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story.lead_photo.caption One of two billboards in Harrison that has drawn the ire of some for its racially charged message is seen in this October 2013 file photo.

The first episode of CNN’s United Shades of America took black comedian W. Kamau Bell to two Arkansas cities where messages of white supremacy remain in the public eye.

“If you search the Internet for [Ku Klux Klan], some of the top stories you’ll find are about a small town you’ve probably never heard of,” Bell told viewers, referring to Harrison, a town of more than 13,000 residents — 96 percent of whom are white, he said.

Bell interviews locals — including members of a task force fighting racial divides in the city — who denounce a man whose role as national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has become burdensome to Harrison's image in recent years.

The prominent Klansman, pastor Thomas Robb, later sits down for lunch with Bell. The two exchange views on their respective races, and by the end of that conversation, Bell takes Robb up on an offer to visit his compound.

"The Klan to me is just a tool to reach people," Robb told Bell. "I feel that it's the biggest bang for the buck. ... My personal belief is that black people cannot maintain law and order on their own."

At one point during the episode, Bell stands in front of a billboard visible as visitors entered Harrison that read in part: “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White.”

That billboard, which went up in October 2013 along the U.S. 62/65 bypass, came down in November 2014 after receiving national media attention, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.

On a road darkened by nightfall in Wynne, Bell also met with another KKK figure whose voice was masked to protect his identity.

The full first episode, which aired Sunday, is available on demand at CNN's website. It will also re-air at 10:11 p.m. Friday, according to the network's programming schedule.

New episodes of United Shades of America, a hybrid of stand-up comedy and storytelling, air at 9 p.m. Sundays on CNN.

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Comments

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  • finzleft
    April 25, 2016 at 4:24 p.m.

    That billboard that "came down in November 2014" was still there last month. I saw it when passing through the town. It was one of the reasons that I rapidly passed through the town, rather than stopping for gas, as I had planned. Even with my "old white guy" exception, I don't do well among that much hate. There was also another billboard that called for "white pride."

  • finzleft
    April 25, 2016 at 4:32 p.m.

    Let me correct that, I guess that it IS a new billboard that says "Diversity is code word for Anti-White." Same message, phrased slightly differently.

  • Capitalist12
    April 25, 2016 at 4:34 p.m.

    CNN, are they still around? They have to push racism now to up their ratings? Good luck with that.

  • Capitalist12
    April 25, 2016 at 4:37 p.m.

    Three black tens just allegedly robbed and murdered a white teen. Will CNN cover this story instead of a sign about anti-racist?

  • arkateacher54_aol.com
    April 25, 2016 at 6:48 p.m.

    Stand up comedy and story telling? Yeah the whole business is pretty funny. Whatever story they tell you can bet it won't reflect reality, but the liberal agenda of CNN.

  • ARMNAR
    April 25, 2016 at 7:05 p.m.

    We hurry through Harrison on our way to and from Eureka Springs without dropping a dime.

    Wouldn't want to inadvertently subsidize the local Klansfolk.

  • JakeTidmore
    April 25, 2016 at 8:03 p.m.

    Crapitalist dumps a load in the comment file. Zzzzzzzzzzz......
    --
    Sign in Mexican restaurant: Mexican food so authentic, Donald Trump would build a wall around it.
    --
    Howsabout conservatives and racist jokes?
    How do we know that the conservatives that produce these messages understand the effect of their words? With the rising racist tide in the right-wing of the Republican party, finding evidence of their understanding is a simple task.

    Take, for instance, Inge Marler, the Arkansas Tea Party agitator who led off a rally with a racist joke that implicated both poverty stereotypes and linguistic racial mocking.

    How about the Virginia Beach Republican who was forced to resign after he forwarded a "joke" about trying to obtain welfare for a dog that is "black, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and has no frigging clue who his Daddy is."

    That makes no mention of Marilyn Davenport, the racist Orange County Republican who circulated an email depicting Barack Obama's parents as chimpanzees.

    The conservative racism is not simply limited to obscure agitators and low-level politicians. Consider Richard Cebull, Montana's chief federal judge, who sent out a joke that implied Barack Obama's dead mother had sex with dogs.
    --
    Grizzard: "When conservative politicians tell me that their ads lack racial implication, and when conservative "friends" tell me that I'm playing the race card, I refuse to buy it. I grew up in a middle class Southern home and played little kid sports with the children of respectable people. None of my friends were members of the KKK, at least as far as I know. And like many kids growing up in the South, I am familiar with the jokes about starving a black man by hiding his food stamps in his work boots...... With the state of current conservative politics, it's time to call a spade a spade. Playing the race card is necessary when a large group is playing the racist card."

  • Packman
    April 25, 2016 at 8:45 p.m.

    Hey finzleft - "diversity" isn't a code word for anti-white. It's a code word for libs to use when attempting to force social acceptance of abnormal and destructive lifestyle choices. The word is vanished from lib vocabularies when considering things as terrible as the 1st Amendment.

  • Cato
    April 25, 2016 at 9:17 p.m.

    is there racism in the white or black communities? If you look hard you can find ignorance everywhere. Has the white community gained better neighborhoods, better schools, safer communities? The same can be asked of the black communities with possibly different answers. As Americans we have sunk to the lowest common denominator. We are a nation of people who do not believe in honesty, integrity or honor--or hard work. We are spoiled, self centered and soft society who are the instruments of our own destruction. Dorothy Tyler

  • ARMNAR
    April 25, 2016 at 10:19 p.m.

    LOL@Queenie.

    Done licking your wounds so soon, douchnozzle?

    Might be time to wipe the floor with you again like I did just a few days ago.

    Fish in a barrel.

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