Pharrell is a music genius but naive on race relations
As well intentioned as he may be and as inspiring a figure as many rightfully find him, Pharrell is not equipped to share any meaningful thoughts on racial politics. His latest offense comes from his interview with EBONY magazine. Though the interview took place before Darren Wilson was given a free pass to shoot an unarmed Black man, Pharrell played into the very sort of stereotypes and irrelevant arguments that others have used to excuse Michael Brown’s execution.
Speaking on the convenience store surveillance video allegedly showing Brown shoplifting cigars, Pharrell said, “It looked very bullyish; that in itself I had a problem with. Not with the kid, but with whatever happened in his life for him to arrive at a place where that behavior is OK. Why aren’t we talking about that?”
I know that these days Pharrell fancies himself as some sort of hip-hop Yoda, but need I remind you, sir, that you are the same person behind songs like Noreaga’s “Superthug.” You lent your production talents to the walking Crip billboard — Snoop Dogg, the ex-drug dealer (who won’t stop rhyming about it) Jay Z, and the repeat offender and real-life G.I. Joe character T.I., as well as many other rappers who have helped shape the very culture you’ve profited from but are now condemning.
Pharrell did go on to add that he believes that Darren Wilson still deserved punishment given he used “excessive force on a human being who was merely a child.” However, Pharrell continues to blame the victim when he further argues: “The boy was walking in the middle of the street when the police supposedly told him to ‘get the f–k on the sidewalk.’ If you don’t listen to that, after just having pushed a storeowner, you’re asking for trouble. But you’re not asking to be killed. Some of these youth feel hunted and preyed upon, and that’s why that officer needs to be punished.”
How about an officer of the law shouldn’t be telling citizens to “get the f–k on the sidewalk?” The harsh reality is that even if Michael Brown was walking on the sidewalk, he still might’ve fallen victim to Darren Wilson or some other officer like him, given law enforcement’s collective fear and profiling of Black men.
Trayvon Martin was minding his damn business when fake cop but clearly into the ways of the po-lice George Zimmerman virtually stalked him upon sight. When white people feel like a Black man or Black woman does not belong where they are, this is what happens. So as much as Michael Brown’s manners might matter to Pharrell, to answer the question “Why aren’t we talking about that?” it’s because it truly doesn’t matter much on why he lost his life.
To think otherwise is to be simplistic — not to mention naïve – both of which have become Pharrell’s trademarks on racially related commentary. He is the one who touted his status as a “new Black,” the kind who “doesn’t blame other races for our issues.” The sort who “dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality.”
The one who, when met with criticism as to why he only portrayed a very specific type of woman on his album cover purported to be celebrating women hit back with: “It’s insecurity. If you love who you are — and I’m not saying that there’s not a plight out there for people who have different skin colors, because Mexicans go through just as much discrimination, if not more discrimination, than black people do in this country.”
Meanwhile, he, along with Kanye West, were in Miley Cyrus’ ear, cheering on her caricature of Black women in 2013.
Now he’s hitting us with Negro Emily Post, wondering why kids like Michael Brown believe it’s okay to behave in “bullyish” fashion, though he could probably take a swim in his bank vault of gold ala Uncle Scrooge McDuck to find his answer.
We may all be free to have our opinions, but informed ones are cheap all the same. I would like to personally invite Pharrell to shut up on any commentary that isn’t related to music, especially if that commentary is related to race. You only hurt us when you do.