On May 25, George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes — and some of his colleagues. As other police killings across the country have done, Floyd’s death immediately sparked outrage in both Minnesota and across the nation. Feeling voiceless and ignored after another life was taken at the hands of the police, fans looked to artists with large platforms to spread messages synonymous with “Black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace” to their fans. The responses from some of these artists — even from those who are members of the affected communities — have left their fans to realize they were better off with their initial silence.
One of the early entries to this trend was Lil Wayne’s commentary on his Young Money radio show four days after Floyd’s death. “Some people put a tweet out and they think they did something,” he said. “Some people wear a shirt and they think they did something. What you gonna do after that? Did you actually help the person? Did you actually help the family? Did you actually go out there and do something? So, if I ain’t about to do all that, then I ain’t about to do nothing. I’ll pray for ya.”
While his message seemed to address those who failed to follow through with their actions, his awkwardly-worded statement found fans ripping him for his words. In their eyes, a tweet or a shirt contributes to the spreading of the message, thus increasing awareness of its severity. Praying, as Wayne has seemingly resorted to, does nothing.
Questionable comments from other artists poured in throughout the week, leaving fans scratching their heads in confusion or throwing their phones in frustration. T.I. described Atlanta as “Wakanda” in response to riots in the city saying, “This city don’t deserve this, however, I understand that a lot of others do, but we can’t do this here. This Wakanda, it’s sacred, it must be protected.” DaBaby also left fans confused with his statement that read in part, “I always sit back and let the hype blow over before I give my insight,” raising many questions as to what exactly the “hype” he referred to actually was.
I always sit back and let the hype blow over before I give my insight so my perspective don’t get confused with all the ppl who only speak for likes & comments, or to save face, or maybe because their PR department, label, or management told em they should make a statement….
— DaBaby (@DaBabyDaBaby) May 31, 2020
Elsewhere, Diddy shared a tweet which read: “This is not just a race issue this is a HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE!!!!!!” That message left fans up in arms, wondering why it had to be either/or, rather than both. And then The-Dream stormed onto Twitter to remind his followers and fellow Atlantans that “I own things in this city, a lot of Blacks own things in this city, from Bankhead to Buckhead. Do not destroy property — that negates the decades of work. My children will not be set back by you!”
In each of the aforementioned situations, as well as many others, these well-known names left their fans and communities confused or unsure of their stance rather than aligning themselves with a message that fans could grasp onto. Their neutrality caused fans to regret lending an ear to listen, rather than focus on their social efforts. While the failure to pick a side was met with disappointed sighs from fans, the voices that came out in outright disapproval of fans set forth a wave of reconsideration, one that looked to rethink the general image of many celebrities in the eyes of some fans.
This is not just a race issue this is a HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE!!!!!!
— Diddy (@Diddy) May 30, 2020
These celebrities are just a few that looked to talk sense to their fans and failed to understand their anger. However, it must be noted that many other celebrities stood hand-in-hand with their fans and the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. Cardi B praised protestors and their efforts, Billie Eilish condemned those who aligned themselves with the “All Lives Matter” slogan, J. Cole took to the North Carolina streets with protestors in support of the movement, and both Chika and Halsey joined respective protests where they faced undeserving consequences. The individuals who are for the cause will show up and use their voice when the time calls for it.
For those who overlooked the Black Lives Matter movement (for whatever reason), a celebrity who uses their platform to acknowledge its prevalence and importance makes it that much harder to remain ignorant. However, efforts to rely heavily on these artists — and celebrities as a whole — is a risky approach. Waiting for their stance and overall message can prove regretful if it doesn’t align with the agenda at hand, failing to reach those who haven’t joined the struggle.
Dear People, IF YOU ARE NOT FROM ATLANTA, DONT COME HERE AND PLEASE GO HOME. I OWN THINGS IN THIS CITY, A LOT OF BLACKS OWN THINGS IN THIS CITY, FROM BANKHEAD TO BUCKHEAD. DO NOT DESTROY PROPERTY THAT NEGATES THE DECADES OF WORK. MY CHILDREN WILL NOT BE SET BACK BY YOU!
— THE-DREAM (@TheKingDream) May 30, 2020
Celebrities cannot always be our superheroes. They cannot be relied on to walk through the crowd and stand at the forefront, or to even stand in the midst of it. With yet another life unforgivingly ripped from our community, Black people need an army of supporters to walk through the streets with ear-ringing reminders, for the umpteenth time, of the importance of our lives. The movement leaves no room for those who are neutral with their support.
The new age of social media has made celebrities more accessible than ever. However, the events in America within the past week and a half have proven that they can still be out of touch. Resources for this support are available elsewhere and civil leaders are scattered throughout cities across the country, each with varying followings and platforms. They are the individuals who will be on standby for us. Our bat signals may be acknowledged by celebrities in some instances while being ignored in others. If they see fit to provide help, they should arrive without the signal and walk with their community for a better cause, all while helping to give a voice to the voiceless.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.