Pharrell Williams' comments about Michael Brown's "bully-ish" behavior have surfaced following a grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of the 18-year-old.
In a cover story interview for the November issue of Ebony magazine -- conducted weeks before the decision -- Williams broached the topic of Ferguson, telling the publication's Kenya Hunt: “I don’t talk about race since it takes a very open mind to hear my view, because my view is the sky view. But I’m very troubled by what happened in Ferguson, Mo.”
In the interview, published on Ebony's website Nov. 13, Hunt asked if the singer had seen the surveillance video allegedly showing Brown stealing cigarillos from a local convenience story and pushing a store employee.
"It looked very bully-ish; that in itself I had a problem with," he said. "Not with the kid, but with whatever happened in his life for him to arrive at a place where that behavior is OK. Why aren’t we talking about that?"
Hunt aligned Williams' remarks with Bill Cosby's sentiments about black society, publicized in a 2004 speech at an NAACP event. Williams agreed:
And I agree with him. When Cosby said it back then, I understood; I got it. Listen, we have to look at ourselves and take action for ourselves. Cosby can talk that talk because he created Fat Albert, he tried to buy NBC, he portrayed a doctor on The Cosby Show and had all of us wearing Coogi sweaters. You’ve got to respect him. I believe that Ferguson officer should be punished and serve time. He used excessive force on a human being who was merely a child. He was a baby, man. The boy was walking in the middle of the street when the police supposedly told him to “get the f--k on the sidewalk.” If you don’t listen to that, after just having pushed a storeowner, you’re asking for trouble. But you’re not asking to be killed. Some of these youth feel hunted and preyed upon, and that’s why that officer needs to be punished.
The "Happy" singer went on to acknowledge the harm of police militarization and omnipresent racism in America, saying: "The hangover from Ferguson is going to be a long one, worse than Trayvon Martin," he said.
After the grand jury reached its decision Monday, Williams' quotes were highlighted in articles published by blogs like The Root and Madame Noire. Some, including Jezebel's Madeleine Davies, criticized the celebrity:
Pharrell has every right to his opinion and it would be fucking insane and wrong for me to try to inform or correct his version of the black experience. That said, after seeing Darren Wilson go unpunished for what he did to Brown (which is something that, in all fairness, Pharrell didn't know was going to happen at the time of his interview), we should probably be spending more time critiquing the American white supremacist culture where it's okay to shoot an unarmed teenager for allegedly stealing cigarillos than we spend critiquing why Michael Brown stole those cigarillos in the first place.
This is not the first time Williams' comments about race have landed in the headlines. In April, Williams made waves discussing his "New Black" theory during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
"The New Black doesn't blame other races for our issues," he said at the time. "The New Black dreams and [realizes] that it's not pigmentation: it's a mentality and it's either going to work for you or it's going to work against you. And you've got to pick the side you're going to be on."
For his part, Williams expressed sadness over the grand jury's decision in a tweet Monday night.