"We can't do it divided."
In her acceptance speech for the NAACP 2020 President's Award, Rihanna called for unity while emphasizing the importance of standing up for people who you don't know.
"We can only fix this world together," she said. "We can't do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can't let the desensitivity seep in."
Rihanna also criticized the idea that separation exists between any of us, emphasizing the intersectional nature of seemingly distinct social issues. She critiqued the perception,"If it's your problem, then it's not mine. It's a women's problem. It's a Black people problem. It's a poor people problem," instead arguing that a problem for one race or group is a problem for everyone.
"How many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other races, sexes, religions?" she asked. "They wanna break bread with you, right? They like you? Well then, this is their problem too," the de facto world leader stated. "When we're marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jrs. and the Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up."
"My part is a very small part of the work that's being done in this world and the work that has yet to be done," she said, eternally humble and gracious. "Thank you to the NAACP for all of your efforts to ensure equality for our communities. Thank you for celebrating our tenacity. We have been denied opportunities since the beginning of time and still we prevail, so I'm honored. Imagine what we could do together," she concluded.
According to Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, Rihanna achieved the award because she "epitomizes the type of character, grace, and devotion to justice that we seek to highlight in our President's Award."
Rihanna is a musician (though word is still out on the next album) and a mogul, and every one of her appearances is a public service, but she's also an impressively accomplished activist and philanthropist. She created a global scholarship program with the Clara Lionel Foundation, advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, supported people with HIV+, helped create a benefit concert for Sandy Hook shooting victims, came for Donald Trump, funded the creation of an oncology and nuclear medicine center in her home country of Barbados, and has donated millions of dollars to various charities.
An award for Rihanna is an award for us all. As Jay Willis wrote in GQ, "If the imminent collapse of Western civilization has you grimly wondering when science will enable you to quietly abscond to whichever of those fantastically-named TRAPPIST-1 planets can be colonized first, allow us to present a powerful reason to stay: Harvard University revealed this week that Rihanna, who during her 29 years on earth has made you move your body in ways than you erroneously believed to be physiologically impossible, has been selected as its Humanitarian of the Year." Now that's something to raise a glass too.
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The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.
Dance through the tears with "Are You Having Fun Without Me?"
Queens-based artist Glassio has released his first single of 2020.
"Are You Having Fun Without Me?" is an exquisitely moody work of dreamy electronica; it's no wonder that the artist describes it as "melancholy disco." It starts out with an infectious beat that sounds slightly muffled, as if you're hearing it while standing outside a club, taking a breather (or having a good cry). It's reminiscent of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" in that it's built around the contrast between its lyrics, which are heavy and full of nostalgia, and its euphoric sonic makeup. Glassio's voice is as soothing as a cool breeze on a hot night, and the delicate balance of synths and subterranean beats make the song feel like a tropical pool you can sink into.
Glassio began as the project of Irish-Iranian artist Sam R. and his friend Charles Pinel, who formed the duo while studying at Clive Davis Institute, but it quickly became the former's solo project. Since then, he has released a solo EP and is carving out a name for himself as a producer and artist.
"Are You Having Fun Without Me?" was inspired by longing and nostalgia, which Glassio knows well. "Though anything I write is usually an amalgam of multiple experiences, this song was pretty personal and loosely inspired by the upbringing my siblings and I had," he said. "We were moved around a lot growing up, and lost touch with friends and family members. I had always wanted to write something that tackled our upbringings, and felt this song was a perfect portal for those sentiments. I wanted to leave it pretty open ended though and hope people can apply their own experiences to the song—whether it be betrayal, a breakup, or not being accepted by someone they love."
Equal parts escapism, emotiveness, rumination, and release, "Are You Having Fun Without Me?" is a perfectly bittersweet indie pop gem.
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