Grammy Award-winning recording artist Pharrell Williams recently compared Black Lives Matter rioters who tear down statues to the patriots who dumped tea in the Boston Harbor and fought during the American Revolution.
Williams drew the comparisons in an op-ed for Time magazine posted Thursday, in which the musician made the case that America’s past and present are “racist” and that what’s needed is a “black future.”
In the op-ed, Williams writes fondly of the protests that have swept the nation following George Floyd’s death in late May, suggesting that the events — which have frequently devolved into violence — have granted him a renewed a sense of patriotism.
“The ongoing protests for equity and accountability that have overtaken cities across the nation have made me feel something new that I can only describe with one word: American,” he wrote.
Here’s what he said (emphasis mine):
The desperate longing for economic justice that spurred unrest in the streets of Minneapolis after George Floyd’s murder reminds me of the same fire that burned in the veins of the Sons of Liberty when they dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea at Griffin’s Wharf. (Now we call that incident “the Boston Tea Party”–which is a poetic way to describe a “riot.”) When I see people tearing down the monuments to secessionist traitors who wanted to start their own white-supremacist nation, I see patriots acting in service of this country. It reminds me of the protesters who were inspired to tear down the statue of King George on July 9, 1776, after they heard Thomas Jefferson’s letter telling his oppressors to kick rocks. Those “thugs” would serve under the direction of George Washington in the American Revolution. But the Declaration of Independence makes it sound dignified: “In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms,” wrote our Founding Fathers. “Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”
“The activists who tossed chests of tea into the ocean to protest economic injustice were patriots. But they were also oppressors, unwilling to extend the freedoms for which they fought to everyone,” Williams argued later in the piece.
He also called for economic reparations to pay for the damages incurred due to slavery.
“We deserve the interest earned from those Confederate dollars and the refund of our tax dollars handed out to our white brothers and sisters in the New Deal while our neighborhoods were redlined,” he argued. “We want the return on our investment from when our local tax dollars funded schools our children couldn’t attend.”
The op-ed is part of Time Magazine’s forthcoming Aug. 31-Sep. 7 issue, fittingly titled, “The New American Revolution.”