Pharrell Williams said that ‘everyone is heartbroken‘ there was no grand jury indictment of a white cop over the fatal shooting of a black, unarmed teenager Michael Brown, a week after the musician sparked a heated debate by calling the victim’s behavior ‘bully-ish‘. The singer said in an interview late on Monday that his perspective on the case hasn’t changed since the shooting in August.
‘My feelings have been the same since that boy was murdered,’ Williams said backstage at The Voice in Los Angeles, where he’s a coach. ‘Everyone is heartbroken. It’s another teen, unarmed teen gunned down.’ The ‘Happy‘ hitmaker has been among the most high-profile recording artists to weigh in on the death of 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson and the racially charged aftermath, in a recently published Ebony Magazine interview and elsewhere.
Before he was shot dead, Brown was caught on surveillance camera stealing a handful of cigarillos from a convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri, and intimidating the shop owner. While Pharrell said that there was no excuse for Officer Darren Wilson to use lethal force against the unarmed teen, he thinks Brown’s actions were overlooked in the national discussion about the tragedy.
‘It looked very bully-ish; that in itself I had a problem with,’ Pharrell told Ebony Magazine. ‘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?’ Williams went on: ‘The boy was walking in the middle of the street when the police supposedly told him to ‘get the f*** on the sidewalk.’ If you don’t listen to that, after just having pushed a storeowner, you’re asking for trouble.’
Williams declined to comment on Monday about ongoing protests including school walkouts across the country. ‘It’s not really about what I think. It’s about what you’re going to do. What are you going to do? He’s a teen who is gone,’ Williams said. ‘He was gunned down. What are you going to do? You understand what I’m saying? That’s why it hurts. Because you have no answer. None of us do. He’s gone. That hurts.’ After the story was published in Ebony Magazine, Twitter was flooded with comments calling out Pharrell’s interview.
One Twitter user said: ‘Mike Brown was a bully says Pharrell Williams. So do we get a pass to shoot bullies in society? Way to go Pharrell.’ This isn’t the first time that singer has started controversy over his opinions on race issues. In an interview with Oprah last year, Pharrell angered some when he said ‘the new black doesn’t blame others races for our issues‘. Pharrell seemed hesitant to talk about race in the interview with the African-American monthly magazine, saying:
‘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, Missouri.’ However, he felt the need to weigh in on the current situation in the predominantly-black St Louis suburb, believing ‘the hangover from Ferguson is going to be a long one, worse than Trayvon Martin‘. Trayvon Martin was another unarmed black 17-year-old who was shot dead two years ago near to where he lived in Sanford, Florida, by a man who thought he was a burglar.
Shooter George Zimmerman was controversially acquitted on any charges in the teen’s death. While his comments sparked a debate online, it’s clear that Pharrell feels a strong connection to the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters turned violent after hearing the grand jury’s decision on Monday night. Following the decision, Pharrell tweeted: ‘I’m heartbroken over the news of no indictment in Ferguson. Let’s all pray for peace’.
He says he still believes racism exists, and that the situation in Ferguson may have been calmer if President Obama went there to show his support. ‘He didn’t have to go and take a side; all he needed to do was show his presence and everybody would have straightened up. But he didn’t go. I won’t fault him. ‘He’s a man with a lot of weight on his shoulders, but I personally would have gone because being a ”man of the people” means you’re right there with them in it. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr led by example.’
Pharrell also made the strange decision to praise Bill Cosby during the interview, for the comedian’s history preaching tough love to black youth. The actor is currently under fire after at least 17 women have come forward to accuse him of rape. ‘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,’ Pharrell said.