Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that Pharrell Williams spoke to Ebony magazine about Michael Brown after a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson. He did not—Williams spoke to Ebony in an interview conducted in September.
Grammy Award-winning producer Pharrell Williams has previously gotten flak for his comments on race, such as when he told Oprah that “the new black doesn’t blame other races for our issues.” But that didn’t stop the singer-songwriter from voicing his thoughts about Michael Brown several weeks ago, although he said he didn’t want to “get … in trouble.”
In an extensive interview with Ebony, the star wondered why there wasn’t more discussion about why Michael Brown exhibited the behavior he did in the convenience store, which Williams described as “bullyish.”
“It looked very bullyish; that in itself I had a problem with,” Williams said, referring to released surveillance video that allegedly shows Brown forcefully stealing cigarillos from a store shortly before he was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson. “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?”
However, he did say that Wilson should be held accountable for shooting Brown. “I believe that [the] Ferguson officer should be punished and serve time. He used excessive force on a human being who was merely a child. He was a baby, man. The boy was walking in the middle of the street when the police supposedly told him to ‘get the f–k on the sidewalk,’” Williams told Ebony. “If you don’t listen to that, after just having pushed a storeowner, you’re asking for trouble. But you’re not asking to be killed. Some of these youth feel hunted and preyed upon, and that’s why that officer needs to be punished.”
The songwriter also blasted police departments’ use of force in the inner city, questioning their use of equipment—such as “mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.” He also lamented the fact that President Barack Obama himself has not made an appearance in Ferguson.
“I felt like the president should have gone down there. I think sending Attorney General Eric Holder was a kind gesture, but the president should have gone. 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,” Williams said, citing the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.
Read the full interview at Ebony.