Sit Down, Justin Timberlake: Why Jesse Williams’ BET Speech Is Definitely Not For Him

Jonathan Brown - Author

Jun. 28 2016, Updated 10:10 p.m. ET

Talk surrounding Justin Timberlake’s “inspired” takeaway of Jesse Williams’ impassioned 2016 BET Awards speech has yet to let up two days following the incident. Following the Grey’s Anatomy actor’s bold verbal attack on those who take elements of Black culture without respecting or defending the lives of Black people, the “Can’t Stop the Feeling” singer took to Twitter to loan his support to Williams’ words, before seemingly disproving his intent just moments after by downplaying his own repeated cultural appropriation offenses.

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The backlash was swift and fierce, with most of “Black Twitter” (the colloquial title given to African-American users who frequent the social networking service) reminding Timberlake of just how his white privilege has helped him throughout his career in the music industry. In retaliation, many of the former *NSYNC-er’s supporters countered back that Timberlake was somehow being blasted for showing his support to his Black fan base and by connection, Black people all across America — except, that was never the reason people were angry with Timberlake.

On the contrary — although his “we’re all the same” reasoning is more problematic than most people who aren’t Black will ever understand, that alternate version of the “all lives matter” response that he gave in the face of a “Black lives matter” instance is the least of his issues. The problem isn’t the way in which he chooses to address such a problem, but how he has continually shown, time and time again, that he is part of the problem that African-Americans, like Williams, are trying to combat. Perhaps the time has finally come for someone to display just how many messes he has created within a community that he was, at one point, so welcomed by, beginning with the biggest one of all: Janet Jackson and the infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.

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Before the fiasco that accidentally exposed the “All For You” entertainer’s right breast to the entire world, Timberlake couldn’t hold a match, much less a flame, to the fire that Jackson possessed in the music industry. There are way too many accolades, hit songs/albums, and other notable mentions to make note of in this piece, but let’s just say that everyone (minus her brother; more on him a bit later) was living in a world that was of her making, and at that time, no one had a problem with that. Fast forward to just seconds after the duo’s energetic performance was done, and the damage had already started to show — for Jackson alone.


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