The Difficult Duty of Translation #jessewilliams

The Difficult Duty of Translation #jessewilliams

On Sunday evening, television star and activist Jesse Williams gave a riveting speech at the BET Awards on racial equality that set all media outlets ablaze. It was a thoughtful, poetic and heartfelt treatise of the frustration that people of color feel in light of recent injustices and contempt towards the #BlackLivesMatter movement. If you missed it, it’s worth the view:

Jesse Williams’s BET Humanitarian Award Acceptance Speech from Randall Hill on Vimeo.


What an inspiring message! It was well received by the people in the room, as well as people of color everywhere. Rightfully so, the video has been shared, retweeted and blasted millions of times since Sunday.  However, there is a natural deficit of a riveting speech on race given at the BET Awards. We must realize a very important reality… the black community may be the only community that understood and applauded. The world we live in is much more varied than the audience at the BET Awards.

The accolades that Jesse Williams received (including my own) seem to me no different than the rousing amens that a gifted preacher receives while preaching a sermon that the congregation already agrees with. As pastors like myself are learning (sometimes the hard way), there is a world of people outside our culture being exposed to our words who don’t easily understand or readily agree with our rhetoric.

Our responsibility is not only to assume that everyone should agree with our viewpoint. This breeds a detrimental frustration towards those who may not. We must take on the responsibility to patiently and lovingly translate his words for our counterparts who don’t see the world the way we do. This is the only way that this MOMENT can become a MOVEMENT.

If we have reposted Jesse’s speech, clapped for it, and/or lauded him for a masterful expression of our own feelings, while remaining upset at anyone in dominant culture who does not understand… we have only done the easier portion of our responsibility. The next step is to use this powerful speech as a conversation starter with those who do not look like us, think like us, or vote like us.

We need loving conversation across racial lines. Social media is a powerful medium to do so. Face to face conversations are even more powerful.

If you disagree with Jessie in any way, or if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about… and you’re open to patient, loving discussion about the issues presented, I am available. #askablackdude

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