For over a week now, I have been working on an essay that began as a harsh critique of celebrities’ lack of involvement in the #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe protests. The silence has been deafening. But in that time, a trickle of A-listers have started to emerge, like Jay Z and Beyoncé, Chris Rock, Dave Chappell, Samuel L. Jackson, John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigan, professional athletes like LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and the St. Louis Rams, who showed their support by raising up their hands (“Hands up. Don’t shoot”)—though it seems it has taken a bit of Twitter-shaming and time to get them to take a stand publicly. To convince them to use their platforms, their brands, their money to the movements around the country to bring awareness to racial injustice, particularly as it relates to police brutality and the subsequent lack of accountability. And the list I mention of those who have come forward so far is still entirely too short. Those who have come forward are fearless fish in a sea of wealth and influence and I applaud them for it. But there is hardly substantial engagement by any of the entertainment industries.
Why don’t we see more actors, singers, rappers and other artists on the front lines? Moving beyond the photo op to the actual work and risk of taking a stand. Words of support are great but where are the magnanimous gestures from the Oprahs and Tyler Perrys? It’s okay to stand up for the families in Newtown, Connecticut (and yes, it is okay) but the heartache and pains of millions of people who look like you—or wait, how about just the grieving Brown, Garner, Gurley, Rice families—should go directly unaddressed and unacknowledged? Donating large amounts of money to create scholarships for Black male students headed to college is fantastic except for the tiny fact that some, like Michael Brown, don’t actually make it there because police brutality.