Justin Bieber is feeling the heat as an irrational racism storm builds after two years-old videos of the singer reeling off the N-word recently surfaced. Fallout is huge, and the media’s appetite to revel is nowhere near peaking yet. Amid this, we ask a simple question: Why are racial slurs Bieber made as a child being treated as new outrages?
Justin Bieber is surely feeling the heat as an irrational racism storm mounts after two years-old videos of the singer reeling off the N-word recently surfaced. The fallout is huge, and the media’s appetite to revel is nowhere near peaking yet. Amid this, we ask a simple question:
Why are racial slurs Bieber made as a child being treated as new outrages?
Whether Usher Raymond IV could possibly have imagined the 13-year-old Justin Bieber he first met in an Atlanta studio parking lot would go on to become the youngest solo male artist since Stevie Wonder in 1963 to top the Billboard 200 chart with 2010’s My World 2.0, then a mere four years later be named as the fifth most disliked man in America is – at this point – probably moot.
Millions have been made, deals and awards won and records have been set by Bieber as he ascended to empire-building success under Usher and manager Scooter Braun. The singer signed to the Raymond Braun Media Group in 2008 before landing a record deal with Island Def Jam that same year.
But the price has been high. From the outset of Bieber’s career, his team’s unprecedented, up-close, camera accessibility to the singer saw him become a kind of Truman Show Tiger Beat superstar. Ubiquitous coverage was swooned over by millions of female tweens, teens and often their moms.
In Rolling Stone’s March issue cover story, the magazine reported that as early as 2010, “Justin broke down in tears backstage one day, bemoaning his lack of privacy.”
“If you want the Michael Jackson career, you have to grasp that you are never going to be normal again,” Braun reportedly told him.
There was no mention in the article of Braun feeling any kind of responsibility for catapulting Bieber out of the safety of small-town life in Stratford, Canada to one where his every move, mistake and triumph would be documented and exploited by the singer’s team, the media — and allegedly — a mutually beneficial access/suppression arrangement with TMZ when they purchased the first “racist” clip two years later.
That video, in which a 15-year-old Bieber tells a racially insensitive “joke” asking why black people are afraid of chainsaws before reeling off an N-word punchline was published by the UK’s The Sun tabloid on June 1.
That same day, TMZ revealed they came into possession of the video four years ago. It was reportedly filmed backstage at a promotional event, while shooting for Bieber’s 2011 biopic Never Say Never.
The gossip site claim they decided not to run it because of Justin’s age. They also reported an individual attempted to shakedown Justin’s team for $1 million as recently as two months ago. Despite price lowering the star’s team reportedly refused to deal, believing the “racist joke” clip would not be seen as overly damaging due to Bieber being 15. Shortly thereafter, it wound up at The Sun.
Bieber’s camp issued an earnest apology that same day and he went to ground in Mexico, which he has now left for Canada.
A second N-word laden video in which a 14-year-old Bieber is seen singing the lyrics “One Less Lonely N*****“ to his 2009 Usher-penned hit “One Less Lonely Girl” and including a reference to white supremacist group the Klu Klux Klan,was published by The Sun on June 4.
Bieber has since offered a second apology, saying in part: “Facing my mistakes from years ago has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with.”
“But I feel now that I need to take responsibility for those mistakes and not let them linger… At the end of the day, I just need to step up and own what I did.”
He added: “Once again, I am sorry for all those I have let down and offended.”
The N-word videos have delivered Team Bieber to its most serious crisis, although support for the singer has come from notable African American voices.
These include the Young Money Entertainment label, rapper/actor 50 Cent, champion boxer Floyd Mayweather, ex-boxer Mike Tyson, The View co-host and actress Whoopi Goldberg and Bieber’s friends — all of whom deny Bieber is racist.
Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz nutshells the Bieber clips akin to watching the “singer unwittingly destroy his innocent persona with blunt force.”
While noting unacceptable slurs uttered at much older ages by Eminem, Kobe Bryant and Jonah Hill, Lipshutz believes the once invincible pop prince has finally arrived at the “now-finished first phase of [his] career. He came, he conquered, he messed up big time.”
A grace note is added, “But he’ll grow up, and so will his audience. Bieber may be in full self-destruct mode now, but the pieces can always be put back together.”
Other talking heads are not sure Bieber can survive the “racism” storm to redemption, even for mistakes made as an immature kid.
(Photo: Usher and Bieber in central Park, New York City in May 2014.)
For his part, Usher has declared he is standing by Bieber’s side as he walks through the fire.
“I gave every bit of advice and always told him it was up to him if he really wanted this. Now that he has it, as an adult, it’s his to manage,” the “Confessions” superstar says in the cover story of the latest issue of Nylon Guys magazine.
“Do I turn my head in shame based off of what I see, what I know?,” Usher continues.”Nah, I don’t because it’s all part of life’s process. Am I in it with him? Yeah.”
Athough he laments Justin’s 15-month run of controversies as “[It’s] unfortunate,” adding, “I hate some of the things I hear. Is it all true? I don’t know,” Usher also said:.
“But I will tell you this: Success comes with a price. Every person that has grown up, grows up with something. It ain’t just perfect from the beginning.”
(Photo: Bieber apologized for first ‘racist joke’ told at 15 and filmed.)
Meanwhile, racially insensitive moments in Bieber’s childhood continue to be determinedly looped as a present day issue into a 20-year-old’s life.
Ironically, one who has spent his adolescence embracing black culture, music and friends, and is described by Young Money President Mack Maine as having “legitimately adopted the culture of the hip hop, African American culture.”
Ludicrous comparisons to Donald Sterling’s 80 years of practised racism and calls by The Talk co-host Aisha Tyler for Bieber to “make a full apology in person on camera and then maybe give money to charity,” frisson amid Don Lemon’s criticized remarks on the overuse of the N-word in rap as the cause of Bieber’s predicament.
Justin Bieber has apologized twice. As those who actually know him have stated, he moved past his ignorance as he aged up from a kid to a teenager.
When will we move past our unfair insistence on punishing him for what he longer is?