While appearing on CNN on Sunday, Actress and activist Jane Fonda addressed white privilege amidst nationwide protests sparked by George Floyd’s death.
The 82-year-old told Don Lemon: “Because we’re white, we have had privilege. Even the poorest of us have had privilege. And we need to recognize that, and we have to understand what it is that keeps racism in place — the policies, redlining, banking policies, mortgage policies. All of the things that are really making it very, very difficult for Black people to lift themselves up. The policies have to be changed, and then white people have to understand the history that has led to this and we have to try to change within ourselves. And we have to get to know Black people…and we have to understand the reality that they live in, and we have to do it now.”
She also addressed the protests over the recent years, and how they have helped bring information into the spotlight.
“I think what matters is, is that more and more people, white people, are getting it. When Donald Trump was elected [the] Band-aid was torn off and people could see very blatantly the racism in the country that’s always been there. But it was revealed in a new and more robust way to us and then encouraged by this administration. I think a lot of white people got it. … And maybe like me, I realized I didn’t understand enough about the history of racism, about slavery and reconstruction, Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow, so for the last three years I’ve very intentionally begun studying… to help me understand,” she said.
She channeled the Black Panther Party by wearing a black sweater and black beret, having supported the Black Panthers in the 1970s. She unofficially adopted Mary Luana Williams, the daughter of two Black Panther activists were unable to take care of her. In her book, The Lost Daughter: A Memoir, Williams wrote about Fonda and her experience.
Fonda has been outspoken about political, social and environmental issues, and most recently participated in Fire Drill Fridays, climate change protests held outside the U.S. Capitol. Fonda has been arrested at every demonstration, together with activists and celebrities who joined the weekly protests.
In the 1970s, Fonda drew controversial criticism after she traveled to Hanoi in 1972 and took a photo sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery. This earned her the name “Hanoi Jane.”
She later apologized to veterans after the incident, stating that she would “go to my grave regretting the photograph.”