Trying and failing to come up with a single worse person to be in charge of steering the country through yet another eruption of protests after the caught-on-video murder of an unarmed black person by a white police officer, Jimmy Kimmel frustratedly asked his viewers of Donald Trump, “Is this who you want leading us?” Kimmel’s come a long way since he veered away from former Man Show bro-host and “Debate Me!” loudmouth Adam Carolla’s orbit, Kimmel’s white guy, “regular Joe” air often lending sneaky power to his furiously heartfelt responses to mass shootings, Trump administration cruelty, and, in this case, murderous racial injustice by law enforcement. Kimmel, the sole late-night host working this holiday week, spent his opening monologue in isolation as always these days, his at-home, to-camera attempt to summarize the current unrest in Minneapolis and elsewhere following the murder of George Floyd finding the Jimmy Kimmel Live host fighting back not just frustration at this all-too-regular occurrence, but also the predictable and enervating conversational “loop” that America gets stuck in every time.
Roleplaying the never-changing media and online harumphing, Kimmel rattled off said conversational cul-de-sac: “It goes from, ‘It isn’t right to kill an unarmed man,’ to ‘Well, it also isn’t right to loot, and set fires, and attack the police,’ to ‘But the police are attacking us and killing us, over and over, and nothing changes,’ to, ‘Well, that needs to be settled by the law,’ to, ‘But an officer of the law just killed another unarmed man,’ and so on.” Noting that throwing up our collective hands at such a seemingly insoluble problem is just what racists and authoritarians count on, Kimmel turned his anger on Trump, whose since-flagged Twitter quoting of a notoriously racist police chief’s order to shoot Civil Rights-era black protesters on sight dumped an all-too-usual gas can on the actual fires raging in Minnesota. Making contemptuous references to Trump (“Mr. Tough Guy,” “Donnie Bone Spurs”), Kimmel blamed the “disgusting excuse for a president” for, once more, being the absolute last person in America who should be president, in this or any other time, exasperatedly pleading with viewers, “Enough is enough. We gotta vote this guy out already.”
Kimmel walked an admirably complicated line in expressing outrage while acknowledging his own privilege (not only as a white man, but a rich and famous one), explaining that he’s never had to explain to his kids how not to be needlessly killed by the police “because of the color of their skin.” Stating that racist police violence has been a constant throughout American history (even under America’s first black president), Kimmel—while never letting up in his pointed attacks on Trump—told viewers, “This is not on the government—this is on us.” Noting that the only reason George Floyd’s death has engendered so much immediate outrage is that it happened to be caught on tape this time, Kimmel admitted that Floyd’s murder showed that that whole “liberty and justice for all” idea just doesn’t apply for everyone. “I have it,” Kimmel stated, addressing his white viewers directly, “A lot of you have it. But it’s not for all.”
Then, playing the widely shared video from actor Tyler Merritt where the ever-present danger posed to black Americans from white people needlessly calling the cops emerges as a wryly desperate appeal to our shared humanity, Kimmel ultimately turned his monologue over to someone with some real experience in the issue. Noting that his wife had last night brought the video to his attention, Kimmel amplified Merritt’s undeniably effective, tragically necessary plea. Yes, Kimmel’s playing catch up with what’s a lifelong and daily reality for so many people, but at least he’s in the game.
Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.