Standing In Our Own Blood
Ferguson. AP Photo.
Bravo to actor, activist, former history teacher and Black Lives Matter supporter Jesse Williams, who lit up the BET awards with his searing speech about American racism and police brutality. The self-described "invisible man" as the child of an activist white mother and black father, Williams was accepting a humanitarian award for his work on the documentary “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” the art project Question Bridge, the civil rights group Advancement Project, and other efforts aimed at achieving racial justice. Accepting the award, Williams fittingly argued it in fact belonged to "the real organizers...the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students realizing a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do." He rejected white criticism of righteous black rage: "The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander... If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down."
After his speech went viral - and despite the fact that the offenses he called out remain egregious, widespread, and fatal for large numbers of black Americans - Fox News commentators expressed utter bafflement at its tenor and substance. "He seems so upset," exclaimed one patronizing pundit, as another argued that black people should be happy that white people are buying their music and allowing them to drive those nice cars so what's the problem? This, said Williams: "We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is...just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real."