Photo: J Visuals
EXCLUSIVE: Wale Pens Personal Letter About His Powerful "Sue Me" Video: "There Are Two Different Americas"
On May 21, four days before the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent wave of nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality, GRAMMY-nominated rapper/actor/poet Wale released the eye-opening video for "Sue Me." Directed by Kerby Jean-Raymond and starring Oscar-nominated actor Lucas Hedges, the provocative and powerful clip portrays an alternative reality in which the everyday struggles and experiences of living as a Black person in America are flipped. To highlight the urgency and underlying message of change within the timely video, Wale wrote a personal essay in which he calls out the "two different Americas" and explains why he continues "rooting for my people."
First and foremost, I'm really proud of the video for "Sue Me." This one was just a little more special. I'm very hands-on, but I let Kerby guide me on it. We talked about it for a while, and I let go and followed his vision, for real. He comes from our culture. He's one of us. He didn't need anybody to explain it.
This is as honest as it gets for me. This sh*t's been happening forever, and we know it's going to happen again. It's a part of our lifestyle and has been for too long. So with the video, I wanted to provide a narrative we needed.
We've always needed this narrative, but we really need it right now …
There are two different Americas. Some people who don't look like us are with us. Some people just aren't with us. I think the 2020 protests emphasize that there are two different Americas. A lot of us Black people live in fear because we know this fact, while a lot of people are completely oblivious.
They'll say, "We hear you, we stand with you, and we're donating." Those are just words. They're generic phrases and platitudes to alleviate inconvenience and discomfort. To truly understand us, you have to walk in our shoes. The "Sue Me" video essentially places you in our shoes.
I didn't want to play myself in the video. It wasn't about me—it's about the message. Catch the subtleties and see what it's like if you're not one of us. If you are one of us, remember things aren't easy, but we still have to make sure you hear our message loud and clear.
I want you to see that America has two sides. I want you to see that there's a difference between ignorance and arrogance. Some people are ignorant because that's how they were brought up. They never took the time to truly think about this situation. Some people are just arrogant, and this doesn't bother them. It doesn't deter them, it's not their business, and it's "All Lives Matter" for them.
Kerby Jean-Raymond (L) and Wale (R) on the set of the "Sue Me" video | Courtesy Photo: Kerby Jean-Raymond
I'm really passionate about my people and my culture. Being truly seen and actually heard matters to me. When I say, "I'm rootin' for everybody who's Black," understand what I'm saying. I'm still rooting for my people because I'm rooting for my culture.
Why do we always have to start the game 15 points down?
We really have to do double the work to get equal respect.
I need this video to be seen by as many people as possible. I want to get it in the hands of those big politicians and gatekeepers. I know that would make a huge difference.
I'm grateful to have helped one group who needed it with this video. We included the Facebook Live video by Mr. Aaron DeShawn Campbell. He was locked up at Elkton in Ohio, and he faced the worst circumstances imaginable during the pandemic. We got his story out there and it made an impact. Those men in the prison received the help they needed—that's what it's all about.
It's not that we predicted this racist world with "Sue Me," because it's been happening for years. We just highlighted it before the sh*t really hit the fan a couple of months ago. Right now, it seems like, as Black people, we are learning to love ourselves a little bit more. I'm reminding myself that I'm good enough. It's been crazy for so long. We lost a lot of hope and too many people. At the same time, a lot of human beings are finally coming together now. That's one thing I am grateful for.
I'm still rooting for us.