When Justin Timberlake was called a hypocrite for praising Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards, his response landed him in hot water. Timberlake said, “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.” When followers rightfully pointed out that the Williams’ point was that we are not in fact the same, Timberlake said he feels “misunderstood” and he “responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response.”
One of Williams’ points was about cultural appropriation, with the star saying that white people are “extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment . . . ghettoizing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.” Timberlake has long been accused of cultural appropriation, hence the hypocrisy of his support. Followers have said that more talented black R&B singers don’t get the same credit as the white superstar. They also pointed to his notorious Super Bowl performance with Janet Jackson, which resulted in her career suffering while his thrived.
It would be impossible to cite every example of cultural appropriation, because it’s endless. It’s no secret that just about all of what’s “cool” in white culture began with black culture, and we’ve consistently taken credit. For an easy, fun example of this, read this Buzzfeed article, entitled, “Vogue Thinks White People Invented the Big Booty Trend.” To quote “Hunger Games” actress Amandla Stenberg, “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?”
While Justin Timberlake is a scapegoat for a larger issue, it goes without saying that he should perhaps be more in tune with the times, so as not to land in hot water. Twitter isn’t the problem, he is. But I am sure his intentions were pure, and it’s important to educate people, not bully them.
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star and Advancement Project board member Jesse Williams took the stage at the BET Awards to deliver a powerful speech while accepting the honor for humanitarian of the year. The former public school teacher of American, African and African-American History said the award was for “the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers of students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. He also asked that those with “no interest in equal rights for black people” avoid “suggestions to those who do.” He ended his speech with perhaps the most powerful point, saying, “We’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment . . . ghettoizing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
It’s worth nothing Williams’ non-confrontational, poignant delivery. This is probably the best speech I’ve heard in some time. It’s powerful, yet non-divisive. To see it in it’s entirety, click HERE.