According to Time Magazine, actor Jesse Williams, in accepting a humanitarian award from Black Entertainment Television, gave a “powerful” speech about police misconduct and black oppression. The speech ran nearly 4 minutes.
The take-way? The police routinely and illegally use deadly force against blacks while treating similarly situated whites in a different, less deadly way. Williams insisted that the facts back up this claim. “What we’ve been doing,” said Williams, “is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday.”
The problem is that the “data” say the opposite. The police do kill whites everyday. And given the fact that whites account for 10 percent of violent crime, but are 50 percent of those who die at the hand of the police, white people actually have more to complain about than Mr. Williams. “Adjusted for the homicide rate,” says criminology professor Peter Moskos, “whites are 1.7 times more likely than blacks to die at the hands of police.”
The “data” from the Centers for Disease Control shows that in 2014, the latest year data are available, 131 blacks and 261 whites were killed by cops. From 1999 to 2013, the totals were 1,724 black and 3,160 white. As to 2015, there are as of yet no official numbers. But the Washington Post says — according to its own tally — that 965 people were killed by police and less than 4 percent were white cops killing unarmed black men.
The top preventable cause of death for young white men is car accidents. For young black men it’s homicide — almost always by other young blacks. Nearly 50 percent of all homicides are black-on-black. As to Williams’ implied clam of anti-black racial profiling, a 2013 report by the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice found that any racial differences in traffic stops can be ascribed to “differences in offending”: blacks are more likely to commit traffic offenses — speeding, no license, no child restraint, DUI, headlights out, expired tags and so on.
So much for “the data.”
Williams also said:
“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 though … the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Um-m, could you repeat that?
If “whiteness” is “extracting our culture,” should Snoop Dogg apologize for getting rich by selling rap to whites? And didn’t Run-D.M.C. “culturally extract” their hit, “Walk This Way,” from Aerosmith? White folk, rise up! Did Williams, born to a white mom and black dad, really whine about the “invention called whiteness”? His mom was “invented” while his black father was “magic”? So a half-white actor whined about oppression on a black awards show, on a cable channel owned by a corporation whose largest shareholder is a family headed by patriarch Sumner Redstone, — a Jew. Only in America.
Williams also talked about “the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.” He proclaimed: “The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. … If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”
Is it too much to ask for the names of the oppressors who operate the “system”? After all, we’ve had a black president for seven years, plus back-to-back black attorneys general. Is Obama complicit? Williams said:
“I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.”
What does it say that Obama’s Department of Justice has not filed civil rights charges against any of the officers involved in the death of the blacks Williams cited?
Not everything Williams said was incoherent or factually wrong, At the beginning of his speech he actually put his finger on the real problem in the black community. He said, “For the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves — we can and will do better for you,”
He appeared to be urging black fathers to step up.
Seventy-one percent of black children were born to unmarried mothers in 2014, as opposed to 25 percent in 1965. Obama said, “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.” In an interview with Kweisi Mfume, then the president of the NAACP, I asked, “As to the presence of white racism or the absence of black fathers, which poses the bigger threat to the black community?” Without hesitation, Mfume said, “The absence of black fathers.”
Rant about that, Mr. Williams.