As Lainey already discussed, Jesse Williams gave the wokest speech in the history of speeches at the BET Awards last night. It was a speech that made me cry, shout, cheer and throw sh-t at my television. It induced urgency, frustration and a call to arms. It was soaked in brutal honesty. Most importantly, it was unapologetically BLACK. So, when Justin Timberlake took to Twitter to praise the speech, the response was probably not what he expected.
Initially, Justin tweeted this:
Then, Black Twitter came for him. People pointed out that when our Internet Boyfriend Jesse Williams eloquently 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,” he was pretty much talking about Justin Timberlake and artists like him who have made a career out of, as Jesse put it, “gentrifying our genius.” This speech though. There are not enough praise hand emojis. Anyway, the criticisms of Justin’s initial tweet are not wrong but I was ready to defend him. I actually think Justin Timberlake is a decent human being who means well. The tweet was short, complimentary and not as ME, ME, ME as we normally see from Justin. I was ready to say that while the speech was definitely not for him, we can’t burn JT at the stake for a short compliment. I was ready to mention the other artists who appropriate black culture and that if we came for all of them, there would be no one left in pop culture. I was ready to say that maybe Jesse made Justin a little more woke with every word of that speech. Despite breaking up with him recently, I was ready to defend Justin Timberlake.
Then, he tweeted this:
Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) June 27, 2016
Damnit Justin. It’s the condescending dismissal of this person’s point that gets to me the most. He had the nerve to tweet, “The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.” No, Justin Timberlake, you are not the same as the black artists who don’t have a voice or a platform because they don’t look like you. Feminist icon Roxane Gay responded with, “Tell that to Janet.” The fallout from Nipplegate (or lack thereof for Justin) is the perfect example of why we are NOT the same. Someone must have told Justin that what he tweeted was dumb because he started to backtrack.
I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn't meant to be a general response. I shouldn't have responded anyway...— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) June 27, 2016
I forget this forum sometimes... I was truly inspired by @iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one... A human race— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) June 27, 2016
Here’s Justin’s final apology:
I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US.— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) June 27, 2016
The problem with this apology is that I don’t think Justin realizes that he was “out of turn.” His tweet was like saying, “I’m sorry to all the people who were offended,” AKA the most bullsh-t apology line ever. As The Daily Beast noted, I hope Justin uses this as a teachable moment.
While I’m glad that Justin felt #inspired by Jesse Williams’ speech, I wish he had taken some time to really think about Jesse’s words and respond accordingly, or not respond at all. What Jesse did on that stage was bigger than Justin Timberlake and our attention should be on his message, not this mess.