No one was even talking to Justin Timberlake. Yet somehow he has managed to centre himself in Jesse Williams’ discourse about blackness. Had Timberlake tweeted “@JesseWilliams tho… #inspired” and left it at that, then I wouldn’t even be here writing this think piece. But no, he just had to make manifest what I’ve subconsciously known for years- Justin Timberlake is happy to make music that borrows heavily from black people but doesn’t (or refuses to) understand the oppression black people face.
@JustinTimberlake So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And are you going to apologise to Janet too..
Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realise that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.
You almost wonder if Justin Timberlake knows what cultural appropriation is. Furthermore you question how it is lost on him that he is the archetype of what Jesse Williams was talking about in his now legendary speech when he said:
“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 like oil- black gold, ghettoising and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like the rinds of strange fruit.”
He was talking about you, Mr Timberlake. You who feels so “misunderstood” but seems to understand the damage mentioning Black Lives Matter can do to your brand thus have remained mum on the black people who have died at the hands of law enforcement. The condescending nature of the “Oh, you sweet soul” wasn’t lost on me either. It is hard to have a nuanced, balanced discussion about the misappropriation of black culture when black twitter are dragging you to Kingdom Come but Timberlake's response highlights his lack of knowledge and/or empathy. Instead of accepting what was genuine criticism or starting a dialogue, Justin Aint-Nobody-Love-You-Like-I-Love-You Timberlake chose to pivot all the way to the right with a one size fits all, All Lives Matter response. “The more you realise that we are the same” like fam, were you even listening to what Jesse Williams said or did you simply get whipped up in the feeling? Yes, we are all human beings but Williams spoke directly to the fact that people of colour (both black and non black people of colour) and white people DO NOT enjoy the same privileges therefore we are NOT “the same.”
Twitter user Chrystalll was justified (catch the pun) in asking Justin Timberlake what Jesse Williams inspired him to do exactly? Use his platform of 5.5 million followers to call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement? Stand with us and say black people across the diaspora are being disproportionately killed and/or locked up because of the evergreen effects of racism? Enlighten us.
I’d be remiss not to mention Justin Timberlake has in the past signed black artists to his label Tennman Records. Alas, in this aspect of black people’s fight against inequality, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement, Timberlake has been passive at best. Eminem has long acknowledged the fact if he was black he “would have sold half”, Macklemore has worked to address the role his white privilege has played in his success but Timberlake has yet to see the correlation.
The first arena tour I went to was Justin Timberlake’s . I cried him a river, bopped along to all his songs and have done so for years- I am part of the problem. I have accepted the music presented to me in the mainstream rather than seek to find black artists whose music is just as good, if not better, and lift them up. It is a shame that instead of writing about the glory that was Jesse William’s speech, I am writing about Justin Timberlake’s reaction to it. I said that Timberlake was centring himself in the discourse, but maybe black people have the propensity to be oversensitive and attack white celebrities when all they are trying to do is help? LOL. No. How Justin Timberlake can help in this current climate is talk up. I’m not asking him to solve the problems that black people face, but because he directly benefits from his whiteness allowing him to enjoy the palatable aspects of blackness while ignoring its “undesirable” aspects- he needs to get up, step up or shut up.
I don’t feel sorry that he got dragged. His dismissal of Ernest Jones’ questions were grounds enough if not for Jesse Williams’ reminder “the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.” And stand by Mr Timberlake has until last night. No one was even talking to you, but since you’re standing there….
Click the heart.
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