This past Sunday, June 26th, Jessie Williams was awarded the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards but that was not the full focus of the night. After Jessie Williams’ acceptance speech, Justin Timberlake tweeted out “@iJessieWilliams tho… #inspired #BET2016”. A journalism from Philly, Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens), replied to Timberlake’s tweet with, “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too. #BETAwards.”
Timberlake made a misguided decision to reply to Owens with,”Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”
This sparked more outrage. Timberlake was accused of cultural appropriation and instead of apologizing or just leaving it alone, he made it worse. He basically tried to discredit the initial comment.
The Janet incident, Owens referred to was 2004 SuperBowl halftime show. Timberlake and Jackson performed together where Timberlake accidentally ripped off a part of her outfit exposing her breast. Jackson’s career never fully recovered but Timberlake’s career continued to soar. He did ultimately apologize for the incident to the public but he never apologized to Jackson.
Only hours after Timberlake was accused of cultural appropriation, another celebrity was accused of the same. Vanessa Hudgens posted a picture on Instagram, where she has a dreamcatcher in her hair. This isn’t the first time that Hudgens has been accused of cultural appropriation because of her outfits. Her Coachella fashion is notorious for appropriating Native American and Hindu culture.
Jessie Williams spoke about cultural appropriation in his acceptance speech:
“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and 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 like oil—black gold, 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. The thing is, though…the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Cultural appropriation is a real issue. The media and big business try to profit off of other cultures but do not give it the same respect as other cultures. Celebrities fall into this unintentionally either by ignorance or because of money. They do live life under a magnifying glass and it is way too easy for the public to criticize. A little education for everyone can go a long way.
Timberlake later apologized for his comments and stated that he felt like he was misunderstood.