Actor, director, and children’s television host, LeVar Burton was a guest on SiriusXM Urban View’s “The Karen Hunter Show” and discussed his dreams to host the game show “Jeopardy!” and spoke about the police killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, and a personal encounter with law enforcement.
During the interview host Karen Hunter and co-host Don Calloway campaigned for LeVar Burton to be the new host of “Jeopardy!” with the hashtag #LevarForJeopardy: “How can we get you hosting Jeopardy! Please? I need to know..I can’t watch it right now. It’s unwatchable. And I know that you would bring, first of all, seriousness, we know you read and know stuff. You’re vocal delivery, amazing. You got the right amount of snark the way Alex, Trebek did, because he trolled people because he knew a lot more than some of the contestants, which you do too. And you got all of this beautiful, gorgeous melanin. What can we do?,” host Karen Hunter asked LeVar Burton.
LeVar Burton replied and said “Hold the energy, and if you are so inclined, say a little prayer for Kunta” and said “I really think I’m the right person for the gig.”
On the police killing of Daunte Wright, the case of a young black man who was fatally shot by an officer who intended to fire a taser, not a gun, co-host Don Calloway said “I’m not saying she didn’t make a mistake. I’m saying we need to stop operating from the presumption that intentionality is impossible here.
Burton replied: I whole hardly agree with that because what we know is that bias both conscious and unconscious plays a part in all of these incidents. And what I puzzle about is it seems to me that the reason and rationale that these officers involved in these incidents tend to use is that they were fearful of their lives. So they’re in an admitted state of fear and anxiety. Well guess what? So is the black person or the person of color or the marginalized person that you are in the moment jamming up with all of that energy of fear. So as de-escalation is impossible, under those circumstances, I watched the video of the brother who was being pepper sprayed the other day, and that officer was jacked. He was jacked, and it was his loss of his rational mind that caused him to engage in the behavior, the very aggressive behavior that he was. And let’s face it, at this point in policing, it seems to me that the intention in these stops, where they involve people of color is to dominate the moment. To get and secure submission from the suspect, and I’m resistant to submitting simply because you tell me that I have to. If you can’t control yourself and engage in a dialogue with me about why you are stopping me, then it’s only going to lead to a bad outcome for everybody. And so I think that the conversation is heading in the right direction. How do we take these responsibilities? Traffic stops, domestic violence disputes. How do we take these out of the hands of a force, nationwide that whenever they encounter people of color, they’re on edge, out of fear. They have conditioned themselves to look at black people as the other. And so their immediate response, physiological response is fight or flight in all of these encounters. And it just leads to bad outcomes.”
Host, Karen Hunter asked the actor if he ever had any situations or racial run ins with the police: “We never see the flight though. You never see the flight, always fight. As a celebrity, I often wonder because Cher said, if I were there, maybe George Floyd wouldn’t have died. And I was like, she’s probably right.. You’re a celebrity…Have you had any situations? Cause I know very few black men, my father used to wear a suit and tie even to cookouts in the summertime. And he said, this is my bulletproof vest so when they pull me over, they’ll see a man, they’ll see a person of substance. And I was like, that suit ain’t going to protect you. It’s not really bulletproof.”
Burton replied and shared a story about his own encounter with law enforcement in college: “The moment that really hit home for me was realizing that I recognized the officer, not the one holding the gun, but the driver was the man who stopped me just two nights before. And I realized in that moment that they don’t see me, what they see is a suspect. And I never left my house without my student ID that had my address on it, 801 West 28th street, because I knew that was my Bulletproof vest. And in that incident, I realized just how tenuous that proof of belonging was because they never from jump saw me as someone who belonged there. Their assumption was that I was an interloper. I was a stranger. And in addition to that, their assumption was that I was a criminal..And when people say, well, all you have to do is submit, stop resisting. You don’t have a history of 400 years of oppression in your lived experience. You don’t understand what it’s like for a black man or a person of color to be in a dynamic with law enforcement, because it’s different for us than it is for those who are professing, well, all you have to do is stop resisting. They are messing with you because they can, not because you’ve done anything wrong.”
Karen Hunter asks LeVar Burton “You’ve been married, it’ll be 30 years next year. Has your relationship with your wife shifted and changed as our culture?..How do you navigate your relationships when race is so much entwined with our everyday life?
LeVar Burton replied and said “Thankfully and purposefully, I am married to a black woman, and she gets it..And you know what? I have myself, begun to engage in what I know are difficult conversations with my melanin challenged friends. And I’m not going to lie to you, they’re difficult. They’re hard conversations to have. And here’s what I am reporting from the field. If it’s hard for me to have these conversations with people I know and love, and I know I need to have these conversations, what that says to me is, and I’m not sure if it’s going to be more difficult or easier to have these conversations with strangers. What I do know is that these are conversations that must be had..I believe in allyship deeply and respect those allies who really do show up with good and correct intentions. We are all going to need to stretch ourselves here going forward. We are all going to need to stretch ourselves if our intention is to heal this society because as we all know, or as most of us know, I will say, that this system is one that was designed to be pejoratively negative to black bodies. And that’s what we are combating. Centuries of ingrained behavior and thought patterns that are dangerous to people who look like us.”