Justin Timberlake Apologizes For Commenting On Jesse Williams’ BET Awards Speech

Over a career that’s spanned nearly 20 years, Justin Timberlake has seldom, as ever, courted any sort of controversy. Every once in a long while, though, he’ll stick his foot in it, and that’s what happened last night. During last night’s BET Awards, the actor Jesse Williams won a Humanitarian Award and gave a poetic, intense, politically-driven speech. And when Timberlake jumped on Twitter to express his admiration of it, he unwittingly drew the ire of many.

Here’s the initial tweet:

That’s pretty innocuous, as these things go. But part of Williams’ speech was about the way the white entertainment complex appropriates the work of black people, “ghettoizing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius, then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.” And given that Timberlake is a white pop star making explicitly R&B-influenced music, he maybe should’ve just said nothing. And there was also some bubbling-up of years-old resentment over the way Timberlake accepted no responsibility for ripping Janet Jackson’s costume and exposing her boob at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Timberlake made the mistake of tweeting, somewhat condescendingly, back at someone who demanded that he stop appropriating black culture and that he apologize to Jackson.

Timberlake then apologized and tried to clarify his position:

Meanwhile, here’s Williams’ speech:

And this has been another episode in the tedious, uncomfortable saga of White People Clumsily Attempting To Publicly Reckon With White Privilege. (Believe me, I’ve been way more awkward with this shit than Timberlake was last night.)