organization’s role in Trump’s election, even making a strange reference to the Knights of Columbus.
But Adichie wasn't having it, saying, “You know, I find it really interesting. It seems to be a refusal to accept reality." After pointing out the way Tyrrell tried to redirect the question to talk about something else, Adichie said, "The point is, the KKK exists. The KKK endorsed Donald Trump. The KKK stands for white supremacy and that has to be acknowledged.” Adichie is right: Race and racism have a big part of the post-mortem discussion regarding the 2016 election. It may not be the entire conversation, but it's a really big part of it that we can't ignore simply because it's uncomfortable.