Singer-actor Justin Timberlake was compelled to apologize Sunday for saying he had been “inspired” by actor-activist Jesse Williams’ speech at Sunday’s BET Awards, which addressed institutionalized racism.
“I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US,” the “Rock Your Body” singer, 35, tweeted Sunday night after an earlier post, “@iJesseWilliams tho . . . #Inspired #BET2016,” sharply divided African-Americans on social media.
“Grey’s Anatomy” star Williams, 34, accepting the Humanitarian Award for his efforts on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement, concluded his speech by saying African-Americans have “been floating this country on credit for centuries, 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. 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, just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Some Twitter followers accused Timberlake of cultural appropriation and of not vigorously defending Janet Jackson after her 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction during their half-time number, and others expressed bewilderment that a gesture of support and empathy could be fodder for condemnation.
Following one such criticism, Timberlake tweeted, “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.” This led to a new round of debate, with the singer eventually writing, “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway.”
Timberlake added, “I was truly inspired by Jesse Williams’ speech because I really do feel that we are all one . . . A human race” and then he went on to apologize.