Plenty of late-night voices have weighed in on Brexit. But Samantha Bee’s Monday night take really got interesting when she got into the effects of the referendum’s success on British society—namely, the empowerment and (at least self-perceived) normalization of white supremacists. Racial and ethnic slurs on social media and in the real world, along with calls to “get out of our country” and even a “make Britain great again,” have threatened minority populations in one of the world’s great strongholds of diversity.
I was good and ready to hate this clip. I am not a fan of Samantha Bee, who strikes me as aught more than a professional attention-monger and Jon Stewart wannabee pumping out glandular lefty hyperbole to get cheap laughs from everyone living on the blue side of the aisle.
But this clip may be the best thing she’s done since starting her show. Please ignore the headline. Bee does not say that Brexit is all about white supremacy.
She has the intelligence to understand that Britain’s history with the EU is fraught and complex. She does not mention, but surely understands, the fundamental miscalculations made by Eurocentrists in their quest to turn an economic union into a single polity of two dozen states. She acknowledges the social and economic disruption caused in Britain by the unprecedented (since 1066, anyway) immigration it has experienced. And she reminds us of the growing dissatisfaction among the working-class and middle-class in Britain with the uneven distribution of the benefits of globalization, and a frustration with political elites.
So she does not say that the Brexit vote is all about white supremacy. Her key point is this: whatever the reasons for the Brexit vote, it has given Britain’s vocal minority of racists and xenophobes the mistaken impression that half of their country agrees with them.
And that’s the kicker: whatever other reason you might have to vote for or against Donald Trump, you must acknowledge that by voting for him you are aligning yourself with some of the meanest, most ignorant pond-scum among our fellow citizens, and in so doing reinforcing their belief in the legitimacy of their baseless hatreds.
Watching the video, the one American – aside from Donald Trump – who looks really foolish in all of this is Van Jones. Bee shows one of Jones’ videos, and he is almost hyperventilating in his angst about how Brexit means that the door is wide open for Jim Crow (or worse) to return to America.
Jones is proof that there are those in America who reduce the Brexit to a battle between white supremacy on the one hand a liberal inclusiveness on the other, not in an effort to tell the truth, but in order to hijack the issue for their own narrow political ends.
To her credit, Bee resists going down that road. She seems to understand that the way to steer America clear of its darkest future is not to attempt to drag the nation to the opposite extreme, but to forge a consensus around the center. One can only hope that such reasonable voices dominate the American dialogue in the months remaining before the election.