We love Wali Collins! He is America’s most loved Comedian. Most important of all, he’s a really nice guy who cares about making the world a better place. We feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview him on Life, Racism and the World.
PR4P: Do you think your audiences are color blind?
Wali Collins: Soon as you get on that stage, people see a black man. Everyone has their own understanding of what a black man is. They might have their misconceptions or set ways of thinking. Now it’s up to me to guide them or show them who I am as a person.
PR4P: Why do You tell jokes about your color?
Wali Collins: Depending on the crowd or depending on my mood, I feel that it’s necessary so long as it doesn’t come from an angry place. I tell stories…Pretty much every store I go into, people stop and ask me, Do you work here? I was at Bed Bath and Beyond, Wearing a red shirt jeans and sneakers. I was looking for my wife. This woman asked, Where are the elevators? She automatically assumed I worked there. All the Bed Bath and Beyond workers were wearing blue aprons and I was wearing a red shirt. What made her think that I worked there? Hmmm. He’s the intelligent black guy; he must be the manager.
PR4P: What is the difference racism and prejudice?
Wali Collins: When you say the “N” word, that’s prejudice. You pre-judged someone and that’s a prejudicial statement. Being a racist is prejudice in action. Racism is where you can oppress a certain race. You have the power to do what you can to not let a certain race advance, not give them jobs, not allow black people into your apartment building, and not let anyone of color to advance.
PR4P: Your Mom was a major influence in your life. What advice did she give you about what to do about racial discrimination?
Wali Collins: When I did the Apollo the first time I was so excited. This was when I thought I had made it. I’m going to perform in front of my own people. When I walked on that stage all I saw was black. I also saw my aunt, uncle, cousins, my neighbors. I got love, I thought. I’m going to push that love back to you and it’s going to be beautiful. Except, I wasn’t the black, they weren’t expecting. They booed me. I got so much hate. So much meanness. I was so confused. Where do I go? If I can’t go where people look like me, then where can I go? My mother said to me, “We’re the only race where we judge ourselves. It’s because of 400 years of brainwashing. There are black people who don’t like you because of the way you speak. The way you dress.” For a long time, I stayed away from a black audiences because I wasn’t what they expected. I’m that other black. I’m not their stereotypical black. I’m not going to say Nigger or get up there and start cursing.
PR4P: How do you straddle the two worlds of black and white?
Wali Collins: There is a subtext to the black experience in America. There are unwritten rules for anyone who is black in America. Based on my experiences in life, I have to be bi-cultural. It’s who I am. It’s like President Obama; he had to straddle two worlds. A week ago I was talking to a young woman. “You talk so proper,” she said. “You need to relax.” My father stressed speaking good grammar. Some people think that being black means you have to be a certain way—a stereotypical black person. And as a black person, you’re supposed to talk a certain way. When I was dating, a number of women said to me, You talk white. One of the reasons why I married my wife was that she never tried to change me. She accepts me for who I am.
PR4P: Do you think it’s harder for a person of color to be successful in the entertainment world?
Wali Collins: No, it’s based on talent, and it’s based on smarts. You just have to know and not believe that the white folks hold the cards. There is definitely a way to get it done.
PR4P: What advice would you give to people about how they should respond when they experience or witness racism?
Wali Collins: It takes a lot of courage to do it, but call it out. If you call it out as soon as you see it, that will kill it. If you keep it quiet in that awkward way, that’s when it gets fueled and picks up momentum.
PR4P: Why do you think there has been such a horrific show of racial hatred suddenly rearing its ugly head?
Wali Collins: Racism has always been there. Listen to Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory. There has always been violence against black folks. The Police have always gone after people based on racial profiling. One reason why we see an explosion of racism is because the media is covering it. The media is drawing attention to racism. Rich White Men can walk into the room and get a job. A brown or a dark person has to prove himself. Obama represents the way America is going. He knew rap, Kanye West, Aretha Franklin. Obama was comfortable going into a black church, as much as he was comfortable going into a white church. Obama is a brown person who represented America. Trump is a great metaphor for what is going on in America. He’s a backlash to the direction we were going in, but he can’t stop the world from changing. The white supremacists are in their death throes because they’re losing. I see a shift taking place. A white man used to be able to walk into a room and get the job or get the deal, but because of technology those jobs are going away. Technology is doing its thing. You have companies like Google and Amazon who are hiring people who can do the work. Peer-to-peer. Dark and brown people are thriving. Clean Energy is replacing mining. The ICOs, the bitcoins and digital currency are replacing banks. Governments can’t regulate bitcoin and it has skyrocketed in value. You don’t need to have a financial institution to help you spend your money. That’s where the world is headed—a digital world.