- Jack Harlow called for the firing of an officer who put his hand around a Black women’s neck.
- Some have praised the rapper, saying the music industry overlooks violence against Black women.
- But experts say the video shows more needs to be done to protect Black women from violent policing.
Jack Harlow is garnering praise for calling for the termination of a Georgia police officer who put his hand around a Black woman’s neck outside a concert, but experts say that while his gestures are appreciated displays of support, more needs to be done to address the misogynoir and violence that’s baked into policing.
In a 13-second video circulating on social media — filmed last week near the Coca-Cola Roxy in Atlanta, where Harlow was performing — the officer can be seen placing his hand around the woman’s neck, while the woman can be heard telling him, “All I wanted to do was go to a Jack Harlow concert.”
Harlow said on Instagram on Thursday that he wanted to identify the woman so he could offer her tickets, though he acknowledged that doing so was “not a solution to a systemic issue that people who don’t look like me have to face.”
“The next step is identifying this police officer and getting him unemployed as fast as we can,” Harlow wrote, adding: “I want this woman, and every black woman that supports me to know – I am so sorry. I want you to be protected and I want this guy to lose his job so fucking fast.”
A representative from the Cobb County Police Department said in an email to Insider that the department was conducting an internal investigation.
“We are aware of the video snippet posted to Instagram involving our officer and a young woman outside the Coca-Cola Roxy,” the representative said. “The incident is going through an internal review to get a full understanding of the entire incident before any potential action is taken.”
Kyra D. Gaunt, an ethnomusicologist at the University at Albany, told Insider that Harlow’s response wasn’t enough.
“Jack Harlow is making a naive attempt to deal with structural oppression that has to do with power, class, race, and gender by giving away tickets to a girl so she can go to any concert she wants,” Gaunt said. “But going for the firing of one individual is not going to change the structural oppression of Black and brown women.”
Harlow did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Experts say Harlow’s response is surprising because of a legacy of ignoring violence against Black girls and women
People online celebrated Harlow’s using his platform to defend Black women.
“Growing up with hip-hop in the ’80s and the ’90s and watching women being beaten and, you know, assaulted, and everybody just kind of glazes over it and won’t talk about it … to see an actual performer going to bat for Black women when our own haven’t, wow, that speaks volumes,” a TikTok user said in a video that’s been liked nearly 80,000 times.
Black girls and women are often erased when it comes to conversations about police violence, said Treva Lindsey, the author of the forthcoming book “America, Goddam: Violence, Black Women, and the Struggle for Justice.”
“We’ve had almost seven years of ‘Say Her Name’ to highlight the disparate impact of police violence on Black women and girls, but I still think we are underreporting, underexploring, and not contextualizing this kind of violence,” Lindsey said.
The extent of the violence against Black girls and women at the hands of the police is likely underreported. But The Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings hints at the scope of this violence: It indicates that from 2015 to 2021, police officers killed more than 300 women, 53 of whom were Black.
Experts said that had there not been a video of the fan’s interaction with the police officer, many people might not have believed the officer put his hand around the women’s neck. Gaunt said this is because there’s a tendency to invalidate the pain of Black women and not to view them as victims.
“Some people are going to say the woman in the video appeared inebriated, but even if she was, does that justify someone putting their hands on her?” Gaunt said. “Particularly a cop who’s supposed to be protecting you.”
Harlow’s response resonated because he represents an industry that has traditionally marginalized Black girls and women
Many people said they found Harlow’s response notable because the rapper is part of a music industry that has historically overlooked violence against Black girls and women.
Last year, the R&B artist R. Kelly was convicted of racketeering and sex-trafficking charges after decades of accusations of sexual abuse that experts said had often been pushed aside.
Advocates have said Kelly would not have faced charges had Black women not led a movement to hold him accountable, even in the face of abuse and anger from his fans.
Experts said the long-awaited verdict not only highlighted a failure of law enforcement to protect Black girls and women but exemplified why rap artists like Harlow must use their platforms to spread awareness about how their Black fans are disproportionately affected by sexual and physical violence.
“It took 30 years and multiple accusers for the criminal-justice system to finally respond and convict R. Kelly,” Lindsey told Insider. “That’s telling of where we are, so when we have an artist say, ‘Look, this is wrong,’ the audience is taken aback. It’s pleasantly surprising.”
However, the experts also said that while artists should use their platforms and refuse to look the other way, the responsibility shouldn’t lie with one rapper — significant and sustained changes are needed to end the pattern of violence against Black women by not only police officers but celebrated artists.
“We need him to help use his platform to change the structure of the system of the genre of the industry he’s in, and he can’t do that by himself,” Gaunt said. “So who are the other men who are standing in that space for women?”