Usher has defended Justin Bieber as “unequivocally not a racist,” after videos of the singer as a child/young teen using the N-word recently surfaced.
The 35-year-old superstar, who has known Bieber since he was 13, took to his Instagram on Saturday in defense of the younger star, who has been slammed after he was seen making “racist” N-word jokes in two leaked videos.
Usher’s message was accompanied by a picture of himself and Justin. He wrote:
“At my core, I am a person that supports growth and understands without judgement, that growth often comes as a result of pain and continues effort. As I have watched Justin Bieber navigate difficult waters as a young man, I can tell you that he hasn’t always chosen the path of his greatest potential, but he is unequivocally not a racist.”
“What he was 5 years ago was a naive child who did not understand the negative power and degradation that comes from playing with racial slurs. What he is now is a young man faced with an opportunity to become his best self, an example to the millions of kids that follow him to not make the same mistakes.”
Usher’s statement comes at the end of an unprecedented week of criticism and belittlement of the Canadian singer, even by typical Bieber reporting standards.
On June 1, a clip of the then 15-year-old Justin telling a N-word punchline “joke” reportedly while backstage at a 2009 promotional event was posted at the online version of the UK’s The Sun tabloid.
While revealing they bought the same footage four years ago, TMZ claimed the video has been the subject of various extortion attempts made against Bieber and his team over the years.
Bieber and his team issued a same-day apology, which said in part:
“As a kid, I didn’t understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt.” The singer also stated he was sorry for his “reckless and immature mistake” and “offending or hurting anyone.”
Three days later, The Sun posted a report describing a video in which a 14-year-old Bieber sang a parody of his 2009 Usher-penned single “One Less Lonely Girl” using the N-word.
At the time video was not yet embedded in the report.
A few hours later — at the behest of Bieber who reportedly wanted to “own” his mistake — TMZ posted the second video showing the singer giggling and singing “One Less Lonely N*****” while jokingly including a reference to the white supremacist group the Klu Klux Klan and a mention of “killing.”
Bieber issued a second apology via The Sun that same day, saying: “Facing my mistakes from years ago has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with.”
He added, “I just hope that the next 14-year-old kid who doesn’t understand the power of these words does not make the same mistakes I made years ago.”
“At the end of the day I just need to step up and own what I did. Once again, I am sorry for all those I have let down and offended.”
Rightly, most media reporting has blasted the use of racial slurs and racism as a whole.
Wrongly, Bieber’s past racial slurs have been held up as an unheard of aberration that isn’t occurring in millions of workplaces, schools, homes and elsewhere, and hasn’t been said or thought in varying forms by countless kids and adults for hundreds of years.
The observable reality that Bieber’s racial insensitivity fell away as he grew up and went on to form friendships and ties with African-Americans while living in the US – then embraced that very culture – has largely been ignored or ridiculed in favor of dragging anger over his past behavior into the present.
Among celebrities of the opinion that Bieber’s child/teen “racist” remarks should not be held against him now, are:
Producer and rapper Soulja Boy, Atlanta rap trio Migos, Trey Songz, champion boxer Floyd Mayweather, 50 Cent, Christian rapper Brandon Burke, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Tyson, and British comedians Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand.
In addition, Young Money Entertainment announced that everyone at the label including Lil Wayne, CEO Birdman and President Mack Maine, is behind Bieber, also vouching that in their years of interacting with him there has never been a whiff of racism on his part.
Underlining the point, Maine told TMZ Justin has “legitimately adopted hip hop and African American culture.”
Usher’s defense of Bieber is significant.
As one of the two men who introduced the singer to the world in 2009, there has been some comment about the lack of a statement from him after the N-word videos leaked.
But it doesn’t get any stronger than, “He is unequivocally not a racist.”
Moreover, Usher’s closer line: “What he is now is a young man faced with an opportunity to become his best self, an example to the millions of kids that follow him to not make the same mistakes,” could be seen as not only an invitation to Justin to use a likely very painful time as something transforming — but also a request to those narrating it, to let him.
[Image via Instagram: Mentor Usher and Justin Bieber back in the day.]