There’s a new show on Viceland called “Hate Thy Neighbor,” and in today’s increasingly polarized world of politics, racism and misogyny, it couldn’t have come at a better time. English comedian Jamali Maddix tours the United States and gets to know the people on the inside of hate groups, like the National Socialist Movement and Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge. Maddix chats with us about whether or not kids can unlearn the racism taught by their parents, what racism looks like in the U.K. and the common thread running through many hate groups.
As an Englishman, you have a unique perspective on race relations in the United States. How are things different here versus the U.K.?
It’s such a complicated question because it’s obviously different. In England, you can’t be a Holocaust denier or say Holocaust denial things in public, for example. Racism exists in both places but it’s a different culture. You had the civil rights movement and open discussions about slavery. In England, we still haven’t really had that discussion yet. While we may have more covert racism, both countries still have racism.
You come from a biracial heritage, and in the episodes I’ve seen so far, you hung out with one hate group that was opposed to nonwhites (NSM) and another that was opposed to nonblacks (ISUPK). Did you ever fear for your safety?
There were some times where I went back to the hotel and I thought about what I did that day and I’m like, “Oh, that was a sticky situation.” When you’re filming, you’re so engrossed in your work that you don’t think about it that much. It’s probably stupid of me, but you’re just working and you go, “Oh, that put me in quite a heavy situation.”
What was the most shocking revelation for you in the course of filming this show?
I saw a lot of hypocrisy and stuff like that. I kind of want to leave it to the viewer to be surprised by twists and turns.
For me, seeing how great of a father Dan is to his kids and how friendly and welcoming he is to you — and yet, he’s a neo-Nazi — I found that really shocking.
So was I. It’s strange. It’s hard to understand sometimes. He has these great traits about him, but he has these weird views. You’ve got to remember that we’re dealing with people and people have likeable traits. It’s a very complicated situation.
Dan is indoctrinating his kids so early into thinking the way he does. Do you think they can ever unlearn that?
Kids tend to think differently. There’s a lot of things your parents told you that you hope you don’t do. You hope. I think that there are people who want to make their own decisions in life.
A common thread I noticed between the different hate groups is that rather than accept responsibility for their problems, they put the blame on an outside party — whether it be the NSM against nonwhites or ISUPK against nonblacks.
There is a sense of coping. Why I made the show is to try to understand it and why they use this thing to cope. I don’t know if I cracked it. I think it does have to do with a sense of community, too.
Trump just took office. What are your thoughts on that whole situation?
To say that there’s no rise in conservatism and right-wing views would be a lie. Same with where I come from. You’ve got Brexit and stuff like that. Just going to see how it plays out. I’m not envious, but I didn’t vote. I don’t have the right to vote here. My views are obsolete, really. I don’t think I would have voted Trump.
Do you think there will ever be a time when racism doesn’t exist?
I don’t know. I hope so. I think if we want it and push for it and if we can find a universal understanding, [it’s possible]. We have the access to everyone around the world and are able to see how other people live with the internet. Hopefully there can be some form of universal understanding that we’re all human beings. Do I think it’ll happen? I do hold hope for it. If I had a crystal ball, I’d ask for the lottery number first and then ask about racism.
The next episode of “Hate Thy Neighbor” airs on Monday, Jan. 30 on Viceland at 10 p.m.