In May, the world began to say his name: George Floyd.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers pinned George's body to the ground until he stopped breathing. While his pleas before his death were ignored, millions across the U.S. and around the world vowed to call for change and make his voice heard, including Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner.
The movement prompted the three-time Emmy-winning TV host to reflect on her own encounter with unabashed racism last August. While driving down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles one evening, a car with four white men pulled out in front of Nischelle, nearly causing a collision.
Moments later, the car carrying the men stopped beside her at a traffic light. After Nischelle gave them a shoulder shrug for cutting her off, she says the men began cursing and giving her the middle finger. The driver screamed the n-word continually at her and one of the passengers spat on her and her car. At the Hollywood Community Police Station, she was told that the act was unlikely to be classified as a hate crime, but instead an assault.
For months, she contemplated sharing her experience, not wanting to give those men the satisfaction of knowing that they had affected her. But then she saw protest after protest demanding racial justice. Ultimately, she decided it was time to speak out.
With Good Housekeeping, Nischelle shared her take on the importance of actively fighting against racism, what it's like being a Black woman in journalism, and why she finds hope in the next generation. These are her thoughts, in her own words.
It’s a different time and space because we have been confronted with images that you just cannot explain away, no matter how hard people try. In the past, they would say, “Well, we haven’t seen everything. We didn’t see the video. We didn’t see what happened. We didn’t see the before, we didn’t see the after.” But George Floyd, this was one time nothing could be explained away.
It really shook people. It made them sit up and take notice in a way that they have not before. People had to start facing some really ugly truths about themselves and sometimes some really ugly truths about this country.
I’m a Black woman first and foremost and I’m a journalist, so I do bring a different perspective. We come into this business and are taught from the beginning that you have to be unbiased, you have to be impartial, and you have to remove yourself from the situation. But it is impossible to do that in this case.
I would be disingenuous, I wouldn’t be authentic if I wasn’t honest about the fact that I am a Black woman and these images affect me, as well. I know these things. I’m also responsible for what people consume, so it’s a duty of mine to paint a real, true picture of what America looks like — a true picture of what we’re going through and also speak truth to power.
I fight for representation on television, in the entertainment space, and really making sure there are diverse voices that are being heard that people are consuming. You unlearn biases by seeing people who may not look like you but have your same interests and realizing that we’re all in this thing together. I fight for change in that way.
I decided to actually speak publicly about an experience that I had a year ago and put it on social media. I hadn’t done it because it was really tough. I still don’t think I’ve processed it all. It was a tough thing to do, but I thought that in this time and space it needed to be said. So many times, when these instances happen, people try to explain them away or think that this only happens to “the people that live in the hood” or they were doing something they weren’t supposed to. There’s always some kind of additive to it.
I felt like if I put my story out there and they saw someone who they maybe watch on TV, who they look to as somebody that they trust, somebody that they respect, and they heard this story from me ... maybe they would see that it happens, and it’s not just people making things up.
We’re really at a tipping point in this country and it’s not Black against white, it’s not young against old — it’s the good guys versus the bad guys. The anti-racist versus the racist.
It's so important to show up to the polls. You’ll never find me not voting. My people fought too hard for this right. If you don’t like that prosecutor or you felt like they didn’t charge those police like you thought they should, vote them out. Get the person in there that will advance your agenda.
I don’t have time for mealymouthed behavior. I just don’t, not anymore. I’m not for acting like every day is puppies and rainbows because it’s not. So many of my people are hurting and my Black body is hurting. If you claim to love me and my Black body, you have to be in this with me. And if you’re not, then I have no time for it. I just don’t.
There have been productive, tough conversations. But I’ve also had conversations with friends who I really expected to stand in solidarity with me and were very silent. It was really disappointing. It’s really just coming from an honest place and understanding that knowing your truth, speaking truth to power, and being brutally honest is the only way to start the healing process.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with my white women girlfriends about how the relationship between white women and Black women is really, really tough. That’s something that we have to heal first, because, in my estimation, women drive this in so many ways. We are the heart and soul of our communities.
I really feel like if white women and Black women can heal their bond, that can go a very, very long way. I’m starting there and talking about the microaggressions that sometimes my white counterparts don’t understand, don't get, or don’t even realize that are happening.
I grew up in rural Missouri, so there have been so many times where I’ve been the only Black person in a situation, the only Black friend, one of four or five in my graduating class. I’ve had to practice that my whole life, being that person who can really go out of their way to show people their biases and their prejudices about people of color or Black people, Black women in particular.
There’s this perceived notion that Black folks were in the jungles of Africa running around with no clothes on and it’s ridiculous. People actually teach that Black people were immigrants in this country. We weren’t immigrants. Teach the truth. Education can go a long way. Once you start teaching truth in school, people will see. When you know better, you do better, and when you just don’t know, then you can be ignorant for a very long time.
I was taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre because my family believed in knowing truth and our rich history as a people.
My grandmother was born without the right to vote. My mother was born into segregation. It’s not removed from me.
Being able to see my mother’s face every morning to start my day is everything to me. I’m an only child — she’s all I got and I’m all she has. So that grounds me, it keeps me on the right path because she’s my moral compass in a lot of ways.
Seeing the woman of faith that she is and how she walks through this world and is still so hopeful after everything she’s seen and been through in her lifetime, it lets me know that my fight is minuscule and it’s just beginning. If she can be this powerful, strong, faithful servant still in this world with everything going on … like, who am I?
I’m really heartened to see the rainbow of young people standing up and saying, “No more.” We really have to start there. We have to get at people young and they will show the world that, “No, we blend together, we don’t bump heads. We’re here because we all believe in the same thing.”
I open my arms to people of color who want to be in journalism and be truth tellers. We need more. We’re still woefully underrepresented. There’s a lot of truth in the adage of "you have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good." We still fight that fight every day. I would say have very thick skin. Be ready to be a representation of your people. Have broad shoulders.
There’s a lot of great riches to this business as well. I’m so proud to be a journalist and there’s no better time in our history to be in journalism. You are covering history right now and that’s really special. It’s a real privilege for us to be able to do that. So, while there are a lot of things you fight against, being a journalist of color is worth fighting for. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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