It seems like the two things agitating Black people this week is white privilege and the NFL. Between irrelevant actor Steven Seagal having the nerve to criticize Black athletes on their free speech while sitting perched up in Moscow supporting Trump, to NBC giving trash anchor Megyn Kelly a larger platform to get ignorant on television — can’t win for losing right now.
But perhaps the biggest blow to the culture came when it was revealed that famed culture appropriator Justin Timberlake is in the finalized phase of doing next year’s Super Bowl halftime show.
Of course, I had something to say about this:
.@jtimberlake doing the Super Bowl halftime while Janet Jackson is still banned shouldn’t surprise you.
He’s the same guy who appropriated from her brother and called me a “sweet soul” and that “we are the same” when I called him out on it years ago.
White privilege in action. pic.twitter.com/Rgzxo5Qkmw
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) September 27, 2017
During the 2016 BET Awards, Timberlake had the audacity to refer to me as a “sweet soul” when I called him out publicly on the hypocrisy of praising Jesse Williams’ Black Lives Matter speech. That Twitter exchange made international news and opened up a larger conversation about exactly how much JT has stolen from the culture.
A quick Google search of “Justin Timberlake Culture Appropriation” will reveal countless times throughout his entire career where he has rocked cornrows, carbon copied Michael Jackson, dissed the late great Prince in a track on how he brought sexy back, and left Janet Jackson in the cold after exposing her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime show.
In other words, JT has been trash — but many of us gave him a pass. From all of those rap collaborations to invitations to Black award shows, we just seemed to ignore exactly how much cultural theft this man was getting away with. For those who have been on the fence, it’s time to cross your ass over and stay put. As recent as 2014, Janet was still on the blacklist to perform at the NFL. The social impact legend most likely wouldn’t even participate now even if the ban was lifted given the heat the league is facing. Even Jay Z recently dismissed any talks of participating in the halftime next year given the flack. But somehow the self-proclaimed “President of Pop” has no qualms being the white boy who has capitalized off of Black culture for mainstream appeal.
Timberlake is the worst kind of white person — perhaps even worse than the blatant bigots we often assume serve as the only form of anti-Blackness. Where is he at on issues impacting Black lives on a regular basis when it’s not in the studio? Just like the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and many of your other non-Black celeb faves who love us aesthetically, the silence is real. White people who project their love for Black culture and yet remain silent to our marginalization are the kinds of snakes in the grass that will till our soil but will leave us all out to dry.
While Timberlake performs music that was inspired by her brother Michael, Janet will once again have to be reminded that despite her larger impact in the industry — white men can exploit her body and still be granted redemption faster than she ever will. A lot of us betrayed Ms. Jackson by continuing to support this man and perhaps now is the time to finally have her back; not just in regards to this situation, but the culture in general.
If our community is serious about standing up for Black lives and dismantling white supremacy, we have to check those who are complicit with it. Justin Timberlake has proven time and time again that he will pimp our culture out for a come-up, let’s stop giving him one.
Ernest Owens is the Editor of Philadelphia magazine’s G Philly. He has written for USA Today, NBC News, BET, HuffPost and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.