Reality Unkempt is a new space for people on the edges of society to discuss what it’s like to be part of a culture that often overrides or neglects individual stories. I spoke with Bryan, the Creator of Reality Unkempt, and between our phone call and emails, Bryan explained why he wanted to create the site and what he hopes people glean from it.

Name and Age?

Bryan Carter, 30

What is Reality Unkempt?

Um, I’d started Reality Unkempt at the end of last year. I’m a Ph.D. student (Political Science) I was looking for a way to talk about my research and race in a way that was real. In academia, you begin talking about people and what they need without actually talking to them. Reality Unkempt is my way of trying to figure out a way to have a real dialogue, a way to have an online conversation about real people’s stories.

Who is involved with Reality Unkempt?

It’s a collaboration between the people I’m interviewing, but it’s me mostly, in the background interviewing people and putting the production together.

What inspired you to create the site?

I just really wanted to have an actual conversation…We about it (race) we talk around it…after the 2008 election a lot of people began talking about a “post-racial America.” It was my greatest fear, watching Senator Obama become President Obama, because I knew that having that having a conversation on race relations was going to be more difficult. People were going to resist this idea that, yes, we can have a black president and still have a very racist society.

A lot of things were happening that were overtly discriminatory. We talked about Trayvon Martin only as Trayvon Martin, we never talked about it broadly…

It’s (the site) very much in the infancy stages. Really, the concept now is me figuring out how to produce a web series and how people react to that content online.

The inspiration for the site and the series are similar.  With the site more broadly, I’m looking for a walk to share my personal research and the knowledge to which I have access as a graduate student with people in a way that is accessible to them.  Our society communicates with one another by way of the television and social media.  RU is me acknowledging that reality and trying to have a conversation that I would normally have in a lecture hall online.  Moreover, I hope that people push back on what I have to say, what people being interviewed have to say and inject their own experiences into the dialogue.  I want to have a real back and forth—something more tangible than online trolling, Tumblr beefs or network news coverage.  We have a method of sharing information and stories with one another.  I think that process is important and formative to how we see our politics; this is my way of engaging.

How long did it take to develop and concept and begin getting everything ready for online?

I think I did my first interview in October. So before the web series we’d done some light blogging in a different format. And it wasn’t with the concept of a web series in mind, it was really about “let me sit down and ask someone these questions.”

I didn’t get the idea to make a web series until January. In January I did the bulk of the interviews. And March 18 was our release date.

Why did you want to start with the Our Imperfect Union series?

I started the Our Imperfect Union series because I wanted to find a way to have a conversation about race and racism to which people could relate.  Truth is, I don’t consider myself an artist or even a producer.  At my core, I’m an educator, a writer and an angry black guy.  In private, I feel like I’m constantly talking racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. with friends who are frustrated with the world they live in, but those conversations are private.  And in my academic life, I research the politics of race for a living, but little from the academic world translates well to everyday communities.  Our Imperfect Union and Reality Unkempt more broadly is my attempt to reach beyond the ivory tower and to have these important, impactful conversations with a broader audience and, I hope, to foster a real dialogue with people.  More than that, it’s simply documenting what life is for so many people in real time.  Living life as a marginalized person is draining and I think the interviews speak to that reality.  I just want people to see it and to hopefully have a real conversation about what’s happening.

What work is being done on the other series? (Black and Southern, Nicetown, and Our Imperfect Union Cycle-2)

As far as the other series, I’m hoping to begin filming Black and Southern this summer, though I will probably push back the launch date to next spring as I won’t make it to Galveston for the Juneteenth celebration this year.  I’m also looking for a host.  People should be on the look out for this probably next spring or summer.  I’m writing Nicetown now and daily gaining a new appreciation for the work that creative writers do.  I hope to have it finished by summer’s end, to begin casting in August and to begin filming in October or November.  Cycle 2 of Our Imperfect Union is still on track and will focus on gentrification in places like Harlem, Philadelphia, Detroit and the East Bay.  We’re still on track and it looks like it will launch in October.  I’m also conducting another round of interviews for Cycle 1 and will extend the series to maybe 8 episodes.  Lastly, I’m working on a to-be-titled set of silent (very) short films to shoot release early this Fall.

There are some pretty strong words in the “About” section. Where does this passion come from?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I was raised in South Carolina, my mother was a product of school bussing. I’ve stories of people in my family who were lynched, my grandparents grew up in the south in the ‘30s, the rural south at that. Race has just always been around, always been a thought.

I guess for me, what I don’t want to happen with my academic career, is that I write about people and things, and I benefit from it, but nothing changes for them. I want people to have better access to express their own voice, their own beliefs. I’m tired of having these conversations about race, politics, and culture and not being honest.

There’s a lot of work to do, for all of us. And we should be real about what that is and how we might pursue that.

What do you hope people who visit Reality Unkempt will take away from it?

Um, I’m hoping they take away some solidarity. If we talk to one another, if nothing else, find some solace in each other.

What do you hope for the future of Reality Unkempt?

I truly want Reality Unkempt to be an independent place where marginalized people—whatever their particular other may be—to talk about their lives from their perspectives. I don’t want it filtered by some social scientist or journalist or community activist. I want people to tell the world how they feel and why and what THEY think we should all do about it. We all like to talk about poverty and the people who need our help, but we never bother to ask them what they think is wrong. This is me asking what they think is wrong and hopefully giving them access to a platform so that they can tell their own stories with their own voices. I’m not looking to become some large media conglomerate; I’m about the work. Hopefully we can continue to produce work that offers a different view of life and to which everyone has access. I’m focused on building a large, online presence. I’m working out the kinks with the first series (hence the limited outreach) so that I’ll know how to improve it for the upcoming cycles.

What do you hope to the future of discussing race issues at large?

As far as my work RE: race more broadly, I just want people to be real about our world.  Yes, racism still exists.  Yes, America’s free marketing economy and personal “freedom” of its citizens heavily rely on the oppression of poor people (mostly of color) both here and abroad.  Yes, the hypersexualization, heteronormativity and systemic sexism of our society threatens the lives of women globally—Lord help you if you’re also a woman of color, poor and/or queer. We’ve not yet come close to building a great society. In truth, we haven’t really tried. I want my academic career to be about trying, to suggest that perhaps, within our lifetimes, we can live in a socially just society, but that we must begin by imagining and believing that it’s possible.