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Billie Eilish joins Killer Mike, Taylor Swift in outrage over George Floyd death

Billie Eilish performs onstage during the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival.
(Bryan Steffy/Getty Images)

As the country heaves with protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, artists known for political fervor have wrestled with how to speak out.

Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, known for black and leftist activism, was visibly torn with how to square the urgency of the reformist moment with concern over the violence of the protests in his hometown. “I’m mad as hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn yesterday, because I’m tired of seeing black men die … So that’s why children are burning it to the ground. They don’t know what else to do. And it is the responsibility of us to make this better right now. We don’t want to see one officer charged, we want to see four officers prosecuted and sentenced. We don’t want to see Targets burning, we want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.”

Beyoncé said on an Instagram video that all four officers involved in Floyd’s killing should be charged (Dennis Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, was charged Friday with third-degree manslaughter and murder): “We all witnessed his murder in broad daylight. We’re broken and we’re disgusted. We cannot normalize this pain. I’m not only speaking to people of color. If you’re white, black, brown, or anything in between, I’m sure you feel hopeless about the racism going on in America right now. No more senseless killings of human beings. No more seeing people of color as less than human. We can no longer look away.”

Bilie Eilish, the 18-year-old L.A. pop singer, would be the first to say that her voice shouldn’t be anywhere near the center of this conversation. But in a fiery Instagram post, she clarified the generational stakes for her fellow white people — listen, learn, support, but don’t make any of this about you.

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“If I hear one more white person say ‘All Lives Matter’ one more f— time I’m gonna lose my f— mind,” she wrote. “Will you shut the f— up? No one is saying your life doesn’t matter. No one is saying your life is not hard. No one is saying literally anything at all about you...... All you mfs do is find a way to make everything about yourself. This is not about you. Stop making everything about you. You are not in need. You are not in danger.”

Her four-screen, expletive-laden post seemed aimed specifically at a young fan base that, while likely aware of the contours of an activist movement like Black Lives Matter, may not fully comprehend their place in the current rebellion.

Get live updates from Los Angeles Times journalists as they report on protests across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

“Society gives you privilege just for being white,” Eilish, who swept the major Grammys earlier this year, wrote. “You can be poor, you can be struggling, and still your skin color is giving you more privilege than you even realize. Nobody is saying that makes you better than anyone. It just lets you live your life without having to worry about surviving simply because of your skin color! You are privileged!”

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“The slogan of ‘Black Lives Matter’ does not mean other lives don’t,” she continued. “It’s calling attention to the fact that society clearly thinks black lives don’t f— matter! And they f— do!”

Even more reserved artists like Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes have taken on a new stridency in their messages. Mendes wrote that, “Hearing the sound of his voice crying for help is bone chilling and it f— breaks my heart ... I can’t imagine what life dealing with racism so constantly is like. As a white person, I not only recognize that this is a problem but that I am a part of the problem.“

Swift directed her ire at the president: “After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’???” Swift wrote on Twitter, in a Friday morning message directed at President Trump. “We will vote you out in November.”

As the current upheaval shows no signs of abating, this may be a clarifying moment for artists who, with no touring in the future and a furious national mood at hand, may be taking sides with renewed urgency.

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