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Disheartened By Racial Violence In U.S., Inspired By Brexit, He Pondered A 'Blaxit'

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Ulysses Burley III was pondering recent news events and feeling discouraged. He decided he needed to lighten things up. Taking a page from Brexit, the movement that led to Britain's decision to leave the European Union, he came up with the idea of Blaxit, a mass exodus of blacks from this country. And if blacks did leave, he wondered, what would they take with them? He came up with a list, which many will be sorry to hear includes both the NFL and the NBA. Burley posted his list on The Salt Collective and joins us now to discuss it. Thanks for joining us, Ulysses.

ULYSSES BURLEY III: Thanks, Lynn.

NEARY: So how did you decide what should be on this list?

BURLEY: I really thought about the things that represented black culture that white America really loved - sports, obviously, Beyonce, Oprah, things like that. And so I thought, well, how would America suffer if we took these things with us? And so I kind of sat down and wrote some things out, and the list that has been circulating is what I came up with.

NEARY: What are some of the most valuable things you think we would lose?

BURLEY: I think by far, the most valuable item listed are HeLa cells. The HeLa cell is the cell from Henrietta Lacks that has been used for decades in scientific research, particularly for the development of the polio vaccine. So that's probably the most significant item on the list in terms of the contributions of African-Americans, not to mention the many inventions that we have developed over time.

NEARY: I was just going to mention that, that there are a lot of inventions that we would not have. What are some of those?

BURLEY: Right. So the traffic light, the refrigerator were some of the more common inventions, but maybe some of the inventions that we didn't know were created by black people. For example, the system of blood transfusion, which we obviously all need.

NEARY: You know, part of the motivation behind this list, from what I gather, is, you know, to add a little levity to how difficult the conversation about race is right now. But there's a very serious motivation behind this, too, right?

BURLEY: Sure. So obviously we had come off a very rough week, America had. There were two significant incidents involving police and black men. And then following that, there were the shootings of the Dallas police officers. But so after such a heavy week, I thought, how can we turn this around? Because I can't continue to carry this grief with me into this next week. And so it was almost like an inside joke with the family, with black America. So while there's much humor to the list, there's also some seriousness to it.

NEARY: Ulysses Burley is a contributor to the online magazine The Salt Collective. Thanks for joining us, Ulysses.

BURLEY: Thanks, Lynn, for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.