WWE’s Titus O’Neil Speaks Up About Racial Injustice in America
WWE superstar Titus O’Neil spoke to Rapzilla to express his thoughts on the recent tragedies of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. O’Neil wanted to share his thoughts about police brutality, his experiences, both good and bad with law enforcement, how African American communities should react, and what we can all do to help.
This is not a Christian Hip-Hop story, but Rapzilla has concluded that it is a story that many in our readership would understand, resonant with, and want to discuss.
This interview took place before the tragic shootings that occurred in Texas last night as well. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the people and families involved in these three incidents.
What are your thoughts about the recent events concerning Alton Sterling and Philando Castile?
It’s not a new normal. This has been happening for years, since before I was born. It’s not just about the African American community. It’s about the trust placed in individuals who take an oath to protect and serve. Law enforcement has both scared me and made me proud.
Law enforcement has impacted my life in various ways; as a troubled minor, I went to the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. Law enforcement agencies that support positive and beneficial community activities and help society as a whole. Officers as a whole help others much the same way that they helped me. Like I said, for the most part, law enforcement agencies have been great, however, as in any profession, the few can taint the whole.
As an African American, who has lived in poverty and experienced the stereotypical treatment, harassment, and negative aspects that are associated with being a black male in the United States, I can genuinely say that my adult experiences with law enforcement have almost entirely been positive. I’ve worked with law enforcement on many occasions to establish community projects and raise funds.
It’s disturbing as a father of two African American sons to explain the bigotry and racial aspects of this social injustice. I can’t even explain it, it’s akin to a terroristic act in my opinion. Maybe because they don’t look a certain way, but when you take a human life away from someone, you’re not just taking one life, you are taking the family on a rollercoaster of emotions, and in some cases a whole community.
The irresponsible police action of a few are embarrassing law enforcement as a whole and completely going against the oath they took to serve and protect.
I have an issue with that for several reasons. The number one reason, I love people. People have helped me through a lot and I’m trying to do my best through whatever platform I have to better the lives of others because other people have done it for me. I think that most police officers or members of law enforcement, that’s their mission as well.
How do we bring meaningful change quickly and efficiently?
It’s not gonna be quick no matter what kind of change, even if the government took drastic measures to make things better. The mindset has been instilled into the fabric of the African American community when it comes to police. It’s not just African Americans. It’s about people in authority who take it upon themselves to manipulate that oath.
I’d like to see our government make a more concerted effort in getting involved in some of these issues. I’d like to see our government agencies and officials on a state and local level trying to figure out a different way of dealing with this issue making it about something outside of race. Yes, racism is a gleaming aspect, but this is different than just race. We are talking about building people of character from all backgrounds and all races because the playing field is not even in so many different ways in this world when it comes to job placement, educational and financial opportunities, and people are turned off by the justice system because of that. I think that government officials need to make a more concerted effort into treating the people who do these kinds of acts the same way they do with people who aren’t in law enforcement because murder in my eyes is murder. At some point, people need to start holding people in a position of power and authority more accountable. I don’t care what the crime is or what’s going on. If my kids go out and they do something horrendous as this, I would expect the same punishment for them or myself that the law would allow. What’s wrong is wrong, it doesn’t matter who does it.
They don’t have these issues in any other place but America. This is the greatest country in the world. A great place to live, and we have all the resources to do all kinds of tremendous and wonderful things.
Yet people look at some of the acts that happened in Orlando, Freddie Gray and Ferguson, and the list can go on and on. Even Hollywood can depict certain aspects of how law enforcement has been corrupt for years. When they get bold enough put out a movie like “Selma,” which is awesome by the way…that is just a small depiction of The history of African American treatment by law enforcement. When people say, ‘I don’t understand why people are so upset?’ People have been dealing with this stuff for years and when is enough, enough? Who’s life needs to be taken, or how drastic of a situation does it have to be for somebody to step in law enforcement or the government for them to say, ‘Alright guys, enough is enough’.”
How do you feel the African American communities should react to situations like this?
The first thing I would say is, don’t tear down your community more than it already is. Rioting is not going to solve anything. There are people who are going to sit back and laugh and say, ‘Aha, what did I tell you, they’re animals’. That’s the biggest lie you can tell.
I would encourage the people affected by this horrible situation to lean on faith because the justice system hasn’t worked in their favor in a long time.
There are people that regardless of how many degrees I have or how much money I make, still regard me as the ‘N word’ in their mind. That is just the reality of the ignorance we live in. The best I can say is for all races, White, Black, Hispanic, or Asian is to come together as a community and to unite peacefully.
I would say to all African Americans, “Don’t complain if you are part of the problem and you are contributing to the violence,” be a solution and a positive example of what not to do.”
How would you explain to white people who don’t understand, any bias you receive from law enforcement as a person of color?
I just talked to one of my partners at my office of a situation he just had last week. He’s a white male, early 40s, and he got pulled over. He has a license to carry a concealed weapon and he told the police officer. ‘Hey, I just want to let you know, I’m carrying a licensed weapon’ and the officer said, ‘Oh, it’s ok, I just need to see your license’. He got his license out, he’s still alive, and I’m eating dinner with him tonight. If a black man did the same thing last night, in all likelihood he would face much greater scrutiny or he could find himself in a situation like what happened the other day.
So again, people want to make it about race but it’s deeper than race. This is institutional racism because you can be in the right place at the wrong time and depending on who you run into it can be a great experience or a bad experience, and in a lot of cases that comes down to race. That’s why people are so outraged. How is it that in Kentucky they can riot about losing a championship basketball game and there aren’t many cameras out there for that? People’s lives were endangered and hurt, no labeling. Same thing happens in minority communities except people are murdered and then minority people are labeled animals or thugs. Are you kidding me? It’s the same action, but they are responding to a basketball game. These people are responding to a lost life after years and years of oppression and issues. What really bothers me is that they actually have the nerve to talk about a person’s past. What does that have to do with the actions happening in the present?
What can we do to help?
I just hope that every athlete, entertainer, lawyer, doctor, regardless of what race they are – everyone with a platform of any kind…I just hope that they use that platform to make this world a better place and hold people accountable. The difference between now and the 60s is social media and the way you catch stuff on film now. Now you have a voice. Your voice can be presented in the most eloquent way and still show your disgust. Whether you use your voice for a billion different causes from raising money, to cancer research, feeding the homeless, funding organizations that help kids, the list goes on and on. If people don’t have a problem with me raising money and awareness for various causes that help build lives across the globe, then they sure better not have a problem with me raising awareness and me publicly showing my disgust for people’s lives being lost regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or financial or criminal background. Murder is not acceptable!
Others within the Christian Hip-hop community shared O’Neil’s sentiments.
We need them Twitter fingers to be put to the plow. Put some of your time into changing our community. Spend some money on education, etc.
— KING THI'SL (@Thisl) July 7, 2016
Constructive anger becomes passion to change and fight injustice. Destructive anger becomes rage and reciprocated ignorance.
— Lecrae (@lecrae) July 6, 2016
— Chad Horton (@ChadHorton) July 7, 2016
God asks us to weep with those who weep. Not to validate their tears before we shed our own. #BlackLivesMatters
— Tedashii (@Tedashii) July 7, 2016
WHEN U STAND UP FOR AN OPPRESSED PPL THAT DOESN'T MEAN U STAND AGAINST OTHERS! IT MEANS U R TENDING TO A GAPING WOUND THAT NEEDS ATTENTION!
— Andy Mineo (@AndyMineo) July 7, 2016