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Jay Pharaoh
Jay Pharaoh

Fame doesn’t stop racial profiling, ask Jay Pharaoh

The SNL comedian detailed his “first experience with racism” on a recent IGTV stream.

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In the midst of national and global protests against police brutality, former SNL star, Jay Pharoah, decided to share his recent encounter with police officers in LA. 

He opened up about the experience through an IGTV video that began with footage of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his infamous speech, and then  surveillance video of the encounter. 

One day in April, while Pharaoh was on a jog, he was approached by four officers with their guns drawn. He remembered not thinking anything of it because he is “a law-abiding citizen,” and assumed that they were targeting someone behind him. 

He was told to lay on the ground with his arms in front of him like an airplane, and one officer kneeled on his neck before putting him in handcuffs. When asked what the reason was, the officers told him that he matched a description of a “black man in this area with grey sweatpants and a gray shirt.” 

Pharaoh told the officers that if they would just type his name into Google, they would realize they made a big mistake. Shortly after, he was released and the officers apologized to him for the mix-up. 

But Pharaoh doesn’t feel that an apology is enough. 

He wants to see things radically change, because he doesn’t want to see “another 20 Black people be martyrs for no reason.” 

In the video, he said he grew up in the suburbs and his parents kept him and his siblings very sheltered, so this was his first real experience with racism in America. 

He told Gayle King on CBS This Morning that the encounter made him feel disgusting. He said people were driving by “looking at me like I’m an animal, a criminal,” but really he was just an innocent bystander. 

Pharaoh wondered why Black people have to feel like they are guilty until proven innocent and not the other way around, and encouraged fellow Black people to educate themselves on the law and what police can and cannot do. 

The LAPD has provided Pharoah with a document to file a misconduct complaint. His story is a great example of how fame doesn’t always mean immunity from racial profiling at the hands of the police. 

“Black lives always matter. My life matters. I’m still here to tell my story, but I could have been an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd,” he said.


 

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