Last summer, the Black Lives Matter community received another devastating blow when an Illinois woman named Sandra Bland died under mysterious circumstances in a Texas jail, after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Her death spurred an #IfIDieInPoliceCustody hashtag, which quickly became a place for primarily black Twitter users to cope with Bland's death with heartbreaking and thoughtful responses to America's growing problem with police violence.
Naturally, Twitter was spurned to action again when Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) yelled "If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide" to a police officer on Wednesday night's (October 14) "Empire," a series that has acknowledged the Black Lives Matter movement with varying degrees of intensity throughout its second season. A good portion of the episode, "Poor Yorick," involved Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Gray) filming a post-apocalyptic music video where they're dressed like Black Panthers, and earlier episodes found Terrence Howard's character spurning Black Lives Matter activists to action when he was thrown in jail... but for a murder that he actually did commit.
So, how did Twitter feel about "Empire" taking on this extremely painful issue? Mixed to positive, it would seem. Many applauded the series for referencing Bland's death at all, since her death was so underreported in the mainstream media that the #SayHerName hashtag became a downright necessity:
However, a few others -- including Complex writer Frazier Tharpe -- felt that the line was in poor taste. Tharpe wrote that it was a "mere throwaway line meant to elicit yasss retweets" that was "too f--king soon," and "nakedly aimed at provoking social media."
"As written by a white guy on a show that can at times seem negatively exploitative (or rather, a negative and laughably dated refection) of rap culture and by an inherent extension, black culture, it casually furthers those arguments instead of dispelling them," Tharpe continued.