On November 13, 11 days prior to a grand jury's decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, Pharrell Williams gave an interview to Ebony about racism and Ferguson, MO. The things he said (that Michael Brown's actions looked "bully-ish" and he should have listened to Wilson's orders) were cringeworthy then and have only gotten worse with time.
With people outraged over yesterday's verdict and and wanting to talk about it, Pharrell's quotes—in which he doubles down on Bill Cosby's broadly disliked opinion that black people need to take more responsibility for their own disenfranchisement—are once again making the rounds.
In the interview, Pharrell begins by warning that "it takes a very open mind to hear [his] view, because [his] view is the sky view," so, with open minds, let's dive in.
EBONY: Did you see the video allegedly showing Michael Brown stealing from a convenience store minutes before his death?
WILLIAMS: It looked very bully-ish; 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?
People are talking about that. For the longest time, all anyone would talk about was how "thuggish" Brown was and what flaws in the black community could have possibly led to his demise. Search "dumbfucks" + "opinions" + "Michael Brown" on Twitter and you'll find that plenty of people are still talking about it.
What they fail to bring up, of course, is that Brown could have stolen from every convenience store in Missouri and it still wouldn't justify Darren Wilson gunning him down in the street because black lives, no matter how many times white culture tries to insist otherwise, really matter more than that.
But back to Pharrell:
EBONY: You can almost hear the gnashing of Bill Cosby's teeth.
WILLIAMS: And I agree with him. When Cosby said it back then, I understood; I got it. Listen, we have to look at ourselves and take action for ourselves. Cosby can talk that talk because he created Fat Albert, he tried to buy NBC, he portrayed a doctor on The Cosby Show and had all of us wearing Coogi sweaters. You've got to respect him. I believe that Ferguson officer should be punished and serve time. He used excessive force on a human being who was merely a child. He was a baby, man. 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.
(Just an idea: Quoting the life philosophies of Bill Cosby is probably not a great idea right now.)
Pharrell has every right to his opinion and it would be fucking insane and wrong for me to try to inform or correct his version of the black experience. That said, after seeing Darren Wilson go unpunished for what he did to Brown (which is something that, in all fairness, Pharrell didn't know was going to happen at the time of his interview), we should probably be spending more time critiquing the American white supremacist culture where it's okay to shoot an unarmed teenager for allegedly stealing cigarillos than we spend critiquing why Michael Brown stole those cigarillos in the first place.
Image via Getty.