Jada Pinkett Smith hosted an emotional episode of “Red Table Talk” on Friday, discussing racism in America with her daughter, Willow, her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, as well as activists Dr. Angela Davis and Tamika Mallory.
The 48-year-old actress started off the episode by noting the significance of Juneteenth on Friday, which marks the true ending of slavery in the United States. She then replayed an excerpt from the devastating video of former police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the late George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis, which went viral and sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
The group had an emotional reaction to the video, with both Jada and 19-year-old Willow visibly fighting back tears as Floyd called out to his mother.
“When I watched the George Floyd video, just the amount of restraint just for me to remain steady,” Jada said. “I don’t think that people understand the amount of pain and then the anger that goes along with it and the trauma.”
Dr. Davis, who joined the discussion via video chat, noted, “That video [of George Floyd] represents what Black people have experienced for generations and generations over and over and over again. When I saw that white cop with his hands in his pocket, nonchalantly murdering this Black man, and we’re collectively mourning the fact that we have not brought about change, our own failure to stand up and say ‘Never again. Never again.'”
The women also discussed other recent deaths of Black men at the hands of police, including 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by police at a Wendy’s drive-thru in Atlanta after officials said he resisted arrest and stole an officer’s taser. An autopsy found that Brooks suffered two gunshot wounds to his back and he died of organ injuries and blood loss. The manner of death was listed as a homicide.
“I think one of the most painful things for me, is that the idea that Black men are the most dangerous creatures on the planet,” Jada commented. “So that, if he’s drunk in a drive-thru at Wendy’s, that justifies him being murdered, or everyone talking about whatever George Floyd’s rap sheet might have been as if any of that has anything to do with his rights to be treated as a human being.”
Davis pointed out, “Black men are demonized. The whole history of racism is full of images of the demonization of Black men, but let’s not forget that Black women also suffer as a result of this racist violence … so let’s also remember Breonna Taylor and all of the women who have suffered as a result of this racist violence. As long as this violence continues to be inflicted on Black people, no one is safe. The older white man who was a protester in Buffalo, New York — he also suffered as a result.”
Despite recent events, Jada said that she feels hopeful when it comes to the younger generation.
“Maybe it’s the generations to come because when I look at Willow’s generation, they have a different mindset,” Jada said.
As for Willow, she expressed, “I feel like right now, [this is] the first time I’ve ever seen so many people on the same page. On one hand, that’s really inspiring and gives me a lot of hope and on the other hand, it kind of feels like, just now?”
Still, Willow also was able to see a positive when it comes to her and her peers.
“We’re blurring the lines… and kids are growing up with this understanding that you can be whatever you want and you’re not defined by your oppression, or your gender or your color,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mallory said it was primarily the responsibility of white people to deconstruct white supremacy, especially when it comes to having uncomfortable conversations in their own lives.
“So, deconstructing white supremacy is to deal with the Karens that work on your job,” she said. “The Karens that are in your family. Excuse me, your mama, who’s telling you that she’s going to vote for somebody that is harmful to people of colour… So don’t worry so much about coming to our movement. Yes, we welcome you. But that’s part two. Part one is how are you getting uninvited from Thanksgiving, from the Christmas party, and from the activities where you know white supremacy flies around.”