Two videos were recently leaked of a teenage Justin Bieber using the word "nigger"—first as a joke, then in song. On Sunday Bieber apologized (this was before the second video aired). Page Six, however, is also reporting that there is additional footage that "explicitly shows this was more than just one regrettable joke."
Over the course of the last week, fans and fellow musicians have spoken out in Bieber's defense. "He's not a racist, he has black friends!" many have said on Twitter and Instagram. Then, today, came CNN anchor and self-appointed Head Negro of Black America Don Lemon, writing:
Some are saying Bieber is racist.
I don't know.
Lemon then goes on to blame blacks—who comprise a majority of the "Hip Hop culture" Bieber subscribes to—saying Bieber's use of the racial slur was ultimately our fault. His reasoning:
Very frequently I hear young people of all ages, in public, who can barely get through a sentence without using the word; even calling each other n-words — of all different ethnicities.
Clearly Justin Bieber, a young man who by the way, has immersed himself in black, Hip Hop culture should not be saying the n-word.
So the question is, if you want people like Justin Bieber to stop using it and to stop making excuses for using it, shouldn't you do the same?
Lemon, a black man, and who is no stranger to Respectability Politics, has previously voiced his disdain for the various ways in which black people walk, talk, and generally carry themselves. Like the time, just weeks after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, he provided several ways we could improve our neighborhoods. "It's time for some tough love," Lemon said. Very seriously, this included: pulling up our pants, no longer using the word "nigga," finishing high school, no more baby-making out of wedlock, and respecting our communities (no littering, y'all). Or the time, three weeks ago, he told us to just "get out of the hood" to escape the violence and ongoing gang warfare, as if leaving is as simple as renting a U-Haul and peacing out. Ta-Nehisi Coates would argue otherwise, bruh.
So Lemon's response to Bieber-gate this morning came as no surprise. He acknowledges that Bieber, who was then just a teen, should "not be saying the n-word," but then pours the blame on black people. Lemon so quickly shifts the moral burden of racism onto us—we made Justin do this!—the victims and targets of teenage Bieber's remarks. But what of Bieber, his words, his (repeated and deliberate) actions, his bad judgement? Even if I were to go along with your "we use the word nigga which is why we can't be mad at Bieber for using it" logic, Bieber is still his own man, able-bodied and smart enough to know when he's saying something stupid (at least I hope). But, no, it's our fault. Because it's always our fault, right, Don?
It's all kind of funny considering Lemon's recent interview with actor Morgan Freeman. In it, Lemon briefly raises the topic of race, and how he feels he is constantly engaging in conversations about it on CNN and elsewhere, noting: "... sometimes I just get so tired of talking about it, I want to just go, 'this is over, can we move on?'"
You want to move on, Don? Then maybe shut up.
[Image via CNN]