Many of us can recall those TRL days when we fell under the spell of Justin Timberlake, the blonde, jersey wearing, baggy pants boppin’ teenager in *NSYNC. In his adult, solo career he became known as JT and proceeded to provide the jams.
We all know what happened with JT and Janet at the Superbowl in 2004. We know how Janet was snubbed at that year’s Grammy’s and JT accepted his Grammy with this lazy apology for what happened. In the years since, people have talked about what it meant for Janet to be scorned and JT being able to ease back in to mainstream, unwrinkled (read: white) society with no issue. We as people of color whispered about ‘how bad he did her’, rolled eyes then eventually forgot about it when a JT jam came on the radio.
In light of Black Lives Matter, social justice resistance and big brother Kaepernick, being an ally takes on a whole new meaning. Being an ally can no longer be opportunistic or situationally exploitive—ie pulling a Timberlake. You can’t ride with me, us, a movement and then decide when it’s hard, you get out and won’t help solve any issues that we come across, or get gas or push to help get towards where the movement or process dictates we must go! In Jay-Z declining the 2018 Superbowl performance, he decided the greater goal of cultural support and political solidarity is more important, would be more important, than more money and record sales.
What JT needs to learn from Jay-Z is that solidarity has a price. You cannot dip into the culture as you please then dry yourself off when the check comes while still trying to commercialize that culture. You either with it or you ain’t. You might argue that JT’s gotta eat. Well, so does Jay-Z but he’s talented enough to do that while staying true to the culture that fuels his fame. (And choosing solidarity/focusing on his tasks at hand proved to be very lucrative with 4:44 being his highest grossing solo tour yet.)
We also learn that solidarity is not always convenient, and sometimes the benefits are intangible. Solidarity, like love, rejoices in the truth and wants benefits to be equal and applicable for all involved. If you aren’t prepared to truly support and be consistent in that support, don’t bother calling yourself an ally — call yourself an Uber and go back where you came from.
Jennifer P. Harris | Write to Live Team