Aretha Franklin’s family wasn’t charmed by the eulogy delivered at her funeral, which can only be described as a rancid stew of respectability politics with a side of “black on black crime” bullshit and a dash of “this is why I don’t go to church anymore.”
The Associated Press reports that the Franklin family found the eulogy “offensive and distasteful.”
“Rev. Jasper Williams spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize her,” said Franklin’s nephew, Vaughn Franklin, in a statement on behalf of the family.
Vaughn added, “We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with.”
Williams was widely criticized for using the funeral to essentially shame black people, and indirectly the queen of soul herself. He decried black households without a father, calling them an “abortion after birth.” He claimed that with men in the house, “we can turn black America around.”
“Seventy percent of our households run by our precious, proud, fine Black women,” said Williams. “But as proud, beautiful and fine as our Black women are…one thing a black woman cannot do…a black woman cannot raise a Black boy to be a man!”
Franklin was a single mother of four sons; she gave birth to her first at the age of twelve. Her past fits the stunted picture of the broken black family that Williams painted for his audience; to call his screed tone deaf is an understatement.
Williams also used the eulogy to speak at length about “black on black crime,” a fabricated phenomenon which negates the fact that homicides are largely based on familiarity and proximity; people of all ethnicities, races, classes, etc tend to kill their own.
“If you choose to ask me today ‘do Black Lives Matter?’ let me answer like this: No, black lives do not matter. Black lives will not matter,” said Williams. “Black lives ought not matter. Black lives should not matter, black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves, black lives can never matter.”
When Williams said black lives don’t matter, funeral attendee and performer Stevie Wonder shouted “Black lives matter” in response. When Stevie Wonder clowns you in the middle of your sermon, you know you fucked up. After delivering a despised eulogy, you’d think Williams would take his L and keep it moving into relative obscurity. You thought wrong!
Williams defended his remarks at length, extrapolating his antiquated takes on the black family and digging himself into a deeper hole.
Williams said he respects the family’s opinion and he’s “sorry they feel that way,” but he stands by the eulogy. It’s the ultimate non-apology.
Williams said he did not mean that single mothers were unable to raise their children.
“I’m talking about many single women struggling to raise their children and in the black community there is no mentoring for the children. And that when a boy is there, for example, and 70+% of our households are headed by our precious women and as precious, beautiful and proud as they are, they cannot teach a boy how to be a man,” he said.
But wait, the backtracking somehow gets worse!
“I’m saying that when we as a race sit back and get mad, if a police officer kills one of us, and we don’t say anything when 100 of us are killed by us that something is wrong with that. I’m not saying that black lives do not matter in terms of the worth of a black life, but what I’m saying in essence is that it does not matter, ought not matter, should not matter, cannot matter until black people begin to — Aretha — R-E-S-P-E-C-T, respect black lives. Only then will black lives matter.”
Shaming single motherhood and ignoring the work of advocacy groups that are actively trying to reduce crime in their communities? This is like a game of feckless black conservatism bingo.
Williams said Franklin chose and trusted him to speak at her funeral, a claim that the Franklin family denies: Franklin left no will and allegedly never discussed who she wanted to speak at her funeral. The family only chose Williams because he gave eulogies for other family members in the past, including Franklin’s father.
Maybe they should have just had Cicely Tyson deliver the eulogy instead.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece attributed Williams as the man who groped Ariana Grande during at the funeral. It was actually Bishop Charles H. Ellis III. We regret the error, and the fact that these two overshadowed an icon’s funeral.