Well, it’s that time once again, folks: America finds itself forced to stare into the mirror and contemplate the racial inequality and police violence buried deep within its heart, debating whether to flinch its eyes away uncomfortably after the death of yet another unarmed Black man in police custody. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25—and the ensuing wave of public outrage that inevitably followed—has kicked off a conversation that touches on pretty much every aspect of American life, as protesters, politicians, and, yes, celebrities all work to articulate their feelings on the rising unrest, and come to terms with what their power and privilege allow them to do in response.
Thus, Beyoncé: The musical superstar was one of several prominent musicians, actors, and athletes who spoke up last night about Floyd’s death, taking the conversation to Instagram with a call for viewers to sign a public petition condemning Floyd’s death as a murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Her accompanying statement was refreshingly straightforward. “We’re broken and we’re disgusted,” she says in response to Floyd’s death. “We cannot normalize this pain. I’m not only speaking to people of color. If you’re white, black, brown, or anything in between, I’m sure you feel hopeless by the racism going on in America right now. No more senseless killings of human beings. No more seeing people of color as less than human. We can no longer look away.”
Also taking a prominent role in the conversation last night: Run The Jewels’ Killer Mike, who worked alongside authorities in Atlanta to try to quell the violence that has accompanied some of the protests. Standing alongside city mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (and wearing a “Kill Your Masters” T-shirt) Killer Mike was equally blunt in his assessment of Floyd’s death: “I watched a white police officer assassinate a black man. And I know that tore your heart out.” Even so, the rapper encouraged Atlanta residents to “beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth” rather than take to the streets; “I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I am tired of seeing black men die,” he said. “We want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burned to the ground.”
Our collective reaction to this escalating conflict can’t help but escalate alongside it, of course; just in the last two days, we’ve seen everyone from LeVar Burton to Jimmy Kimmel to Billie Eilish express their feelings on not just Floyd’s death, but the wellspring of anguish and backlash that it’s exposed. Eilish made headlines this morning with a blunt denunciation of efforts to disrupt the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, stating that, “If I hear one more white person say ‘All Lives Matter,’ I’m gonna lose my fucking mind. Will you shut the fuck up?!” (She said it with more u’s in the “up” and the mocking Spongebob mEmE voice on the “All Lives Matter” part, but the point still stands.) And while looking to popular musicians and actors for leadership in times like this is a typically dicey affair—people being people and all—it’s impossible to deny the satisfaction of watching the famouses do their best to use the platforms granted to them by their celebrity to try to do some good. (Depending on your, their, and the general public’s definition of what “good” actually is, of course.)
Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.