John Legend's op-ed on race is a wake-up call to America
John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen were big supporters of crowds who protested the grand jury verdict not to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, just a week after another grand jury allowed the police officer who killed Ferguson’s Michael Brown to walk free. (They even sent food trucks to Union Square to feed the crowds of activists for free.)
And now, in a wrenching Op-Ed for Billboard, the singer urges Americans to “Wake up, stand up, and demand change.”
Legend begins with his experience writing a song with rapper Common for the film Selma, a movie that focuses on the civil rights legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“While it is important to recognize and acknowledge racial progress through the years, it is also clear that we are far from King’s dream of equality and justice for all,” Legend wrote.
“African-American communities are being crushed by a criminal justice system that over-polices us, over-arrests us, over-incarcerates us and disproportionately takes the lives of our unarmed youth because of the simple fact that our skin, our blackness, conjures the myth of a hyper-violent negro,” Legend continued.
“Today, I am part of a generation of artists who benefit from unprecedented access to our fans,” he wrote. “Tools like Twitter and Facebook act as a megaphone, allowing us to speak directly and powerfully to millions of people. Yet our actions, or lack thereof, speak louder: 140 characters cannot excuse us of our obligation to stand up, sit in or march forward.”
Legend urged his fans and fellow citizens to get away from the screens and participate in on-the-ground activism. “We can’t wait for gradual and incremental change,” Legend wrote.
Comparing Obama to Lyndon B. Johnson, he admonishes the president’s call to “think big, but go gradual.” Instead, he calls for the people to take bold steps toward change immediately, through grassroots organizations. He concludes: “It is time for the people to wake up, stand up and demand change.”