After a clip of journalist Ilia Calderón interviewing Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Chris Barker – who calls her a “n*gger” and a “mongrel” – went viral, Univision faced criticism for putting an Afro-Latina woman into a dangerous, emotionally laborious situation. Despite the backlash, the special – En la boca del lobo – hit the airwaves on Sunday night.
Following the special, Ilia appeared on Noticias Univision Edición Nocturna to tell Jorge Ramos about her experience. “During many moments, I felt very bad,” she told Jorge. “And my team felt bad for me, because they didn’t think an interview should go that way, that there needed to be so much hate and so many insults and so much denigration of a person. But that’s why we stayed, because that’s what millions of people experience every day and we need to show it to the world.”
More than anything, the interaction made her worry about the future generations who are indoctrinated to hate people based on their skin color or cultural background. As she interviewed Barker and his wife, their 14- and 16-year-old kids watched.
The hour-long special, which Univision also streamed on YouTube, comes from footage shot on July 24 when Ilia became the first black person to step foot on Barker’s property. María Martínez-Guzmán, a white-passing Cuban producer, made the arrangements and the team of four – including herself, Ilia, a white and Mexican cameraman – arrived at a Yanceyville, North Carolina Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits. From there, they followed a car, which led them to a house that serves as a meeting place for the white supremacist group. Ilia stayed behind, as the three others headed into the house, which prominently featured racist, violent, and vile imagery.
When they moved to a second outdoor location, Barker finally learned that Ilia would be the one to interview him. He immediately criticized Martínez-Guzmán, though she reminded him that she told him a woman of color would conduct the interview. According to the producer, Barker thought that by person of color, she meant someone of her complexion or slightly darker.
During the harrowing interview, Barker denied he was racist, but also cited the Bible as he spoke about violently removing immigrants like Ilia – who was born in Colombia – from the United States. “We have nothing here in America; y’all keep flooding it,” he said. “But like God says – like Yahweh himself says – we will chase you out of here. […] No, we’re going to burn you out.”
Martínez-Guzmán admitted that she didn’t stop the interview, even though the two cameramen wanted to intervene after Barker used incredibly degrading and violent language. For those who believe Univision acted irresponsibly, this tidbit will likely serve as proof that the network put one of the few Afro-Latinas who works there in danger.
In a news cycle gripped by racial tension and violence, some have criticized Univision for giving these Ku Klux Klan members a platform to spread their hate. Others have applauded Ilia Calderón for being unwavering in the face of evil. Check out a few reactions below:
Check out the entire interview below: