Remember the time a White guy was caught doing/saying something horribly racist and you were surprised? Tell me exactly what that felt like, because I’ve never experienced it. I’m sure if a White friend, family member or trusted co-worker was caught dropping N-bombs and making racist jokes, I would be taken aback. But a bratty pop superstar like Justin Bieber? Please. Water has been wet my entire life, I do not see that changing anytime soon.
Now, I don’t take those disgusting jokes as evidence to suggest that Justin Bieber is secretly funneling millions into Canada’s version of the KKK, or that he calls Usher a "porch monkey" behind his back. Rather, I think he’s more likely just an average young White guy who dabbles in casual racism for LOLz and leans on the fact that he has Black friends as proof that he’s not A Real Racist. I’m sure we could get video featuring very similar words from a whole lot of White 15-year-olds—and 25-year-olds, and 35-year-olds and so on—I'd say it's probably more common than not. In a world that has never confronted anti-Black racism in a meaningful way, we should never be surprised by this sort of behavior. In fact, we should expect it.
(WARNING: Usually, I am the last one to take an incident of a White person doing something racist as an opportunity to soundly criticize Black people, which so many of our folks are quick to do—-Don Lemon breathed new life into his career by making it his signature move. Alas, this may be the closest I’ve ever come to Lemoning. Brace yourself.)
What bothered me more than the wholly unsurprising Bieber videos was the fact that a number of famous Black folks could not wait to defend him. Take Soulja Boy (race scholar, known for his infamous “Shout out to the slave masters! Without them we'd still be in Africa. We wouldn't be here to get this ice and tattoos” comments). Floyd Mayweather added his two cents, and Lil Wayne and Birdman reportedly told TMZ they will continue to support their friend, with Mack Maine going so far as to say that Bieber has “legitimately adopted the culture of the hip-hop, African-American culture.” (Is their paperwork involved in these adoptions, or does it pretty much just consist of the sharing of drugs and VIP sections with rappers?)
On The View, Whoopi Goldberg defended Beiber by suggesting that the N-word is not as well known in his native land, but was soundly corrected by Canadians who made it clear that they DO know just how offensive the word is.
While Usher is his mentor (sidenote: I am so glad that someone Black is getting paid for this “legitimate adoption” of our culture) and Soulja Boy is only 3 years Bieber’s senior, I’ve long since been creeped out by the relationship some of these other industry guys have to Beiber. There is something…curious about a bunch of Black men in their 30s and 40s who are so hyped about hanging out with a just barely post-pubescent White kid. He’s got a decent enough singing voice, but it’s not like he’s the Michael Jackson of his time or something. And these guys have their own money, so it isn’t that they are hangers on looking for a check. Why would a full-grown Black man who postures like a thug be so hyped to kick it with this delicate flower of White boyhood? I need answers.
(Remember when Bieber was on L.A.’s Power 106 “kicking” an “Otis” “freestyle”? Because that happened. This is who the cool rappers want to hang out with. Tan America is the worst place on Earth, please get me out.)
Much like the clamor to defend and support Miley Cyrus and her “art,” I can’t help but to think that a lot of this Bieber love—pre and post-scandal—has a lot to do with our total obsession with Whiteness. We feel legitimized by our proximity to it. We are honored by the fact that a White kid would want to rap or have rappers on his bubblegum records, or that he’d want to dance like us and talk like us and smoke with us. The Mayweathers and Lil’ Waynes of the world aren’t validating Bieber’s success by letting him be a member of the “Money Team” or roll with YMCMB—I think they are seeking to validate themselves.
So, no, Bieber probably isn’t a bigot and the transgressions he made as a 15-year-old shouldn’t destroy his career at twenty. But for all these hip-hop dudes and their non-existent standards as it relates to who they co-sign and celebrate, I just hope that the bottles, post-racial groupies and whatever feelings of affirmation you get for hanging with the kid with the Ellen DeGeneres haircut (but without any of the Ellen DeGeneres swag) are worth it. I am not siding with Don Lemon's suggestion that Beiber's behavior is wholly our fault (because, newsflash, White people have never once required our permission to use the N-word), but I do wish that some of us were a bit less liberal about handing out those 'hood passes' we like to give so freely.