We Listened to Jesse Williams, But Did We Hear Him?

“I don’t want to hear any more about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12-year-old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich.” – Jesse Williams, (via Genius)

Last Sunday, Jesse Williams spoke his mind. In an acceptance speech at the BET Awards, he gave a call to action that reverberated across the nation. The Grey’s Anatomy star trended on every social network and the video of his speech spread like wildfire. It was a proud moment for any human being who values equality, regardless of race. Unfortunately, less than two weeks later, it is clear that we missed the point.

Last night a man named Alton Sterling was murdered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Per usual, he was unarmed and African American. A NFSW video has surfaced online of two police officers holding Sterling down. The video continues as one officer presses the gun against Sterling’s head and pulls the trigger. The cell phone recorded video is very useful as both officers’ body cameras are said to have fallen off.

Many people are refusing to watch the video because of its graphic nature. To be honest, I watched numerous times. The more I watched, the more I was able to imagine. I imagined the confusion that Alton Sterling must have felt, knowing that selling CD’s did not warrant the death penalty. I imagined the fear that coursed through his body as the gun’s steel kissed his head. Were Sterling’s five children his last thoughts as the officer discharged a bullet through his skull?

This isn’t new. Jesse Williams told us that. If you need evidence, look at the cases regarding the wrongful deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray to name just a few. In every single case, the officer(s) who perpetrated the crime were acquitted despite heavy evidence against them. Police brutality is a systemic problem, and at this point, it’s obvious.

For years, protests have been orchestrated across America to raise awareness for this problem. What has changed?

Nothing.

 “Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money – that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Alright, now dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.” – Jesse Williams, (via Genius)

They all clapped. Every single person in L.A.’s Microsoft Theater rose, giving Jesse Williams a standing ovation. Standing and applauding were people that have money and influence I can only dream of. The problem is that they listened to Williams, but they did not hear him. When he uttered the quote above, he was imploring them to make a difference. He was saying, enough with the occasional “#StayWoke”, and “What a shame 😦 ” tweets! Jesse Williams asked for a group of people who have the ability to make a big difference to do so… And they missed it!

So here we are, not even two weeks later. Another trigger-happy officer has slain another one of our own. Now, more than ever, our people need unity. When I say our people, I am not exclusively referring to African Americans. Every American that believes in basic human rights must unite to combat this problem together.

In order to help us do that, I look to you, Hollywood.

I look to New York City.

I look to every mansion across the nation.

I look at the men and women who reach into our pockets yet sit in Congress and neglect our needs.

Because if you don’t act now, there’s someone out there selling CD’s, jaywalking, or even just wearing a hoodie, and their precious life will be the penalty.

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