Television about race tends to be either informative or easy viewing, but almost never both. Trigger Warning is the exception, managing to be both educational and entertaining. Not only that, it manages to be entertaining without ever detracting from the gravity of its subject matter.
The show is presented by Killer Mike, a left-wing social commentator and rapper making up half of Run the Jewels. Each week, he proposes a solution to a problem faced by the black community.
In one episode, he buys exclusively from black businesses
In the first episode, he cites studies that suggest that a dollar spent in the black (American) community leaves that community after just six hours. His solution? Live black. He spends three days only buying from black-owned businesses, and the effects are drastic. He can’t smoke weed, and refuses a lap dance from a stripper once he realises she isn’t black. In one scene, Mike has to spend the night on a park bench after being able to find no hotels owned by black entrepreneurs.
The show identifies racism using accessible, often funny scenarios
The contrast may seem jarring, but that’s at the core of what makes the show great. It manages to wrinkle out the subtleties of racism with accessible, often funny scenarios that belie the severity of what underpins them. In one episode, he explains the failings of the education system by making vocational-orientated porn. In another, he has his friend Sleepy start a religion. The main tenet of the religion is, believe it or not, sleep. Mike then goes on to explain in voiceover the stigmatisation of sleep in the black community. He quotes Frederick Douglass, who wrote that slaves were whipped more for oversleeping than any other offence. Mike then explains that the black community is forced into crowded, noisier environments, and has been historically stereotyped as lazy. “Culturally, we have devalued sleep,” he argues.
The show is a great eye-opener for white people that race is not just a social issue
At least subconsciously, it can be easy for white people to believe that racism is either easy, or so complicated that it can’t be meaningfully engaged with. In both scenarios, the outcome is the same. A few petitions get signed, a black square gets lobbed on Instagram, and that’s seen as good enough. This show is a great place to start unlearning those patterns of thought and behaviour. Funny when it can be, confrontational when it is has to, it puts forward the idea that racism is not just a social issue. It is by turns cultural, economic and hugely widespread.
Trigger Warning with Killer Mike is available on U.K. Netflix, and a whole boatload of illegal websites
Last modified: 16th June 2020