I’ll make this quick. I’m sure you’re still busy trying to clean up your Twitter mess. If only you would’ve called it a night after kindly complimenting Jesse Williams on his amazing acceptance speech, you’d probably have awakened this morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
But the force that is #BlackTwitter was not going to let you ignore the fact that many of the issues Williams brought up in the very speech you congratulated him on are partially about folks like you. The cornrows, overall swagger-jacking, and leaving Janet high and dry when it was convenient instantly come to mind.
Truth is, there isn’t much you could’ve said to justify your history of cultural misappropriation but the condescending tone with which you chose to reply represents everything wrong with this colorblind fairy tale so many “well-meaning white folks” subscribe to. Your response is vomit-inducing.
Oh, wise one, please enlighten us with your superior knowledge of racial equality and justice for all.
Your arrogance is out of this world. What planet are you living on? What did Jesse Williams’ speech actually inspire you to do? Whitesplain to Black people how they should feel about race and then shut down the conversation with a dismissive “Bye”? Did you really think you were going to walk away from this exchange unscathed? I’m glad Twitter jumped on your ass with a quickness. And then…
Oh, you sweet soul, feeling misunderstood. So sad. Look here JT, why don’t you go cry a river of white tears to your fans? You have plenty of supporters who undoubtedly feel just as misunderstood as you do. That’s a legion of people from all walks of life, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, and other folks we interact with everyday, who don’t see anything wrong with what you said and use colorblindness as a way to deny/ignore people’s experiences and identities. You’re right, you probably shouldn’t have responded.
Damn it, Justin! You must’ve been listening to a speech by some other Jesse Williams. The Jesse I heard on the 2016 BET Awards delivered a no-holds barred critique of systemic racism, white supremacy, and cultural appropriation while praising the strength of Black women and the work of community organizers who tirelessly fight against racial inequality. Nowhere did I hear Williams deliver some Kumbaya, we’re-all-the-same, feel-good speech. Yes, we’re all part of the human race and should be living in peace with one another. I know it, Williams knows it, and his mom knows it. But we’re not all living in peace. That’s the problem people like Williams are boldly addressing. You confused a Black Lives Matter message for an All Lives Matter moment and that makes you the type of person Williams was talking about.
To quote the very speech you obviously misunderstood: “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
– Jesse Williams, BET Awards 2016
I’m glad you decided to stop digging your own grave any further and finally apologized, the same way I’m sure you eventually apologized to Janet, right? But at the end of the day, you’re just an entertainer, no more, no less. I shouldn’t really expect you to be an expert on social justice, institutionalized racism, and every other overlapping issues beyond the scope of your comprehension. I just figured that a white artist who’s established a career as an R&B artist with a significant Black fan based would have learned a thing or two about the very real, ongoing legacy of racism in America.
One thing’s for sure, and I’m sure you’ll agree with my advice, the more you acknowledge how little you understood about Jesse Williams’ speech, the more we can have a conversation.
Sebastien Elkouby is a writer, educator, Hip Hop Culture historian, and co-host of Take No Prisoners Radio which will resume mid 2016 on The Wire 98.5. Find him at SebIsHipHop.com or on Twitter at @SebIsHipHop.