Michael B. Jordan is my friend.
I'll say that right now. Up front. We don't talk often. We don't text. But when we see each other it's a warm catch up session, heartfelt "I'm so glad to see you's, and the deep knowing that we have someone rooting for us when we depart.
I am an actress and a social activist. I have a lot of friends in a lot of different areas of politics, social activism, television and film. Someone I consider family came under a barrage of scrutiny for something he said about black women a few years ago. Beyond what was taken out of context, I never defended his words. He was wrong. Just last year, a good friend and well known journalist was caught on surveillance saying some pretty elitist stuff. As a friend, I defended that she made a bad choice. But I never once defended her words. She was wrong.
I'm defending Michael.
Starring in Fruitvale Station is NOT what makes Mike socially conscious. That's a job. What makes him a champion, in my eyes, is that Fruitvale Station CHANGED him. Prior to researching his role as the late Oscar Grant, he was a smart, dynamic guy. But that role, that film, the impact of what he learned placed a burden on him. He has never shied away from that burden since. He has been vocal about Black Lives Matter, and he has been in very visible and not-so-visible positions to forward the cause of the movement. And like Viola Davis at the recent Emmy Awards, he has been a vocal proponent of equal opportunity for black actors in Hollywood. Everyone was behind him.
Until one mediocre interview, and a Snapchat that he didn't make.
I'll be honest in saying the headlines startled me, too. I didn't reach for the phone to text him or call mutual friends to say "What the fuck is Mike talking about???" I wanted to read the article. The more I read, the more I see how completely out of context he was taken. The article makes him sound kind of, well, like a jerk. Maybe he was that day. Who knows. But that certainly isn't the Michael I know, and even if he WAS a jerk, that doesn't mean that any other claim that comes out following that article MUST be true.
After watching last year's BET Awards, hearing him speak numerous times, reading tons of articles and posts, as well as seeing how the media and social media have tried to character assassinate ANYONE who is of prominence and supports BLM, it was almost crazy to me that we were so quick to question Mike and NOT the false reports. I'm speaking for myself, as well.
There's far less that can be said of him referring to women as "females." I grimaced when I read it. I don't think any blogger, any feminist, or any social media pundit is out of their lane by correcting him. He's my friend. But he was wrong. However, I've watched this hoopla snowball. Because of the misleading headlines, the purported #AllLivesMatter Snap, the largeness of having a GQ cover, something that friends and colleagues would have called "misguided" is now becoming a "We thought Michael B. Jordan was bae, but now he's not."
Give me a break.
Most of young Hollywood does not come here to be a voice of the people. Even after they have made it, they steer as far left from politics and taking a stance as possible. Most didn't have a background in this, thought about it very little, and are not willing to jeopardize any part of their career by being bold or opinionated. Even if they have opinion. Many don't. Trust me.
Watching Mike learn new things, see injustice, see opportunities and seize them with NO background in activism, no one advising him on what to say, but simply feeling compelled to use his platform; that made him extra all right by me. I assumed he would have missteps along the way. Even seasoned activists do. But damn, how exciting that a young dude, with the world seemingly in his palm would speak out. My favorite rappers weren't. Some of my friends who had bigger stages than Michael weren't. But he was. Everyone was looking for bold young celebs like Mike. We have one.
And the second someone said otherwise, we believed them. Nothing else mattered. This ALLEGATION was more credible than his WORK.
I get it. In a world of Rachel Dolezals, you have to question a Shaun King (I guess). When Stacey Dash's entire career was made on black America and now she's a Fox Correspondent, we have to start being a little more discerning about our heroes (or just stop making "pretty" the only qualifier for Black Girl Magic). But I think we are, in a bad way, when we expect young men like Kendrick, J.Cole, and Michael, who have not so reluctantly chosen to speak out, get trashed all over social media when their rhetoric doesn't sound like our talking points. They are new. Perhaps their missteps in media come from something they don't know. They are still learning. Perhaps their worldview is different. Perhaps they were misquoted (and maybe purposefully).
A great example is the Kendrick Lamar debacle earlier this year when he discussed violence in the streets. Many BLM members have not yet embraced a gun policy stance because they believe (and I agree) it would unfairly target black communities. However, many of my comrades and activist friends in places like South LA, Chicago, and Compton (like Kendrick) DO want more done. They are still down for the BLM movement, but they are coming from a world view different than the movement at large. They aren't wrong for that.
So why did that give so many license to crucify Kendrick a few months back? If anything, TEACH him what you know. The same way SOMEONE TAUGHT YOU. That STILL may not change his stance. You don't know what he's seen growing up. And that's ok. We WANT free thinkers in the movement. If all want you want is someone who is going to regurgitate your platform with no thoughts of their own, we are creating another political party and spineless followers. Moreover, with someone like Mike, perhaps no one ever pointed out that saying "females" and not women may be degrading. From his worldview, he may have perceived that as being better than saying "bitches," so he was, in fact, being respectful. Do we abandon him as a mouthpiece for the generation? No. Correct him and show him that it is far more nuanced than that? Yes.
In short, I really wish that we would stop acting like we were born Freedom Fighters and we were reading The New Jim Crow in conjunction with the Cat in the Hat when we were 7. We all learned our politics somewhere. Whether it was college, a barbershop, a wise elder, or a book, someone TAUGHT us what we know and we learned to use our voice. When we learned to use our voice, we also came up against scores of people who wanted to silence us. Michael B. Jordan is no different. But his STAGE is. He can reach more people. He needs us behind him, slyly correcting when necessary and protecting him from the THOUSANDS more that wish to silence him than ever did us. If we believe what someone else reports about us before we believe US...man.
Michael is my friend. When my friends are wrong I say it. WE were wrong in letting the internet character assassinate a voice in the movement before we ever got the facts.