Since before the video of George Floyd’s murder went viral, Black people have questioned why the “bad apples” get to return to their lives while the families of police brutality victims continue to suffer. That’s why actor Jesse Williams collaborated with The Advancement Project to create a campaign not only to communicate why and how bad cops are protected from prosecution but also to change the culture of policing.
To Williams, being an A-list celebrity doesn’t excuse him from doing the work. He joined The Advancement Project as a board member seven years ago with a goal to continue his activism for the Black community as he had done before he became his famous alter ego: Grey’s Anatomy’s Jackson Avery. He too wanted an answer to the same question we all have in this moment, How do these cops get off?
“When it comes to our people, our liberation, our general public health, I don’t consider myself a celebrity. I’m a Black man in America. I will always continue to try to educate myself and be a service to my people,” Williams said. “[The campaign] is really just our gift to the public to raise a kind of literacy and understanding of the things that are happening in our society. With a larger understanding, it’s easier for us to implement and consider change.”
Advancement Project’s Executive Director, Judith Browne Dianis, said her inspiration for the campaign came from being deeply impacted by the visual result of nearly every police brutality case: the cries for justice from a heartbroken family.
“I’d look at the continuous news coverage of Black people gathering outside of courthouses and police departments, waiting for the indictment or waiting for a conviction and not seeing it happen. The visuals of Black people collapsing and crying and in hysterics about the lack of accountability like, ‘It happened again.’ We wanted to answer the question of how that happens,” said Dianis.
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How Cops Get Off is a three-part animated video series narrated by Actor and Advancement Project Board Member, Jesse Williams, that aims to demonstrate how police get away with heinous crimes that target, brutalize and harm communities that they have vowed to protect. The Advancement Project is working to change the culture around the set of laws and prosecutors that protect police and educate audiences on the necessary reforms needed to transform the system to truly transform the system.
The first video of the campaign addresses what they call “copaganda.” Pro-police TV shows paint officers as heroes and influence the way we perceive them. However, the ones on your TV screens aren’t accurate depictions of the ones in real life. Dianis said Hollywood plays a significant role in creating a narrative that officers can do no wrong.
“[Officers] are central to keeping us safe and keeping order in our country. People who want to expose the injustices that we see at the hands of police immediately experience backlash,” Dianis said. “The machine of Hollywood and the police themselves, the money they put into pushing their own stories make it hard to have a different discourse because you’re seen as a traitor or as someone who just doesn’t want safety.”
The next two videos of the campaign will focus on on the systems that help protect cops and the laws within that system that excuse them from accountability. Dianis said she considers these videos to be the Schoolhouse Rock! of policing and hopes the campaign will have a reach from school curriculums to Black art and film festivals.
“We want people to watch it and have a better understanding of what’s happening around them so they’re better positioned to do something about it,” said Williams.
For more information on how to keep the discussion going visit advancementproject.org.