The Silence of the ‘Black’ White Musicians
The following piece is from the Huffington Post. It was written by Malek Mouzon.
By: Malek Mouzon
I hope that by the time this article posts it no longer applies. But as of its writing, the following is a small list of musicians who have yet to make a public statement or acknowledgement of Michael Brown’s murder and the racial epicenter that is Ferguson, Missouri. In no particular order, they are: Justin Bieber, Macklemore, Iggy Azaela, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.
I could name plenty of other entertainers and celebrities who have remained silent. However, I chose the above five for a very specific reason; they are what I like to call “Black” White Musicians. They are entertainers who have been inspired by some facet of Black culture and whether through authentic means or appropriation have gone on to repackage it for the masses under their own guise.
What I’m speaking to both includes and goes beyond mere speech and dress. They don’t just have Black friends or participate in the Black rhetoric. But they seek to replicate it, embody it, and occasionally even elevate it. Many times this occurs without the subtlety, nuance or even confidence that’s needed.
There are a multitude of examples but here are a few of the following:
- Justin Bieber: Pretty much everything post Usher, most specifically in his dress and mannerisms.
- Mackemore: His Rap Grammy win, deserving in my opinion but tarnished thanks to his publishing of an apology text sent to Kendrick Lamar after he received backlash from his win.
- Iggy Azaela: The “Rap” Voice. We’ve all heard her speak when she’s not rapping, I don’t need to elaborate.
- Katy Perry: A fan of all types of cultural appropriation (See her 2013 AMA performance of “Unconditionally”) but most recently with her video for “This Is How We Do,” which includes twerking ice cream cones, watermelon and the above hood look.
- Miley Cyrus: So many examples but I’ll just say one word… “Anaconda.”
The above musicians enjoy and in many ways reap the rewards of the best parts of Black culture and yet… are surprisingly absent when it comes to the worst. As a long time fan of many of the above musicians, Macklemore and Miley Cyrus to be specific, it’s been a difficult thing to grapple with, let alone understand.
It’s frustrating to watch white musicians be so ready to have legions of Black dancers/singers behind them, work with Black producers, sing about how “we” do and then be nowhere to be found when a Black tragedy takes the national stage. It in many ways cements the same things their art and music attempt to embody. A type of post racial illusion where minstrel images or just part of exploring your creativity and having fun. But we don’t exist in any sort of post-racial world. Racism is still very real. An unfair double standard faced by Black men and women face a very real double standard when it comes to dealing with law. And there is a complete lack of value in the Black body…except of course as a sexual tool or as a means of entertainment.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. This isn’t a just a white celebrity problem. What about the Black celebrities? Looking over to the other side of the spectrum, you would find many of them are silent as well: Rihanna, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Kim and Kanye, Will and Jada, Oprah. There are many who are speaking (Jesse Williams, David Banner, and Tichinia Arnold to name a few) but like in real life it’s the one who are quiet who we notice the most.
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