Twitter Reacts to Justin Timberlake's Remarks on Jesse Williams' BET Speech

June 27th 2016

Justin Timberlake is facing backlash on Twitter after the artist tweeted his praise for actor Jesse Williams' powerful speech about race and cultural appropriation at the 2016 BET Awards. There are those who are upset with the former *NSYNC member and those who do not understand why others are upset.

It all started when Timberlake tweeted this.

Some Twitter users did not take kindly to Timberlake's hashtag, arguing that Timberlake was not getting the point of Williams' speech: that there is a long history of Black artists whose style, ideas, and talents are ripped off by white artists.

But to understand why some people were so upset, one has to understand Justin Timberlake's background and history as an artist.

First, Timberlake has been criticized for appropriating Black culture, from his music style, to his personal style.

No one is denying that Timberlake is talented, but some are questioning if he uses Black culture to prop up his talent. Jamilah King, senior staff writer at Mic, broke down what many were feeling in her piece for Colorlines.com, "The Trouble With Justin Timberlake's Appropriation of Black Music":

"My ambivalence toward Justin is, to a large degree, a matter of aesthetics. But it’s also rooted in a very real anxiety about white artists 'borrowing' black music and style then taking a break when it becomes inconvenient. Yes, Timberlake has rightfully earned his place among modern pop music legends, but he also embodies the historical mistrust that exists between white performers and black listeners that dates at least as far back as Elvis Presley’s 1950s foray into what was then called 'race music.'"

It's why Eminem is more widely accepted in the hip-hop community than Iggy Azalea. Eminem recognizes his white privilege.

Second, Timberlake has also been criticized for his role in Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction. While she, a Black female artist, suffered heavily from the stunt, Timberlake did not. He has been accused of "throwing her under the bus," saying in an interview with ESPN The Magazine, when asked what he had "taken away" from the experience, "I take that I chose not to comment on it still, after 10 years. I'm not touching that thing with a 10-foot pole."

Third, had Timberlake stopped tweeting, he may have been forgiven as merely making a thoughtless comment, but instead, he doubled down with this tweet:

The issue here is that Timberlake's tweet expresses views that are the exact opposite of those in the speech from Williams that Timberlake was praising. Williams' point was that we are all not the same, though that doesn't mean we shouldn't be equal. As much as we would like to be equal, there is indeed a long history of inequality, as Williams explained:

"We’ve been floatin’ 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 and 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: just because we’re magic don’t mean we’re not real. Thank you."

Timberlake wouldn't stop tweeting.

And sent the following tweet which could be construed as an "all lives matter" stance.

At best, Timberlake was criticized for missing the point.

Finally, Timberlake gave up trying to further explain, and simply tweeted this:

If you're still confused, one Twitter user broke down exactly what the problem is with Timberlake's tweets:

It appears though that for now, Timberlake is done talking.

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Do you think Justin Timberlake missed the point?

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