Janelle Monáe Called on White Allies to Act: "I'm Not Settling for Lip Service"

Janelle Monáe spoke about Black Lives Matter with the Hollywood Reporter, calling on white allies to act to dismantle systemic racism.

pasadena, california february 22 janelle monáe attends the 51st naacp image awards, presented by bet, at pasadena civic auditorium on february 22, 2020 in pasadena, california photo by frazer harrisongetty images
(Image credit: Frazer Harrison)
  • Janelle Monáe spoke about Black Lives Matter during the Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable, calling on white allies to act.
  • "I'm not settling for lip service," Monáe said. "If you want to show me that you're an ally, it's going to have to be rooted in acts of service."
  • "It can't just be, 'We're going to march with you and do a hashtag,' it has to be rooted in justice as well. Systemic change has to be made," she said. 

Janelle Monáe called on white allies to do more than pay "lip service" to the Black Lives Matter movement, stressing that white people must hold honest conversations about racism and take direct action in order to bring about "systemic change" in a structurally racist, anti-Black society. "I'm not settling for those who say that they're allies. I'm not settling for lip service," she said during the Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable. "If you want to show me that you're an ally, it's going to have to be rooted in acts of service."

"For me and my people, for the Black community, this is not an exciting time. This isn't a time that we get to really reflect. We're dealing with a lot of trauma," Monáe said. "We were dealing with COVID-19, which affects us disproportionately—if America sneezes, the Black community gets pneumonia—and now we're having to deal with the very color of our skin making us a target."

"In the same ways that we have been marching, we have been screaming that Black Lives Matter, I'm asking of my white friends or those who consider themselves supporters of me and us during this time to have those conversations around white supremacy and around why your ancestors started chattel slavery," she said. "Have those tough conversations of why we are even saying Black Lives Matter as though Black people are objects and not subjects to study until the end of time. Have those conversations around how you dismantle systemic racism."

"That's where I am now. This is a moment for Black people to stand our ground and ask more of our systems. Because it can't just be, "We're going to march with you and do a hashtag," it has to be rooted in justice as well," she continued. "Systemic change has to be made. The way that you're hiring folks, who is on your board, how many Black people do you have there, what kind of films are we greenlighting, what kind of depictions of police are we greenlighting."

Monáe also expressed her support for the growing calls to defund the police among activists and protestors. "I want to put that money into our education and into our health care systems," she said. "I want to redistribute that money and put it into places that have oppressed us for far too long."

Black Lives Matter

Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.