Justin Timberlake and I go way back. From the moment he performed Tevin Campbell’s “Always in My Heart” on the Mickey Mouse Club back in ’94, the love was instant.
From quite early in his career, Timberlake took the sex-laden sounds of ‘90s R&B I shouldn't have been listening to, and brought them to the Kidz Bop set, while still keeping it so cool. I defended his synchronized pop locking in *NSYNC because he was “so cute” with “hip-hop edge.” I defended his bleach blonde cornrows, and his love for the word crunk. I celebrated solo Future Sex Love Sounds- era Timberlake which found him paired up with hip-hop’s maestro, Timbaland. And I gushed every time he chose a female video lead who was brown like me. I've defended Justin Timberlake for so many years because… Justin Timberlake.
During last night's BET Awards, Humanitarian Award winner Jesse Williams delivered a speech on the Black experience as powerful as those of activists from the '60s. "The moment I met Jesse ten years ago, I was proud to have known him," Power actor, Omari Hardwick, said. "After his speech I was equally proud.”
The Grey’s Anatomy actor and former teacher took to task an American mainstream that appropriates Black culture, yet discards its people: "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... ghetto-lyzing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is — just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real."
As an Afro-Latina, I’ve felt the appropriation of both sides of my cultures. As with any cultural experience, music and styles are so fun to adapt. Let's face it, hip-hop culture is the mainstream. Beyoncé dominates any stage she touches, and Drake’s has the #1 album in the country for months now. But when Freddie Gray is gunned down or there's no justice found for the murder of 13-year-old Tamir Rice, who was only holding a toy gun at the time of his death, the cultural adopters we love go radio silent. And that silence breeds hurt.
It's prevalent in Latino culture as well. Eva Longoria is still referred to as “spicy” while she’s sitting on a television empire. Sofia Vergara is paraded around award show stages as a Colombian Barbie doll while co-stars poke fun at her accent, even though she is one of the highest paid television actresses in history. Mexican jokes fly in comedy shows, as we shift in our seats uncomfortably. There’s a lot to be said when immigration injustices and brutal police killings are met with feverish support by some of your Facebook friends, while others ignore the happenings entirely, since it doesn’t affect them directly.
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