Stop Trying to Control How Black People Respond to Racism

John Boyega says he hates racists. That’s not a cause for debate.

Photo: Nicole Baster via Unsplash

In the wake of the heinous murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, people are angry, and justifiably so. Police brutality continues to claim the lives of Black men, women, and children. The four officers involved have been fired, but that has done nothing to quell the growing resentment toward the police system. Many have taken to the streets to protest in the wake of Floyd’s death, while others express discontent on social media.

Actor John Boyega, best known for his work on the most recent Star Wars trilogy, was among those expressing his hurt and outrage over Floyd’s death. But his tweets immediately prompted backlash.

Original tweet by John Boyega
Original tweet by John Boyega

A question: What’s so wrong about hating racists?

If Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism — “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” — holds, Boyega’s statement is a valid one. But that didn’t stop Twitter users from taking furious issue with his comments. (I won’t link to the tweets I’m referring to because they’ve already received backlash, and I don’t want to subject them to further harassment.)

A man is dead, and you expect us to argue over semantics?

One user had a problem with Boyega’s explicit language. Apparently, the actor needed to be more delicate when discussing the thing that causes the deaths of young men who look like him. They chided him and told them that there are kids on the platform. If reports are accurate, a nine-year-old girl watched Floyd die. For a moment, imagine her absolute horror. Did Derek Chauvin think of children when he killed Floyd? And on another note, should children even be on Twitter?

Another user indicated that Boyega wasn’t allowed to give his opinion on racism until he was willing to acknowledge racism in every form.

Let’s have another look at John’s statement: “I really fucking hate racists.”

Are we no longer allowed to comment on the way society treats us without having to explain and acknowledge the intricacies of every single source of discrimination? A man is dead, and you expect us to argue over semantics?

But the pièce de résistance was one Black user who indicated that his girlfriend’s racism against White people led to their breakup.

Take a moment and think about this. As Boyega expressed his grief and anger over the murder of an unarmed man, someone thought it appropriate to compare tragedy to a failed relationship.

This is very simple. How Black people react to racism isn’t anyone else’s business. No one gets to tell us how to respond until they’ve had a security guard follow them around as soon as they step foot into a store because they’re the only Black person there. No one gets to tell us how to react until the sound of sirens triggers their fight or flight instinct despite their not doing anything wrong. Until they truly understand the despair that leaks into our veins every time another Black man, woman, or child is gunned down by the police.

No one gets to tell us how to react to racism until they’ve walked a mile in our skin.

Boyega said what he said and meant it. I’m not usually a follower of celebrities, but in this case, I wholeheartedly agree with him.

John Boyega hates racists. And I do, too.

I’m just a Jamaican-British writer trying to make things work in a big world. Find me on twitter @db_mckenzie.

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