His Hyde Park speech is a teachable moment in the history of race, racism and celebrity. He’s part of a vigorous, distinguished tradition
- John Boyega’s rousing Black Lives Matter speech wins praise and support
Already, the sneery backlash has begun – as so much Trumpism is founded on that keynote of faux-underdog self-pity in the face of supposedly all-powerful liberalism. When actor John Boyega, from Star Wars and Attack the Block, addressed protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally in London’s Hyde Park, he said: “I’m speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.” Social media exploded with knowing jeers and giggling gotchas about how, actually, Boyega had to protest, or else his career would suffer! People on Twitter who had shown no very obvious knowledge of or interest in the issue of civil rights or Hollywood politics before this, were suddenly intoxicated by their delicious paradox, and made Boyega’s comments the pretext of once again righteously smashing the 5G mast of liberal power.
I don’t think Boyega’s comments will have any effect on his career, either good or bad. The career of this excellent actor was in great shape before this and it will continue to be in great shape. But vehement protests of this high-profile kind are not quite as commonplace as you might assume. Although protests about George Floyd have been replicated in cities around the world, there is no evidence of compulsory virtue-signalling from actors. In the US, there have been protests from Jamie Foxx and Michael B Jordan and many others, but it’s naive to imagine agents in LA calling their clients and ordering them to join in. For every celebrity or public figure who speaks out, many more keep their heads down.