Michael K. Williams, the actor who played “Omar” on The Wire and Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire, died yesterday of an apparent overdose. We were about the same age. He was born in 1966. I was born in 1965. I’m not going to judge him for the way he died. There are many good people who die of substance abuse, and many monsters and war criminals (e.g. Henry Kissinger) who seem to live forever. Even though one of his most memorable scenes in Boardwalk Empire involved savoring the idea of torturing a Klansman to death as revenge for the murder of his father, Williams rejected identity politics. It’s not about race, he said. It’s about class.
In my perspective, the show has very little to do with race, and everything to do with class. I’ve come to realize that the race thing is a smoke screen. The real war is a war on class. It’s about how much green you have in your pocket. In this country, you can unfortunately literally get away with murder if you have enough political background behind you. You are innocent until proven poor.
I couldn’t agree more.