Another day on the internet, another problematic comment made by someone who probably should’ve known better.
The 2016 BET Awards last night included dynamic performances, a cache of deserving winners, several moving Prince tributes, as well as a thought provoking speech by Grey’s Anatomy actor, Jesse Williams. Taking the stage to accept the night’s Humanitarianism Award, Williams utilized the platform to discuss the nation’s current climate on racism and how we still have a long way to go in achieving equality.
Referencing the injustice of what happened to then-12-year-old Tamir Rice, Williams stated, “I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich.”
Receiving a standing ovation, other aspects of Williams’ speech including the denouncement of critics of the Black Lives Matter movement (in which Williams is a prominent advocate).
“If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression…If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
Following Williams’ powerful and riveting words, many took to social media to endorse what the actor had to say.
One person in particular who added praise to the conversation was “Can’t Stop the Feeling” singer, Justin Timberlake.
The singer turned actor and back again tweeted out to his 55.6 million followers that he felt “inspired” by what Williams had to say, even retweeting a suggestion from The Roots’ member, Questlove asking “Can @iJesseWilliams run in 2016?”.
Though well intentioned, Timberlake’s sentiments faced immediate backlash as someone who has been accused of appropriating black culture. Amongst this sea of criticism, Timberlake took the time to respond to one tweet in particular. And boy did he miss the mark.
In response to music writer Ernest Owens calling JT out on these grounds, Timberlake fired back with the most patronizing and flippant response.
The remark, not so surprisingly, escalated the denunciation of Timberlake on social media.
The immediate and fervent criticism drove Timberlake to quickly change his tune and send out a slew of followup tweets in an attempt to explain his original meaning.
A good piece of advice for JT in the future is to follow the golden rule of social media: think before you tweet.