Music Stars Speak Out About George Floyd's Death, Racism
Music artists – including some who have apologized for using racial slurs in the past – are jumping on social media to share their thoughts on the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and the anti-police protests it sparked in cities across the U.S.
“I’ve been trying to find the right words for days,” Shawn Mendes shared on Saturday. “I feel sick to my stomach. Hearing the sound of his voice crying for help is bone chilling and it f**king breaks my heart.”
The Canadian singer continued: “I’m so sorry that this injustice keeps happening. I can’t image what life dealing with racism so constantly is like. As a white person, I not only recognize that this is a problem but that I am a part of the problem. That is has long due been time to not only ‘not accept’ racism, but to become anti-racist. That all of us that are in the majority, can’t sit idle any longer while the minority are suffering.
“It’s time for ALL humans to demand change. This needs to be EVERYONES (sic) fight. We need to start to really listen to & help amplify black voices. To make their struggles known and to reject racism. It’s time to take action on that feeling in your heart that knows how wrong this is. This can NOT be the world our children of the future live in. The time for change is long overdue & we can’t rest until change is what we get.”
Mendes’ comments come nine months after he issued a mea culpa after being called out for since-deleted 2013 tweets in which he told one friend “I can see the black coming out in you” and another “I’m black, burnt up ya knoe (sic).” The previous year, he captioned a photo of a black friend: “A regular day with mah n****r Kareem.”
Last August, Mendes wrote: “I posted some racially insensitive comments on social media when I was younger, and I am so sorry. I apologize wholeheartedly for what was said & understand how offensive those posts were. There is no place for comments like that, and those words do not represent who I am. I stand for complete inclusivity, equality, & love.”
In an Instagram post on Saturday, Camila Cabello also shared her thoughts.
“I’ve been trying to find the right words to say after I saw the video where George Floyd’s life is being taken from him with impunity... I am so sorry to George Floyd’s family and Ahmaud Arbery’s family, And Breonna Taylor’s family and to the countless other black families that have their children and parents being taken away from them,” the singer wrote.
“I stand with you in outrage … We need a change, we can’t afford to be silent, and we can’t afford a society that’s indifferent to others’ pain.”
Cabello apologized last December for using racial slurs and sharing racist memes in 2012 Tumblr posts.
“I used language that I’m deeply ashamed of and will regret forever,” she wrote in a message on social media. “I was uneducated and ignorant and once I became aware of the history and the weight and the true meaning behind this horrible and hurtful language, I was deeply embarrassed I ever used it.
“As much as I wish I could, I can’t go back in time and change things I said in the past. But once you know better, you do better and that’s all I can do.”
Justin Bieber, who last December admitted “saying really hurtful things not knowing the power of my words,” first posted last week on Instagram: “THIS MUST STOP. this makes me absolutely sick. This makes me angry this man DIED. This makes me sad. Racism is evil We need to use our voice! Please people. I’m sorry GEORGE FLOYD.”
In a follow-up post, he wrote: “No lives matter until black lives matter.”
Five years ago, videos surfaced showing 14-year-old Bieber saying “run n****r, n****r” as the punchline to a joke, changing the lyrics of his song to “One less lonely n****r” and joking “If I kill you, I’ll be part of the KKK.”
Bieber apologized in 2014. “As a kid, I didn’t understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt.”
Beyoncé shared a video message on Instagram calling for justice for Floyd. “We all witnessed his murder in broad daylight. We’re broken and we’re disgusted. We cannot normalize this pain,” she said.
“I’m sure you feel hopeless by the racism going on in America right now. No more senseless killings of human beings. No more seeing people of colour as less than human. We can no longer look away.”
Over the weekend, Harry Styles said he was donating to help post bail for those arrested in the protests. “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH,” he wrote. “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
Earlier, Styles tweeted: “I do things every day without fear, because I am privileged, and I am privileged every day because I am white. Being not racist is not enough, we must be anti racist. Social change is enacted when a society mobilizes.
“I stand in solidarity with all of those protesting.”
Rihanna took to Instagram to share a powerful message. “For the last few days, the magnitude of devastation, anger, sadness I’ve felt has been overwhelming to say the least,” she wrote. “Watching my people get murdered and lynched day after day pushed me to a heavy place in my heart!”
The singer described watching video of Floyd’s final moments. “The blood curdling agony in George Floyd’s voice again, begging over and over for his life!!! The look of enticement, the pure joy and climax on the face of this bigot, murderer, thug, pig, bum, Derek Chauvin, haunts me!! I can’t shake this! I can’t get over an ambulance pulling up to an arrest, a paramedic checking a pulse without removing the very thing that’s hindering it! Is this that f**king normal??? If intentional MURDER is the fit consequence for ‘drugs’ or ‘resisting arrest’....then what’s the fit consequence for MURDER???!”
