Racial comment leads to touching moment on 'Survivor'

Kylie Mar
Host & Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

On Survivor Wednesday night, a small, yet heavy, comment made by one contestant to another sparked an even bigger conversation, when Jack Nichting referred to Jamal Shipman's buff, a headpiece every contestant wears on the show, as a "durag."

"You should move it to the heat. Can you push it, Jamal, with your durag?" Nichting asked Shipman, who immediately questioned the reference. "Deep-seated. That was subconscious," stated Shipman. He added, "White people, I'm always, like, do you welcome the, like, race conversation?" The conversation could have gotten worse, had it not been for the fact that Nichting immediately felt remorse and embarrassment over the comment he had made.

"I made a joke. That sucked. I immediately knew that I had said something wrong, and I was very embarrassed to have said it. I just was, like, thinking about it makes me sweaty. I just felt really bad, because I felt like I compromised — I felt like Jamal views me in this mature way, and I feel like I just took steps backward," explained Nichting. Meanwhile, Shipman handled the moment with grace, agreeing to move forward with Nichting after a little bit of time.

"It's a little complicated about why this is insulting," Shipman explained to the audience. He continued, "I can understand why someone might think, what's the big deal? Don't black men wear durags? The problem with it is the image that probably a lot of white America has about black men is the thug, the deadbeat father, the leech on social services, which is often, unfortunately, people wearing durags, tattoos, wife beaters, right? So this whole caricature is so ingrained in our culture, and so comfortable for mainstream white America to digest about the black male body, that for a sweet, well-intentioned boy like Jack, it flows off the tongue."

Once some time had passed, the two had a heart-to-heart over the stigma related to durags, what the comment meant to Shipman, and how important it is to have self-awareness in regards to privilege.

"Jamal has a way of helping me understand that privileges do exist. You know, I don't think of myself as the most privileged person, but the fact of the matter is I am very privileged. I am. And it's really cool to share a very human moment with my strongest ally, because it brought us together more as friends, even though I made this very stupid comment," Nichting shared with viewers.

Viewers at home praised the moment and thanked CBS for showing some realness.

In the end, Nichting thanked Shipman for allowing him to apologize for his comment, while Shipman thanked Nichting for apologizing.

"I got to tell you, I don't get a lot of apologies like that," shared Shipman, who got emotional as he added, "I don't get a lot of people recognizing just how harmful those little moments add up to be. And so Jack's apology to me kind of, like, made up for a lot of times when I've had to feel so insignificant and let it roll off my shoulders for my own social mobility. So that apology, man, I'll remember that for the rest of my life.

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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