It's been a big week for Justin Bieber. For starters, a leaked video shows him making a racist joke, and, to top it all off, there's a video that shows him making a racist joke! This is one of those reputation-defining moments, and it's too bad that a moment like this gains much more attention than an article about America's wide-sweeping "patterns of [educational] disparity by race." People are understandably up in arms about the singer's terrible taste in jokes as a fifteen-year-old, and in a new addition to the ongoing drama, one of Bieber's ex-bodyguards has taken to Twitter to defend his former employer.
First, I would like to address the spectacularly awkward headline of the TMZ article, which reads, "Ex-Black Bodyguard Says… He's Not a Racist." This makes it sound like Bieber's bodyguard used to be black, but is now a different race. It's as if the author didn't want to make the bodyguard's race the most important aspect of his personhood, but also wanted to work in the word "black" as soon as humanly possible to cash in on the publicity. He or she settled for the option that suggested a switch in racial identity. Hello, and welcome to America. We are uncomfortable talking about race, but we acknowledge that it makes the news. With that in mind, here are some of Kenny Hamilton's tweets!
With that, Hamilton switches back to Spanish. In addition to being loyal to former employers, he is also bilingual. Ultimately, this comment on Bieber's character will probably have the overall effect of entrenching people's opinions even further. If you are anti-Bieber, you could argue that Hamilton may have been bribed or pressured to make these statements, and if you are pro-Bieber, you could use this Twitter-mony to absolve him of all guilt. "Yes, he was dumb when he was fifteen," you could say, "And we can't excoriate him for that."
As for me, my heart aches for the fifteen-year-old Bieber in the video. He made a stupid, racist joke, and while one person was saying, "No," the rest were laughing. Bieber is clearly in the wrong here, but so are the people who laughed. So is the girl who pipes in with her own addition, at the end. There are many things wrong with this moment, but Bieber is the one who will ultimately take the blame. I wish he'd had more sense, and I wish he'd had better friends. Then again, he made the choice to keep telling what was clearly going to be an offensive joke.
In the end, I am sorry that I have to write about this subject, and that the headline "Black Ex-Bodyguard" will draw more attention than "Ex-Bodyguard." I would much rather be writing about systematic inequality based on race and socioeconomic status than about a viral video of a racist joke made by two individuals five years ago. One can only hope that, through all the noise and anger, people will hold themselves and their friends more accountable for both their words and their actions. And, at the end of the day, I hope that Kenny Hamilton has a great time in Colombia!