My jaw dropped when I watched the video. I mean, I was expecting the video to be bad, like any person would expect a video advertised to have racist slurs in it to be. In the video, though, Justin Bieber tells the joke with such repugnant arrogance; he stares directly into the rolling camera before proceeding with an evil grin to interpret the sound a chainsaw makes using the n-word. I thought this alone would cause a shitstorm, but the Internet didn’t seem to be any more or less offended than it usually was. And that was only the first video.
Then the second video happened, and this second video is quite a doozy. Bieber, same creepy grin plastered on his face, exchanges words in his song “One Less Lonely Girl” to describe how he would be part of a KKK if he were to kill and rid the world of “one less lonely n*****.”
Now, I have been one of Bieber’s staunchest defenders. Believing that there is a place for him on the radio with his sugary, and yes, good, pop songs, and even believing he could have turned this all around and have a Timberlake-esque renaissance. However, these videos change everything. They have to for everyone…right?
After the Donald Sterling tapes were released, the outrage and punishment could not have been more warranted. A hateful, revolting old man got what he deserved. But when video surfaces of a teenage, now-20 year old pop star making remarks that are equally disturbing, he is inexplicably not receiving the deserved backlash.
I can’t imagine why this is, why people like Usher have come out in support of Bieber defending his actions as those of a “naive child who did not understand.” The equivalent of Chris Paul coming out and defending Sterling as a senile old man with these hateful beliefs inbred in him his entire life. Bieber should know better. If anything, Bieber’s words are representative of a more frightening prospect; those of a privileged white kid growing up in a time when those words are less acceptable than ever. But Bieber is still spouting off words that dehumanize his mentor and many people he claims to be his closest friends. The only sane person in this whole ordeal seems to be Lupe Fiasco who said, “I wonder if Justin Bieber’s gonna get the same treatment as Donald Sterling? I don’t think he will… It’s an absurd thing. You get somebody who we ‘like’ who says it, and says it even more ‘racist-ier’ and we don’t bat an eyelash at it.”
Is Bieber somehow excused because he provides entertainment? Because Sterling had already built up so much previous hate and proved ineptitude that we were happy to rid ourselves of him at the first chance. Bieber is not providing some sort of unique entertainment that is indispensable; he’s become indefensible. We let people like Bieber, people like his buddy Chris Brown, get away with all sorts of sickness all the time that would create pariahs out of anyone else because Brown and Bieber entertain. Sterling didn’t have an army of thirteen-year-old girls at his disposal, and sadly that’s the difference.
Do we excuse Bieber for surrounding himself with black people, and therefore, like those close to Richie Icognito referred to him as, an “honorary black man?” Because Sterling had, at least in his tenure as a NBA GM, not let his racism dictate his management of the team, employing and paying fairly a roster of primarily black players and one of the highest paid coaches in the league, Doc Rivers, also a black man.
There needs to be some sort of action, something more than snarky Twitter responses. Boycotting of records, movies, and tour dates. Unfortunately, it looks like a couple Instagram shots of him in a tub later and most people have already accepted the fact that Bieber’s going to be fine. That we really are going to let him get away with this. I hold out hope, though, that there’s going to be One Less Racist Boy in our future.