This week, two unarmed black men were killed by police officers in two different American states. If you're on social media, chances are you've seen their names, in the tragic hashtag form that has become all too commonplace, trending on Twitter and Facebook: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. To date, police have killed 155 black people in America this year. According to The Atlantic, 'Every two days a black person of some age—14 or 18 or 43 or 37—armed or unarmed, sober or under the influence, resisting arrest or providing officers with identification will be shot and killed by an officer or officers.' Those numbers are heartbreaking and wrong.
And while celebrities were initially slow to use their fame and influence to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement that sprung up in response, many are doing so powerfully now. Here are some of the clearest and most effective celebrity commentaries on #BlackLivesMatter so far. If the subject seems distant from your reality or unrelatable to you, UK readers — or if you're unsure of why the issue is important, these statements should shed some light.
'This is a human fight. No matter your race, gender or sexual orientation. This is a fight for anyone who feels marginalized, who is struggling for freedom and human rights. This is not a plea to all police officers but toward any human being who fails to value life. The war on people of colour and all minorities needs to be over.' Beyoncé
'Now what we've been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday. So what's going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.' Jesse Washington
'The punishment for resisting arrest shouldn't be death. The punishment for selling bootleg CDs shouldn't be death. The punishment for having a gun in an open-carry state shouldn't be death. The punishment for being a black man shouldn't be death." Larry Wilmore
'It's impossible to ignore that the relationship between black and brown communities and law enforcement remains as strained as it was decades ago. No one begins their life as a hashtag. Yet the trend of being reduced to one continues. This is real and I'm concerned. Concerned for the safety of my family, my friends and any human being that could fall victim to this pattern.' Drake
'Black feminine sexuality is a tender spot – tender with deep-rooted suppression and taboo – the effects of which are pervasive. The stigmas surrounding it are embedded in American infrastructure and psyche as evidenced by the ways black women are sexually assaulted and treated by police – an act that goes frequently unreported by the media. When the media is not ignoring black women altogether they are disparaging them. As culture shifts and racial tensions are tested through the vehicle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is important to question Do Female Black Lives Matter Too?' Amandla Stenberg
'#BlackLivesMatter doesn't mean other lives don't. Like people who say "Save the Rainforests" aren't saying "F*ck All Other Types Of Forests" Or as some #BlackLivesMatter activists say, it's like going to an AIDS walk and shouting "All Diseases Matter!" Some people think they are being more inclusive by saying #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter but in reality, they're (un)consciously undermining the purpose of the movement. Because this PARTICULAR movement is about SPECIFIC issues, as any decently effective movement is. You can't just have a protest for "Make Everything In The World Better!" How can you have an effective protest that's about gender equality, animal rights, racial equality, and saving the environment? Pro-tip: you can't. Because that's not how getting shit done works.' Matt McGorry
'Alton Sterling was killed because we refuse to acknowledge the fact that our police forces protect selectively and harm enormously. The job of white Americans now is to change.' Lena Dunham