Talib Kweli joined Jimmy Fallon via livestream for his quarantined version of The Tonight Show to talk about the current wave of nationwide protests in the United States of America as well as the issues of systemic racism and police brutality that have plagued African American’s since the country’s founding. The conversation opens up with Talib speaking on one of the the first times he experienced racism firsthand growing up in Brooklyn, New York.
“I grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I remember being called the N-word by a little Italian kid that was on my soccer team,” Kweli told Fallon. “He was the cool kid on the team, his name was Nick and we had a race. I figured if I could beat him in a race I could be one of the cool kids, right? So as soon as we finished the race and I beat him, I was like ‘Haha I won.’ He was like, ‘Of course you won, you’re a ni**er.’ I knew the word was bad but that was the first time I heard it. The feeling of being cool, the feeling of being a winner or that I was one of the cool kids was immediately deflated by the power of one word. I didn’t respond because I was seven, eight years old. That feeling stayed with me and I vowed that I’d never let a white person call me that word without any consequences or push back ever again.”
He also touches on the movement to defund the police and brings up the case for reparations dating back to the Civil War. “Black people have internalized this trauma and this normalization of racism so that when it bubbles up to the surface, people are like, ‘Oh how are you dealing with this? We’re so sorry…’ Yo, I’ve been dealing with this my whole life, I’ve been Black my whole life. This is nothing new,” Talib continued.
He spoke on how the murder of Trayvon Martin changed his relationship with his son. “When Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman, I had a meeting with Harry Bellafonte and a bunch of other people who could help amplify activists’ voices. Harry Bellafonte put me in touch with the Dream Defenders, they were occupying the state capitol in Tallahassee [Florida], to try and change and transform Stand-your-ground laws. When Trayvon was murdered, my son was 17-years-old, and I took him down to Florida to occupy the building with the Dream Defenders. That was me and my son’s first activism together.”
Talib recognized that not everyone wants to see the media’s portrayal and reminders of police brutality. “There’s two trains of thought. We shouldn’t be retweeting and showing traumatic Black images. It’s like how white people used to lynch Black people and have these picnics and parties to watch Black death. So I get that people are traumatized by it and don’t want to see the images but the flip side is, without us seeing the seven minutes of that cop, Chauvin, kneeling on George Floyd, he would not be arrested. Some people can’t deal with that, I get that. But us seeing it moves the dial forward.”
Kweli rounded out the segment to talk about the recent actions taken by US President Donald Trump to deploy active military troops on United States citizens currently protesting peacefully in Washington DC. “Donald Trump might not think he’s a fascist, but he’s moving in fascist ways. When he talks about ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts,’ it’s illegal to shoot someone for taking your property, especially if you’re a cop paid by tax dollars to protect the people. So when he says that Black people who are rioting are thugs, and that the press is the enemy of the people, they feel empowered to shoot “thugs.” They feel empowered to shoot at the press. I watched a Black CNN dude get arrested on live television. This is insane. When the police are targeting the press, we don’t have a democracy, a republic, whatever you want to call it. We have fascism. We have a dictatorship.”
Watch the full interview above. In related updates, Kanye West donated $2 Million USD to pay for the college tuition of George Floyd’s daughter Gianna. The money will also support legal fees for the Arbery and Taylor families currently searching for justice.