Just a day after he caught all types of hell on Twitter because he decided it was a good idea to make a meme of Mamie Till-Mobley using the new Nike slogan from the Colin Kaepernick campaign, Jesse Williams showed up on the social media platform to apologize. Sort of.
Williams made the memes on Monday to celebrate the announcement that he would be directing a film based on Till-Mobley’s activism in the aftermath of her son Emmett’s murder—TiLL. Williams posted various pictures of Till-Mobley on both Instagram and Twitter, with the Nike campaign wording superimposed over the photographs to read, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Among the pictures he chose to use was one of Till-Mobley standing over her dead son’s casket, tears streaming down her face as she cried in anguish.
Williams was immediately criticized for the images, and he deleted them from both Twitter and Instagram without acknowledging his misstep or even apologizing for it.
After going more than 24 hours without tweeting anything, Williams popped back up on Twitter again with an apology ... of sorts.
You know how someone does something to offend you, and you tell them that you are offended, and instead of apologizing for offending you, they instead make you culpable in your own offense? That’s exactly what Williams did Tuesday afternoon.
Williams posted an image of his Notes App apology in which he wrote, “Peace family, I posted a few images as art in support of the announcement of my upcoming film TiLL, that provoked a strong reaction. While some clearly understood my intention and it’s [sic] connection to Mamie’s real life, many didn’t.”
Let me stop you right there Jesse. This thing you are doing where you basically say “some of y’all got it and the rest of y’all didn’t” is just adding to your original offense. It doesn’t matter if a few people figured out what you were trying to do. If the vast majority of people pointed to this and told you that it was offensive? It was probably offensive, bruh.
“As much as I’d like to address what my intentions were and the meaning of those images, it’s more important that I first acknowledge that I seem to have offended and possibly hurt some of the very people I aim to uplift,” Williams continued.
“I would absolutely never make light of the tremendous tragedy that foisted Mamie Till Mobley into her life of activism and could never pretend her child being brutally tortured and executed was her ‘sacrifice.’ That doesn’t even kinda make sense, never mind being absurd and ahistorical,” he wrote.
And it’s this part right here that is most insulting. We know how absurd, ahistorical and ridiculous the optics were, which is why people spoke out. Jesse seems to be the only person who was unaware of how ridiculous that phrase/slogan looked superimposed over her images, which is why he stepped boldly into Lake Lack-of-Self-Awareness and put them up in the first place. It is not the audience that needs the scolding, but rather Williams himself.
“The images were designed to highlight the tremendous sacrifices Mamie made by sharing her unrelenting journey for justice—including boldly sharing those iconic images from her son’s funeral, which changed the world,” Williams wrote.
Then his lack of self-awareness took over and wrote the rest.
“I adopted an iconic contemporary visual framework to connect past to present and contextualize our language around loss, leadership and sacrifice. My intent aside, I take responsibility for how they were received,” his ego wrote.
Jesse was trying to teach you something, you guys, and you were just too dumb to get it. You blacks. Always getting offended over something. What is your problem?
“My heart is always with my people and this includes my artistic commitment to telling our stories. Always have, always will. And while I stand for creative expression, every swing ain’t gonna be a home run. (And y’all know I swing a lot.) Those who are sincere in this work and concern, I thank you,” he wrote in conclusion.
Listen, Jesse—intent does not negate outcome. You were wrong, you offended people, and you have to own that. Putting out an “apology” in which you use subtext to insult the people who were offended is not noble, and it doesn’t make you look any better than your original offense did.
Calling into question whether or not people are “sincere” in their critiques of you and your “work and concern” is a disingenuous deflection, and it only shows that you aren’t truly sorry you offended anyone.
You are just sorry you got called out.
So, while under normal circumstances you would be commended for coming forward with this “apology,” I am going to take a page from one Ira Madison III and tell you to “Keep it.”