Billie Eilish went at white people who counter the “black lives matter” slogan with “all lives matter.” In a lenghty, expletive-filled post, she fumed: “NO ONE IS SAYING YOUR LIFE DOESN’T MATTER. NO ONE IS SAYING YOUR LIFE IS NOT HARD … THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. STOP MAKING EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU. YOU ARE NOT IN NEED. YOU ARE NOT IN DANGER.”
Lady Gaga postponed a virtual listening session for her new album Chromatica on Friday and urged her fans "to take this time to register to vote and raise your voice." She later shared her views on Twitter and singled out U.S. president Donald Trump.
"He holds the most powerful office in the world, yet offers nothing but ignorance and prejudice while black lives continue to be taken," Gaga wrote. "We have known he is a fool, and a racist, since he took office. He is fueling a system that is already rooted in racism, and racist activity, and we can all see what it happening. It's time for a change."
Gaga's feelings echoed those of Taylor Swift, who tweeted at Trump: "After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’??? We will vote you out in November."
Madonna, Ariana Grande, Cardi B, Halsey, Diddy, DJ Khaled, Ice Cube, Meek Mill, Garbage, Snoop Dogg and Common are among the other music stars sharing outrage and sadness on social media.
“Watching all that has transpired over the last few days has been incredibly heartbreaking,” Nick Jonas tweeted. “Blatant racism and lack of leadership and so many lives lost. Justice needs to be served! No one should ever have to say ‘I can’t breathe’ at the hands and/or knees of law enforcement.”
Brother Joe Jonas tweeted: “Seeing everything online has made one thing clear... We're living in two different versions of America. #GeorgeFloyd was shown no mercy, let alone human decency while just a few weeks ago we saw armed men storm a government building... This is an outrage!!
“We can't continue like this... What we're seeing happen to black men and women in America has to be addressed everywhere and these officers should be held fully accountable.”
Canadian singer Jann Arden shared: “I believe that people are waking up to the dark reality that exists on this planet. Inequality, injustice, intolerance, fear and oppression. This white woman has a Fu&king LOT to learn and atone for. My silence and my ignorance has long been part of the problem. And I am sorry.”
She later tweeted: “The fear that I am feeling now- Black people- people of colour- feel everyday of their lives- ten fold. I literally have no idea.”
Scott Helman wrote on Twitter last Friday: “IM TIRED OF TWEETING ABOUT VIOLENCE. IM TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT MURDER. IM TIRED OF ASKING WHY. BUT ILL NEVER BE AS TIRED AS GEROGE FLOYD WAS AS HE BREATHED HIS LAST BREATH. SO I WILL FIGHT FOR JUSTICE UNTIL BLACK LIVES FINALLY MATTER.”
Alessia Cara tweeted: "Encouraging you to read up on this if you haven’t. staying educated on the horrific reality of the world and the treatment of the people in it, is the first / most crucial step in the right direction."
other ways to help with this ongoing issue. it’s our responsibility. sign, call and / or donate!!!! https://t.co/q78LeG3zn2— ac (@alessiacara) May 29, 2020
Amy Lee of Evanescence said in a Facebook post that she is “angry, horrified, ashamed.” She wrote: “Evil abuses of power and murder in the streets… A president who calls a press conference in the middle of a nationwide outcry, only to try and change the subject and not even MENTION the murder of George Floyd and the immeasurable injustices that came before it, on top of his threatening, racist tweet. My blood boils… This is what I want to say: Your voices are not unheard. We are grieving with you and this is not ok.”
Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton has also spoken up. “I don’t even recognize my own country anymore,” he tweeted, before sharing a photo of an inverted American flag – the international symbol of distress.
“At the same time, Im heart broken & angry. Appalled & disgusted at whats happening in my country that I LOVE so much. I wish I knew what I could do to be part of a solution.”
Early Sunday, pop star Demi Lovato shared a call to action on Instagram. “Use your voice to stand up and speak out for what is right! Take time to educate yourself about racism and then educate those around you,” she wrote. “Sign petitions and let your lawmakers know how you feel. I am urging you to register to vote if you are not already.”
According to a 2019 Rutgers University study, police use of force is the seventh leading cause of death among black males between 25 and 29. It also found that young black males are 2.5 times more likely than white ones to die during an encounter with police.
This article has been updated since it was first published.
Listen to music from some of the artists speaking up