Jesse Williams, Ignorant Talk Show Hosts, and Police Brutality
So many things have happened in the past couple weeks, and as they came and went, I told myself to stay silent. I feel like it isn't my job to comment on every random trend and every bit of news that commands our headlines for the day. CNN could probably give you a lot more accurate detail than I could. Additionally, it seems like everyone in the world managed to offer their thoughts this past week, and I figured that I didn't need to add my two cents on top of a million bucks.
That being said, I've reached a point where it's nearly rude not to comment.
This website is supposed to be my commentary on life as a mixed person, an experience that is multifaceted and complex. There are intersections at work that cause me to write about topics like hair, feminism, and cultural identity. Today, things changed a little bit. Today, I understood why I had to be silent these past couple weeks. And today, I'm just going to speak what's on my mind.
Here we go.
No doubt you've heard of Jesse William's speech delivered at the BET Awards. He brought up a lot of social issues like cultural appropriation, police brutality, and even feminism. Some highlight quotes include:
Williams articulately pinpointed some very pertinent issues to the black community in the span of 4 minutes, laying them out so simply that one would almost perceive it as common sense.
However, for some, common sense ain't so common.
Honestly I'll be amazed if you make it through this whole video. I had to for writing purposes, but I had to watch this video afterwards to make me feel better. (Seriously, is puppy swimming instructor a real job? I'll genuinely switch majors today.)
So I won't address the superficial issues with this video, like how she literally screams her awful arguments at the camera hoping her volume will somehow add even a modicum of sense to the racist, uneducated spiel leaving her mouth. I'd much rather critique her terrible arguments, and explain how the recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile proves just how out of touch with reality this "all American woman" is.
Lahren's tirade centers around the theme of victimhood. She thinks that Jesse Williams speech only inspires African Americans to feel like victims, to feel sorry for themselves. Anecdotally I can refute that, because of the sheer amount of people that told me they felt empowered after listening to the speech (including myself). But to avoid some bias, let's get specific, and let's get factual.
"He [Jesse Williams] won the humanitarian award last night, which means the BET definition of humanitarian is someone who perpetuates a war on cops."
Perhaps the only correct thing she said was that Jesse Williams won the humanitarian award, and rightfully so. BET Humanitarian Awards have a history of addressing issues in the *gasp* black community. Past honerees include Tom Joyner, Muhammad Ali, and Alicia Keys. All people well known for their philanthropy and interest in social issues impacting the black community. It's no secret the Black Entertainment Television channel would care about black issues, people. So no, their definition isn't someone who perpetuates a war on cops, its a person who mixes philanthropy with activism, something Jesse Williams certainly demonstrated. Additionally, what war on cops? No one is declaring war on anything but racism and a biased legal system. The quote she refers to is Jesse Williams stating
If she can take that statement and somehow reach for the stars and say he's perpetuating a war on cops, I wonder what her thoughts are on former Congressman Joe Walsh's response to the Dallas shootings.
The man literally declared war.
She continues, "You know what else is interesting, bud? Though the term, 'unarmed black man' may be literally accurate, it doesn't tell the whole story in most cases. In a number of cases if a victim ended up being unarmed, it was certainly not for lack of trying. Grabbing a police officer's gun or trying to beat the police officer doesn't give you a free pass."
Here are the facts Ms. Lahren.
Black people make up approximately 13% of the population, and yet they make up around 40% of UNARMED people killed by police. In 2015, black, unarmed people were killed at five times the rate of unarmed white people. Around 1 in 3 black people killed by police are unarmed.* These are unarmed individuals, but according to Lahren, presented with absolutely no sources or backup of any sort, most of these men aggressively tried to take a police officer's gun. I guess she was there for every scenario, and that's why she was allowed to make that vast overgeneralization.
Here's the real problem: in order to confront the idea of racially charged police brutality, one must also accept a few truths. Truths of privilege. Truths of systematic oppression. Truths that maybe, just maybe, some police officers aren't doing their job correctly 100% of the time. It's not a crazy concept!
In the span of time from when I began writing this piece and its publication, another black man and five police officers were killed.
My heart is broken. Completely shattered. I am in such mourning for these people I've never met, because they were all victims of something so violent and unnecessary. People's lives have been torn apart because of hate. But speaking of hate...
What broke my heart as well was just how many people I had to unfriend on social media sites this week. So many people, friends of mine, who gave the same, tired, racist rhetoric as Tomi Lahren. To Alton Sterling they said, "We don't know all the facts," or, "He had a gun," or, "He had a criminal history!" But honestly that's code word for, "He probably deserved to die. I'd rather presume he's guilty before knowing all the facts." Even funnier, when the facts did come out, and the second video of him clearly complying with the police officers before being brutally shot in the back, those same "wait for the facts" friends were silent. The next day, Philando Castile was shot in front of his girlfriend and her child. Now we know it was because a police officer said his "wide nose" resembled that of a suspect for a different crime. Those same, "wait for the facts" friends? They were just as silent. They couldn't find an excuse to say maybe he deserved it. Maybe he acted aggressively. They saw the situation, but refused to truly see it for what it was.
Then these police officers were killed by a gunman who wasn't aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement (which doesn't condone physical violence). This scenario was just awful, and again my heart broke for these officers and their friends and family. The first time I heard about it, I just had to put my phone down for the day. Too much sorrowful news too fast. Unsurprisingly though, this is when my "wait for the facts" friends made a comeback.
"This is an example of why BLM is racist!"
I'm not here to rant about social media, but it does give me a glimpse into how other people think. I'd like to pull another quote from Jesse Williams' speech.
What was your response when a father of three was shot in the back? When a fifteen year old boy, the day after losing his father, called out for his dad during a press conference, while his mother fought through tears to beg the media to stop demonizing her husband?
How did you feel when you heard a man who fed children for a living was killed in front of his family in a car?
What was your reaction when five officers lost their lives in a shootout with a man who had come to the conclusion that violence was the only answer to our problems?
Each situation should evoke similar, heart-wrenching emotions, because it was a senseless loss of life that *should* make any political or philosophical affiliation pale in comparison. Evaluate how each situation made you feel.** But if your first response is critical of the victim, maybe you should spend more time on that. Allow yourself to see the effect of these murders. Who it truly impacts. Families. School children who lost a friend. Wives who lost husbands. Mothers and fathers who lost their sons. This is not the time to ignore the truth.
I mourn for Philando Castile, for Alton Sterling, for Michael Smith, for Lorne Ahrens, for Michael Krol, for Patrick Zamarippa, and for Brent Thompson. I grieve for their families. This situation sucks, this past week sucked, and there's no avoiding that fact.
**Maybe make that evaluation internally, because seriously my Facebook newsfeed is just a mix of people's opinions on this week and Pokemon Go.