The murder of 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis on Monday, has sparked protests across the country calling for justice for Floyd’s death. The news of the killing—in which a white police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck as he told officers repeatedly he could not breathe—followed a highly publicized incident in New York City that same day when an entitled white woman named Amy Cooper called 911 on black bird watcher Christian Cooper. In the exhausting rush of news about casual racism and police brutality, the experience of seeing yet another black man killed by police officers, Star Wars actor John Boyega tweeted his frank feelings: “I really fucking hate racists,” he wrote.
Cue the rush of Twitter reply guys who were quick to point out how Boyega should or shouldn’t feel. Boyega replied immediately to correct his trolls.
“Nobody loves racists. I’m from Nigeria my ex said she hates whites so I broke up with her,” someone replied. “I am talking about WHITE on BLACK racism. The kind that has ruined the world not caused a lil break up with your girlfriend,” Boyega responded. Fans carried out the tired argument that racism cuts “all ways,” even as it was clear that Boyega was specifically talking about racism against black people.
What was also clear was the immense entitlement Boyega’s fans felt, many of whom invoked his position as a Disney star in their tweets. “The language in this tweet is unsettling. My 8 year old son looks up to you,” another person replied. “I understand your choice and unfortunately wouldn’t change anything I said. Your his biggest role model and that’s what counts. I ain’t about all that,” Boyega replied. Someone mentioned “the house of mouse,” referring to Disney, urging Boyega to stop tweeting. “Nah. I’m gonna continue still,” he wrote back. “This is my own personal account. I am not here for the kids,” he said.
Boyega isn’t here for the kids. Nor is he here for Disney, or even Star Wars. He spoke for himself. But even if he were here for “the kids,” who is to say that fans of a Disney franchise shouldn’t also listen to its famous stars when they speak candidly about their experiences with racism? Boyega isn’t Finn and isn’t a character devoid of feelings written by a screenwriter. And while his fans may want to believe that he lives perpetually in a galaxy far, far away, a depoliticized role model to children who watch his movies, Boyega made it clear he’s a real person repeatedly subjected to what he calls the “continuous cycle” of innocent black men murdered for simply existing.
“Fuck you racist white people, I said what I said,” Boyega said later on Instagram Live, telling people that if they comment racist things on his social media they will be blocked. “And if you’re a fan of me, and you support my work, and you’re racist... fuck off.”