A Different Take on the Jesse Williams Speech

The sheer, mean spirited, and hateful rhetoric of the actor Jesse Williams that he gave at the BET awards while accepting his award must be rejected by all decent citizens. The speech was vile, it was divisive, and promoted the false narrative that black people are set up and targeted by a system whose only purpose is to trample them under feet. This speech was anything but courageous. This successful black man spewed his bile from the podium of the BET award stage to other successful, rich black people who did not have to overcome even a millifraction  of what black people prior to the civil rights movement had to overcome. This preacher and his choir was made up primarily of a bunch of privileged black people whose privilege perhaps extends beyond the norm, because of the victim card they carry and has proven to be successful over a long period of time. His behavior was the typical example of how easy it is for a dead fish to float downstream with the current. He could would have swum against the torrent of race baiting, and playing the ever popular victim shtick. Mr. Williams could have shown true courage by going against the grain and speaking truth to race hustling power.

He could have defied the race hustling bullies and pimps who have built a whole industry by stirring discontent, and telling black people that white people are out to get them. Mr. Williams would have been a true profile in courage had he challenged the narrative that black people are under siege in this country. He could have pointed out that no other country in the entire history of the world has been more successful sewing so many different races and ethnicities into the fabric of the society. This was a wasted opportunity to inspire in a positive way. True courage is to risk being called an “Uncle Tom” or a “sell out” by telling young black men to pursue education as a means to climb out of poverty, to not have children out of wedlock because of all the social and economic ramifications that come with that, to be present and be role models in the lives of their children. If Mr. Williams felt the need to spur people to action, he could have called on the black community to take an introspective look and ask if it is even remotely possible that the reason we have such a disproportionate number of young black men in jail is perhaps because they commit a disproportionate number of crime.

Mr. Williams said that “a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stop us.” What!? This man is saying that the system that constantly produces men and women like President Barrack Obama, Eric Holder, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Serena Williams, Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Denzel Washington and many others, is designed, its purpose is to impoverish and destroy black people. Does this theory not sound ridiculous to anyone?  He used the opportunity to continue pushing the false narrative that police are mowing down black people in the streets, and this is simply not true. Black people are more prolific at killing members of their own community than any other group. The unfortunate police incidents that have been sensationalized over the last few years are aberrations, they do not indicate any pattern of slaughter of black men by the police, and in most of the situations there is some nuance to each story.  There is so much more that could be said about this vitriolic speech. In referencing so called cultural appropriation, Mr. Williams needs to be reminded that black people do not own or have exclusive rights to any aspect of popular American culture, not even that which started in the black community. He talked about, but did not say exactly how white people are “ghettotizing our creations” or exactly what that meant. Was he talking about the many references to gang life, bi….ches, and n…..gers that black artists regularly sing and rap about in their music videos? Then there was this gem: we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us. This invention called whiteness! Is that anything like the invention called blackness? What is this man talking about, and why would people cheer this hateful, bigoted grandiloquence?

If black people are to be truly treated with equality, then they must also be held to the same standards of decency and accountability that we demand of white Americans and everyone else.  No one is doing the black community any favors by constantly telling them that all of the negative experiences and failures in their lives are because of an oppressive system that is meant to keep them down, and always someone else’s fault. There is no merit in telling black people and there is a whole race of people who happen to be their countrymen, systematically working to bring about their down fall. The cause of unity is further damaged when racist motivations are ascribed to every action that a white person does.

It would have been refreshing to hear this man talk about how blessed he is to live in this amazing country where everyone, regardless of skin color has a real opportunity to be successful if they work hard and make the necessary sacrifices. He could have further inspired people by letting them know that obstacles (including experiences of racism) are not an indication of the norm, and can be overcome. Instead he decided to pander to the black lives matter movement (a movement that was built on the lie of “hands up don’t shoot-an incident that never even happened). Jesse Williams and his ilk complain incessantly that they are not judged by the content of their character, but they have no problem castigating whole groups of people with their blanket repulsive statements. They have the right to say and believe what they want, but they must be challenged.

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