Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. doesn’t have any regrets about his highly criticized eulogy delivered at Aretha Franklin’s funeral on Friday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“I know it’s controversial,” the Atlanta pastor said. “When you’re criticized as much as I’ve been, you don’t let it get to you. “I know where my heart and head are, and I’m willing to explain and talk about it.”
When asked about the controversial views he shared about the black community, he said, “Dr. [Martin Luther] King brought us through the wilderness, but we haven’t taken ourselves to the promised land.”
Williams held a press conference Sunday at his church defending his words. Much of the time was spent telling reporters that his words were taken out of context.
One reporter asked him about the point in his eulogy where he said black women can’t raise their children properly.
Here is Williams’ response, per WSB-TV:
“The way that you are internalizing that they felt is incorrect. I did not mean they are unable to raise their children. I am talking about many single women struggling to raise their children. And in the black community, there is no mentoring for the children and that when a boy is there, for example, and when 70 percent of our households are headed by our precious women. And as precious, beautiful and proud as they are, they cannot teach a boy how to be a man.
“So one of the ails and ills we have in the African-American community is that too many of our homes are headed by women without men in the house. Now, it’s been too many women who have raised excellent men. Jesse Jackson, one of my dearest friends, was raised by a single mom. But the women need help in their homes and our race needs to become sensitive to that.”
When asked if Williams thought that Franklin’s funeral was the best venue to express that message, he said he was justified to say what he said and how he said it.
“If you were there or heard about it, I sat there for seven hours almost before I got a chance to do what I was asked to do. So I couldn’t get all of the intricacies I wanted in the message because it was too much time. People had grown weary of the hour.”
The problem with Williams’ message is that it perpetuates the dangerous myth of the missing black father without much-needed context on how white supremacy has systematically worked to destroy black families. Mass incarceration plays a huge role in the “missing black dad,” something Williams’ black respectability politics doesn’t mention.
Also, black dads are not as absent in their children’s lives as the myth suggests. Then there is also the possibility that the traditional family of one man and woman is not something every black person wants.
Anyway, none of this seemed appropriate to talk about at a funeral for one of our greatest legends—who also raised four children mostly by herself—but that’s just me.
Williams was harshly criticized on social media and rightfully so, with Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas summarizing how many of us felt about his words:
There has never been a bigger turd in a sweeter punch bowl than Jasper Williams Jr. What he said during the eulogy wasn’t just inappropriate. It was violent and evil. I tweeted something yesterday comparing it to Bill Cosby’s infamous Pound Cake speech, but considering the circumstance, this was even worse. It was so bad that the name Jasper—which, let’s be honest, was already an “eh” name—has forever been ruined. “Oh, I don’t fuck with dude. He’s a Jasper-ass nigga” is now a telling and illuminative insult. He Adolf-ed Jasper.
Also, while I’m lucky enough to attend a church in Pittsburgh where the pastor and the pastor’s wife are progressive, I know that’s not everyone’s church experience. Maybe there aren’t men like Jasper Williams Jr. leading every church, but there are churches led by men like Jasper Williams Jr. in every black community. And while he blamed black-on-black crime on single motherhood and single motherhood on us moving away from the church, the true enemies in our communities are the Jasper-ass niggas wielding power. Some do it at church and on the pulpit; others do it at cookouts and on the couch — oblivious to the destruction they cause; content and fat as long as the ring is kissed.
Williams’ eulogy reeks of the conservative black respectability politics that have long been connected to many black churches and will not go away anytime soon.
That said, such ideological approaches are dangerous and must be checked. Hopefully, the pushback Williams is getting will make him and others think a bit more deeply about the white supremacy that is harming the black families that they claim they want to keep together.
Or at the very least, they can keep their intellectually limited views out of peoples’ funerals.