Ava DuVernay has called out the mainstream media for “conflating” protestors and looters in covering the mass protests in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police.
Speaking during the first part of Oprah Winfrey’s two-night town hall titled “Where Do We Go From Here?” on racism in America, DuVernay said that she has witnessed people’s “concern with the murder of Black people by police” being “deterred because someone is taking a pair of jeans from a Target.”
“I think the thing for me around the whole idea of protesters and rioters and looting is how it’s all been conflated in in the mainstream media,” DuVernay said. “I watched our local news here in Los Angeles, it’s kind of all mixed together, when they’re all very separate things. Certainly you have folks that have said, ‘Gosh, they’re losing the message, they’re watering down the message because they protest in the day and they loot at night. This is, you know, taking the steam away from what the mission could be.’ I just really invite people to think about if your concern with the murder of Black people by police can be deterred or shifted because someone is taking a pair of jeans from a Target, then you’ve got to look at how much you cared about the murder of Black people by the police to begin with. It’s as if I was gonna care about Black people being murdered, but that guy took those shoes, so I don’t know now. That’s how ridiculous it sounds to me.’
Earlier on in the conversation, Winfrey asked actor David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in DuVernay’s “Selma,” about an emotional video he posted in which he had “the talk” with his son about how Black people have to deal with the police.
“I posted (the video) because I had made the mistake of thinking that things would be different for my son. I say mistake because I had watched things progress in some ways, and then the knee on the neck is so symbolic of so much. It’s something I didn’t realize that I had internalized in a way that makes it difficult for me to function. I didn’t realize how deep the wounds were. I have spent so much of the last two weeks crying,” Oyelowo said. “One of the moments where that began was when I went to speak to my son and I didn’t have the words, because George Floyd wasn’t resisting arrest. So it’s not like saying to my son, ‘Put your hands on the dash, don’t be confrontational.’ Those conversations are already emasculating to basically say, ‘Forget about justice in an interaction with the police, come home alive.'”
As the discussion moved on to how to capitalize on the “unprecedented reckoning” that is currently happening in the U.S., journalist and founder of the “1619 Project” Nikole Hannah-Jones said there need to be demands for economic reforms, as well as deep-seated changes to policing and the criminal justice system.
“We’re thinking too small, because this is really a time where we can expand on Black economic inequality, that’s fundamentally what we need to be addressing,” Hannah-Jones said. “We can’t just be talking about policing. If we’re going to talk about that, we also need to be trying to put forth an economic agenda that would have to include reparations, because there is no way without actually paying reparations to the descendants of those enslaved, that we can deal with the economic gap that Black people perennially have.”
The conversation also featured politician Stacey Abrams, journalist Charles M. Blow, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, professor and author Jennifer Eberhardt, historian and author Ibram Kendi, Color of Change founder Rashad Robinson, and NAACP national board member Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.
It was interspersed with viral speeches and clips from the protests which have been going on across America and the world.
In one moment, Winfrey drew attention to the video of a young Black girl asking a police officer if he’s going to shoot her, while in another, she played a clip from John Boyega’s emotional speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in the United Kingdom.