Natalie Portman recently signed an open letter advocating the defunding of the police.
The opinion of the actress, who was born in Jerusalem and holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, can have a big effect on how the rest of the country views this divisive call to action and in a post on Instagram, Portman explained how her view on defunding the police has changed over the course of her life.
“When I first heard Defund the Police,” she writes, “I have to admit my first reaction was fear. My whole life, police have made me feel safe.”
A member of the upper middle class during her youth, and part of the world’s elite ever since her acting career took off, Portman’s feelings closely reflect those of many white Americans who, not being under threat of racially-motivated police brutality, believe they require law enforcement to protect their wealth and safety.
For Portman though, the recent civil rights protests in response to the death of George Floyd and other African American victims of systematic racism opened her eyes to her own privileged position in life.
“The police make me as a white woman feel safe,” she continued in her post, “while my black friends, family and neighbors feel the opposite: police make them feel terror. And for good reason. Police are the 6th leading cause of death for black men in this country. These are not isolated incidents. They are patterns and part of the system of over-policing of black Americans. Reforms have not worked,” Portman declares.
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When I first heard #defundthepolice, I have to admit my first reaction was fear. My whole life, police have made me feel safe. But that’s exactly the center of my white privilege: the police make me as a white woman feel safe, while my black friends, family and neighbors feel the opposite: police make them feel terror. And for good reason. Police are the 6th leading cause of death for black men in this country. These are not isolated incidents. They are patterns and part of the system of over-policing of black Americans. Reforms have not worked. Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, is one of the most progressive police forces in the country, having undergone extensive anti-bias training. I am grateful to the leaders in the @mvmnt4blklives who have made us question the status quo. And who have made us imagine, what a world could be like in which we invested in nourishing people; (in their education, healthcare, environment, shelter)— rather than putting all of our money into punishment. I’ve gotten to the age in my life, where if my gut feels uncomfortable, I take the situation as wrong. But this concept initially made me uncomfortable because I was wrong. Because the system that makes me feel comfortable is wrong. #defendblacklives#defundthepolice Swipe right for additional resources via @theslacktivists
Why Natalie Portman, who has been a multi-millionaire for most of her adult life, needed protesters – who, in turn, have been fighting this exact same fight for decades – to make her aware of her whiteness is an equally important point of discussion, but not one worth starting now because it detracts from the larger point which the actress, alongside the rest of the activist community, is trying to make.
In the past few weeks, more and more celebrities have expressed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Rather than using their status to shield them from injustice, they’re using it as a means of bringing about justice, and that’s certainly a good thing.