This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people descended on Washington, DC, for the inauguration of Donald Trump. Some were there to celebrate, while others were there to protest. Jamali Maddix, the British comedian who hosts VICELAND's HATE THY NEIGHBOR, headed to the nation's capital with a camera crew to talk to both sides of the divide.
"I think I'm going to see people who are going to be very happy with the result, and there will be people who are not happy with the result," he said late last week, before heading out on the trip. "Whether you think it's good or bad—it's going to be something that defines this portion of the generation. It's definitely a very defining moment, if you think it's good or bad. It's going to be historical."
You can watch the resulting video of Maddix's experience above—but wait! There's more. Tonight, HATE THY NEIGHBOR premieres at 10 PM EST, chronicling Maddix's efforts here and abroad to try and find out what it is in human nature that makes people hate one another so much. Read on for our conversation about racism, what to expect from the show, and whether people can actually change over time.
VICE: Tell me what Hate Thy Neighbor is about.
Jamali Maddix: It's about a comedian going around the world trying to find out why people hate. I'm a dude who's confused, going to places, getting one question answered, and having three more questions thrown at him. I'm a normal guy trying to figure out why other humans act like this.
What about the show's subject matter speaks to you?
Growing up in London, I saw certain people's hate and views. I've always been fascinated by people disliking a group of people they haven't met—how people can not like someone they don't know? That's what drew me toward it.
In America, the party line is sometimes that race is something you don't talk about. Is that something you're trying to combat with this show?
I'm not trying to be an arbiter of morality for people. I can only go from what I believe, this is something I want to understand and know more about. Should people talk about race? Yeah, but I'm not trying to force people to do anything. Everyone has their own choice. I do think the world would be a better place if people were more open about things, though.
Sometimes, racism is framed as a misunderstanding rather than an act of hate. I'm curious about your thoughts on the schism between those two beliefs. Is there such a thing as racism by misunderstanding?
Misunderstanding can be one of the causes of why people are racist, but there are loads of other factors, too—fear, a sense of community, upbringing, social circumstance. To say it's a misunderstanding—you're looking at the tip of the iceberg.
Sometimes, people who previously had hateful viewpoints change over time and become more accepting of others. Does that make them all better, or is it right to be skeptical?
That's a difficult one. If someone thought a certain way and now they don't—if they want to change their life—there has to be some type of redemption and forgiveness in this world. No one is fucking perfect. That's not justifying their views, of course fucking not, their views are fucked up—but at the same time, to make someone who said they had certain views an outcast is a strange thing to me. It's hard, but if someone was a member of a racist organization and then they generally changed their views, there is growth, and there could be grounds for redemption.
Tell me about an experience you had filming this season that was memorable.
In Ukraine, I went to a music festival without knowing that it was a white power music festival with people armed with knives and stuff—they were very upset I was there. Going to the refugee jungle in Calais really changed me as a human—to say it didn't effect me would be lying. It made me think a lot. There are so many experiences I've had doing this show.
What have you learned?
You can't think human beings could ever end up like this, whether they're fascists or they're willing to let people sleep in fucked-up conditions in Calais. What i've learned is that humanity doesn't stop, shockingly. I've met some people who were great human beings, and I've met great people, nice people, fun people, and scary people. A wide selection.