With both the MTV Video Music Awards and the Emmys in town, most of music and Hollywood was in Los Angeles to celebrate, but there were larger issues in the air. During last night’s show, MTV aired a brief nod to the death of Michael Brown and subsequent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in the form of a PSA featuring the protesters’ “Hands up, don’t shoot!” chant and a James Baldwin quote. On the red carpet and at the surrounding parties in town, the topic was unavoidable, if handled delicately.
“Oh, God, I don’t want to get into the details,” said Laverne Cox, of Orange Is the New Black, at the BAFTA Los Angeles TV Tea on Saturday, calling for nothing more than justice. “My heart goes out to the people of Ferguson,” she said. “My heart goes out to the family of Mike Brown. They need justice, real justice. Someone needs to be accountable when the life of a young person is taken away from us.”
Other stars spoke about the militarization of police, the uncomfortable national conversation surrounding race, and the role of social media:
Joe Morton, Scandal
“We don’t have all the facts. We don’t know everything that’s going on. It’s way too early to determine who’s guilty or who’s innocent. All of that stuff [speaks to] the kind of tension that existed in that town before Michael was even shot, and that’s really what we should be talking about. How do you have a town where you have 53 policemen and only four of them are black? Why do you have a town where the blacks in that town are very suspicious of all their white counterparts in that town? Why, suddenly, do the people backing the police officer feel they have to take the other side of the color line? That’s very dangerous for both sides. It’s a conversation we need to have in this country, and we never do.”
Mary Lambert, “Same Love” singer
“I think the outrage is completely warranted, and I think the police [at the protests] reacted in a really unfortunate way, and one that doesn't really make much sense, especially when people are in mourning. The right actions need to be made, and they're not being made.
“I'm really puzzled that the local police have military gear. I think in the U.K., the police shoot one person a year, and in America, it's 400. There is an inherent problem, and it also reflects race. Race is something people don't want to talk about because it can be uncomfortable. Actually, it's amazing that [Ferguson] brought it to the forefront and we're having a discussion about it, but it's unfortunate in the way it's come about.”
“I think there is a certain responsibility for a person in the public light to be aware of what's going on around you in the community and, when it's appropriate, raise awareness and make a comment. I think that social media helps give people a voice and sort of be more active, and that's a great thing, because a couple years ago, we didn't have that.”
Nev Schulman, Catfish
“I know there are people who have things to say, and I see that on Twitter, but I don't — and I'm guilty of this, too — but what do you do? Do you go there, write an essay? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just wrote this amazing article about the state of racism in this country and how history will choose to make this a turning point or move past it, and who knows what will or will not happen. There is so much going on in the world right now — maybe more than ever, or not? It's confusing and overwhelming, and I think we should all be doing a better job standing up for what we believe is right and being just as loud and aggressive in promoting it as the people we disagree with it are, because it's sort of our job to do that.”