The Today Show literally silences Janelle Monae after her new protest song

As Janelle Monáe finished her performance on The Today Show last week, she gave a short speech directed to White America about police brutality against Black America. Not even halfway through, an anchor cut her off and went to a pretty awkward cut to commercial.

Included in the broadcast was Janelle Monáe’s new song “Hell You Talmbout” which calls out the names of Black Americans who have been killed by police, ranging from Emmett Till to Sandra Bland.

The main chorus, to “Say his name” or “Say her name” is obviously inspired by the #SayHerName social media campaign. As folks have pointed out, there is certainly irony in the fact that Monáe’s song features more men’s names then women’s. Given the fact that #SayHerName was explicitly created to offer “a resource to help ensure that Black women’s stories are integrated into demands for justice, policy responses to police violence, and media representations of victims and survivors of police brutality,” the song’s gender misrepresentation is disappointing.

After Janelle Monáe wrapped up her performance of “Hell You Talmbout” she called out to the Today audience, “We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know we stand tall today.” She was then was cut off mid sentence, “We will not be silenced…” Smooth, Today, really smooth.

Turns out even if you want to see the Today recording of “Hell You Talmbout”, you’re out of luck. The Today website side steps around pretty much any acknowledgement of Janelle’s political messages with some pretty incredible euphemisms like “truly one of a kind,” “no one else out there quite like her,” and a recognition that “not everyone ‘gets’ Monáe.” Today freely endorses Monáe’s “workout plan,” but erases any thoughts and reflections on civil rights.

Here’s the thing, I know that Today’s producers see their general audience as probably more into the best Back to School deals than a discussion of police brutality as they start their mornings. But that ‘racial discourse is uncomfortable and not for me’ mindset is what prevents White America from actually doing anything to stop systemic racism. Talking about racial injustice at 11:00 AM is exactly the right time. A majority white, well-to-do audience is exactly who needs to hear Monáe’s message and others like hers. Ultimately, by shutting down a Black woman’s protest against police brutality, Today and media like it only exacerbate the racial void that exists in our country today.

San Francisco, CA

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist. According to legend, she first publicly proclaimed that she was a feminist at the age of nine in her basketball teammate's mini-van. Things have obviously since escalated. After graduating from Harvard in 2013, she became a founding member of Know Your IX's ED ACT NOW. She is curious about the ways feminists continue to use technology to create social change and now lives in San Francisco. She believes that she has the sweetest gig around – asking bad-ass feminists thoughtful questions for the publication that has taught her so much. Her views, bad jokes and all, are her own. For those wondering, if she was stranded on a desert island and had to bring one food, one drink, and one feminist, she would bring chicken mole, a margarita, and her momma.

Suzanna Bobadilla is a writer, activist, and digital strategist.

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