A Platform to Speak

Ever since the beginning of the end of America’s democracy in early 2016, it has become apparent that any action Donald Trump means to take will most likely take a toll on at least one afflicted group of people. From a border wall to the criminalization of a basic human right, the American public has refused to stay silent any longer. The media has covered most of the political unrest that has been ignited within the nation, from protests to marches, making it obvious that the people will do whatever they can to get their message across. But some of those masses of people didn’t only have your average, unnamed protesters. Amongst them were familiar faces as well — celebrities. Recently, celebrities have become increasingly vocal about their political leanings and their takes on current issues through several platforms, such as awards show speeches and protesting alongside locals. A recurring conversation comes up time and time again concerning whether or not celebrities should discuss politics. They should — but only under some conditions.

In September 2016, a poll revealed that Colin Kaepernick is currently the most disliked player in the NFL. There is no doubt that this is because of his silent protests (i.e. kneeling) during the national anthem of every game he plays. People who have shown their disapproval for his actions call him “unpatriotic” and “disrespectful of American veterans,” all while completely missing The Point™. The 49ers quarterback has given a detailed explanation about why he does what he does, which is to bring attention to and protest against racial inequality and police brutality, yet he still continues to receive death threats. Meanwhile, another quarterback, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, has been showing his political beliefs by remaining friends with a certain tangerine-hued you-know-who and keeping a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker, yet there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much public uproar or backlash against his political statements. As the response to these two athletes demonstrates, there is an evident double standard when it comes celebrities and political speech. A public figure should participate in discussions about politics, but his or her message should reflect a message of equality and peace rather than taking part in harmful rhetoric that contributes to the discrimination of minorities.

Other actions taken by celebrities that I commemorate while most deem controversial include Shailene Woodley attending DAPL protests, Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech, Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards after winning a humanitarian award, Beyoncé’s entire Lemonade album, and a long list of others. Many people look up to them, and if they are spreading a message that shows empathy for others, and only seek peace and tranquility in society, then how is that so bad? None of these celebrities have promoted violence or anything negative whatsoever, so why is there such an enormous public outcry whenever they speak out about political grievances? These outcries are only initiated by the uncomfortable and the guilty.

A lot of the arguments usually include a comment or two talking about how these entertainers shouldn’t bring up social issues in their art because they’re supposed to provide an “escape” for the American public during trying times. Take former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani for example. After Beyonce’s 2016 Super Bowl performance, he reprimanded her for attacking the police with her song “Formation” (a song about black empowerment) while her dancers were dressed in what was clearly a nod to the Black Panthers. He continues to call for more “decent and wholesome entertainment.” One thing I would like to get across is the fact that those who are able to “escape” with a few minutes of wholesome entertainment are not affected by the issue in the first place. But for other marginalized groups, it’s what they go through everyday. It is better to have a celebrity recognize and acknowledge the trials of said groups than to pretend that the issue is not there at all.

This may be shocking to some, but celebrities are people too! Whether the issue affects them at some point or not doesn’t really matter. If they seek to create a positive change in society through promoting equality, emphasizing the necessity of basic human rights, and calling out how these things are wrongfully taken away from some people, then there is no better way to get that sort of message across than the platform of someone of their caliber.