Erykah Badu, the self-professed spiritual guide, and humanist, caused a huge stir when Vulture published a conversation between her and the writer in which Badu expressed a sense of empathy for maligned, possibly even evil figures.
“I see good in everybody,” she claimed. “I saw something good in Hitler.”
Of course, there is where most of the screenshots stopped, allowing readers’ minds to jump to fanciful conclusions about Badu, a Black woman, somehow relating to the abhorrent views of Nazi dictator and real-life supervillain Adolf Hitler. Which, she wasn’t. If we read beyond the conveniently clipped-for-outrage quote, we see there’s more to the story.
Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.
No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?
Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars. I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.
What Ms. Badu is describing here is not Mein Kampf-quoting, Seig Heil-saluting, “Hilter-was-right”-ism. What she really seems to be aiming at is the ever-elusive concept of sympathy for the devil, the understanding that though a person may do monstrous things, at heart, they are still just a person, and people have reasons — legitimate or otherwise — for doing the things they do.