What Was Justin Timberlake's Biggest Mistake--His Message or Tweeting in the First Place?

By | On June 28, 2016

If we weren't sure before, we're sure now, TWC is dangerous business.

Tweeting While Celebrity, of course.

Justin Timberlaketweeted last night that he was "#inspired" by Jesse Williams' moving speech at the 2016 BET Awards, as were countless others who appreciated his understandably heated call for justice and awareness, as well as for action to combat the forces that still seem committed to keeping people separate and not equal.

Timberlake's sentiment seemed innocent.

But as we've been learning for years now, and which JT obviously forgot..there are no innocent sentiments on Twitter. Whatever you say can be and often will be seized on when you least expect it, and then anything you say after that will be held against you in the court of public opinion.

The "Cry Me a River" singer was swiftly informed that his white-guy interpretation of Williams' speech was not welcome, nor was it informed, and that he, in fact, was part of the problem.

"We've been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil—black gold," Williams said in the concluding moment of his speech. "Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though...the thing is that just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real."

Justin, who apparently got caught up in the moment, mistakenly engaged.

"So does this mean you're going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too. #BETAwards," Ernest Owens tweeted back to Timberlake's initial remark. Timberlake replied, "Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye."

There already was a pile-on, Owens' tweet having been joined by a long, long thread of eye rolls in GIF form, pics of Timberlake's 'N Sync-era cornrows and other accusations of cultural misappropriation and missing Williams' point entirely.

But cue the really big pile-on, prompting Timberlake to take another stab at clarification: "I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn't meant to be a general response. I shouldn't have responded anyway..."

After which he started to get it, but was still trying to inject what he thought was common sense into the conversation: "I forget this forum sometimes... I was truly inspired by @jessewilliams' speech because I really do feel that we are all one... A human race."

And then, whether it was too late or not to say sorry (Justin Bieber got sucked into this too in absentia), he did: "I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US. --JT"

At this point, tip of the hat to Timberlake for not deleting all of the above, which is usually automatic recourse for most celebs who find themselves caught up in an unwitting Twitter firestorm.

There's really nothing wrong with JT having the courage of his convictions, nor is there anything wrong with his actual sentiment. He didn't deserve to be raked over the coals for saying he was inspired by Williams. Yet at the same time, while I'm a big fan of advising the Internet to CTFD, this is one of those situations where the actual conversation that got started was perfectly valid too, even though JT had no intention of starting it.

Have people been secretly seething about Timberlake's success all these years, ticked off that this white guy from Tennessee has found mega-success as a pop star who incorporates historically black genres of R&B, soul and hip-hop into his music—a lot of which has been produced, written and performed with artists of color?

Or as Owens mentioned, perhaps there is the faction that will never forgive Timberlake for exposing Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show, and being the one who faced the least fallout.



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