Kimberly Jones is a former bookseller, host of Atlanta‘s “Well-Read Black Girl” book club, author of young adult novels, screenwriter, director and lecturer based out of Atlanta, according to her website.
Jones was featured in the powerful viral “We Can’t Win” video, in which she said people who are angry about rioters and looters who appeared at protests for the death of George Floyd should focus less on what people are doing and more on why they are doing it.
Protests erupted around the country after a video of then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the back of Floyd’s neck for seven minutes as a handcuffed Floyd begged for help, told him and other officers that he couldn’t breathe and eventually became unresponsive; he would later die. The four police officers on the scene — Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — have been fired and charged with second-degree homicide.
An excerpt from the video of Jones was shared at the end of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight episode examining the role of police in light of calls for reform and reimagining public safety approaches.
‘We Can’t Win’ Video Goes Viral
Jones starts out the video talking about commentary she said she heard from mostly wealthy black people decrying the rioting and looting taking place in response to Floyd’s death. She stakes a controversial position, saying that she supports the people who want to economically boycott and peacefully protest and that she also supports those rioting and looting.
I feel like we should support both. And I will tell you why I support both. I support both because when you have civil unrest like this, there are three types of people in the streets: there are the protesters, there are the rioters, and there are the looters. The protesters are there because they actually care about what is happening in the community, they want the raise their voices and they’re there strictly to protest. You have the rioters who are angry who are anarchists, who really just want to fuck shit up and that is what they are going to do regardless. And then you have the looters and the looters almost exclusively are just there to do that, to loot. Now people are like, what did you gain? What did you get from looting? I think that as long as we are focusing on the what, we’re not focusing on the why, and that is my issue with that.
She went on to say that the wealth gap between poor African Americans and everyone else is a large contributing factor to looting.
She said that the wealth gap has created a sense of hopelessness and people should be questioning why they are so poor, broke, food and clothing insecure that they will loot to get things. She also addressed questions about the “bootstrap economic theory,” which Nicholas Kristoff described as becoming economically successful through one’s own hard work and ingenuity.
And then people talk about, well there are plenty of people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and got it on their own, why can’t they do that? Let me explain something to you about economics in America … we must never forget, that economics is the reason that black people were brought to this country. We came to do the agricultural work and the South and the textile work in the North.
Jones described the period of slavery and the failure of the reconstruction as playing 400 rounds of monopoly where a player was given no money, property and not allowed to have anything. She then describes the next fifty rounds where a player is allowed to build some wealth, but “every time that they do not like the way that you are playing or that you are catching up or that you are doing something to be self-sufficient — they burn your game, they burn your cards, they burn your monopoly money,” she said.
Jones particularly mentioned the incidents of racial terrorism which destroyed Tulsa, once called a Black Wall Street and Rosewood, where a thriving predominately black Florida town became the site of several lynchings. She also described how today’s social programs meant to remedy historical inequalities are used to play on “psychological warfare” that makes the recipients of those programs feel guilty. “There’s psychological warfare against you to say, oh, you’re and equal opportunity hire,” he said.
So if I played 400 rounds of monopoly with you and I had to play and give you every dime that I made — and then for 50 years every time that, I played, (and) if you did not like what I did, you get to burn it like they did in Tulsa and like they did in Rosewood — how can you win? How can you win? You can’t win. The game is fixed. So when they say, why do you burn down at the community, why do you burn down your own neighborhood, it’s not ours? We do not own anything.
Trever Noah said it so beautifully last night, that there is a social contract that we all have, that if you steal or I steal, then the person who is the authority comes in and fixes the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is killing us. So the social contract is broken. And if the social contract is broken, why the f**k do I give a s**t about burning a football hall of fame, about burning a Target. You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets and didn’t give a f**k. You broke the contract when, for 400 years, we played your game and built your wealth. You broke the contract when we built our wealth, again, on our own, by our bootstraps in Tulsa and you dropped bombs on us. When we built (wealth) in Rosewood, and you slaughtered us. You broke the contract, so f**k your Target. F**k your hall of fame. Far as I’m concerned, they can burn this b***h to the ground. And it still wouldn’t be enough. And they are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.
Jones’ Video Reached Celebrities
Jones’ video went viral after it was shared on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Celebrities such as singer Madonna and basketball star Lebron James have shared the video of her and expressed solidarity with her words.
Jones co-authored a book with Gilly Segal last year, “I’m Not Dying With You Tonight,” where riots were the backdrop of the main characters, two teenagers of different backgrounds who must navigate the chaos.
According to her IMDb biography, she has worked in film and television with Tyler Perry, Whitney Houston and continues working in film in the Atlanta market. She has also served on book committees and has been featured in several publications including Bustle, Publisher’s Weekly and the School Library Journal.
Jones was recently featured on TMZ, where she told them “That day, I was just in so much pain and feeling so hopeless and broken that there was no edit button from my head to my mouth,” she said. “I think it was just time that somebody just said it in a very raw way.”
She said she has since received messages from as far as away as Japan and Israel stating that her video helped them explain the black American experience.