The Celebrity ‘I Take Responsibility’ Video Is a Perfect Example of How Not to Be a Proper Ally

'I Take Responsibility' PSA
Photo: Youtube.

They tried. Twitter’s already handling the Take Responsibility video’s celebs by trolling them, but let’s really unpack why this latest PSA courtesy of Hollywood’s elite isn’t even worth the iPhone camera it was recorded on. Sarah Paulson, Aaron Paul, Kesha, Kristen Bell, Justin Theroux, Bryce Dallas Howard, and more, all joined together and managed to achieve the bare minimum—if that.

ICYMI, the two-minute-long video features these Hollywood A-listers repeating variations of “I take responsibility” for all of their racist behavior. That is, every “unchecked moment,” “not-so-funny joke,” or “time I explained away police brutality or turned a blind eye.” And then…Well, actually, that’s it. There is no actionable statement; no promises to donate a hefty sum of their even heftier salaries to radical abolitionist groups. We get something else instead: White guilt.

Whenever you see posts on social media talking about performative allyship, this video is a prime example of what they mean. It’s unclear how anyone is really benefitting from a dramatized, “raw” montage of celebrities sitting safely in their homes, amping up the sincerity as they wear scholarly glasses and clasp their palms together before, uh, launching into a Breaking Bad-worthy monologue—looking at you, Aaron Paul! While well-intentioned, what remains clear is that videos like these do little to affect viewers; save for stroking egos.

The “impact-oriented campaign” was created by Confluential Films in partnership with the NAACP. While NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson believes that it is “powerful when white people can speak openly about the individual and structural racism and privilege that deny others their full rights,” according to his press statement, it’s worth questioning the timing and audience of this latest video. As a nation, we must be more mindful of speaking “openly” only in moments when that conversation does not selfishly serve us. That also means having these discussions long after the Black Lives Matter movement stops being a trending topic.

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Reformism is an integral part of policing as an institution. Since its inception as a primary tool for enforcing land enclosure in feudal Europe, to indigenous removal/genocide and hunting of Maroons and people resisting & escaping slavery, policing has been reformed & developed to improve its effectiveness in oppressing & repressing Black, Brown, indigenous, poor & queer communities. #8cantwait is nothing new & will only produce the same evolution of policing we’ve experienced thus far. Now is the time for ABOLITION. And by that we mean prison industrial complex abolition, ending all the uses of policing, imprisonment and surveillance, and instead build community systems, structures & life-affirming resources rooted in community self-determination, interdependency & collective liberation. We don’t need cops, we don’t need cages. Period. Thank you to all the comrades & allies who worked so quickly on these #8ToAbolition images, reflecting generations of work by so many movement players past & present. #PICAbolitionCantWait #AbolitionNow For more resources check out our website: ✨criticalresistance.org/abolish-policing And for tools, research & other resources on community responses to harm (approaches you can develop & use in your communities so that you don’t have to call the cops EVER), check out: ✨criticalresistance.org/resources/addressing-harm-accountability-and-healing #CareNotCops #CareNotCages

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It’s also worth mentioning that many Black scholars and activists have recently criticized the NAACP for its lenient approach to “police accountability” and reform, instead of supporting missions to defund the police in full. The “I Take Responsibility” campaign links out to initiatives like #8CANTWAIT, which has since been exposed as insufficient and misguided in its plans toward restorative justice. In response, grassroots organizers have started up the counter-initiative #8ToAbolition. Check out the infographic above to learn more.

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