The self-proclaimed “President of Pop” knew he had wronged Janet Jackson and Britney Spears long before the #FreeBritney movement – I just didn’t care

Last Friday my phone started buzzing with text messages, DMs, and emails from friends, family and followers

Following the recent backlash for his treatment of pop superstar Britney Spears in the new documentary Framing Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake took to Instagram not only to apologize to her, but also for another entertainment heavyweight he’s at Has degraded over the years: Janet Jackson

“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments and concerns and want to respond,” he wrote on the post, speaking of how his “missteps” contributed to “a system that condones misogyny and racism”

“I am very sorry for the times in my life when my actions added to the problem, when I did not speak properly or did not speak for what was right”

For anyone who hasn’t followed Timberlake’s antics over the years, this seems like a mature course of action Timberlake was a young, white, privileged man who thrived in a racist and sexist music industry. It was in 2002 when he mocked Spears with the music video for “Cry Me A River,” that the tabloids were on fire with speculation that she cheated on him. Timberlake not only noted the singer’s virginity to the media at the time, but was also busy trying to get blacks Female artists like wife throwing Jackson under the bus

During the infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, “Nipplegate” was born – which led Jackson to face blackballing and excessive criticism in the industry, while Timberlake played the role of the innocent victim. To make matters worse, Timberlake attended the Grammy Awards a week after the incident and accepted a statuette for Best Male Pop Solo Performance for “Cry Me A River” – as protesters outside the ceremony called for the Grammys to exclude Jackson from participating It would take him nearly 20 years to apologize to these two women for the damage he had done to their careers and personal reputations, judging from his lengthy Instagram post, you’d think he wasn’t elsewhere for his white privilege and / or problematic behavior beyond recent calls from the #FreeBritney movement

But that’s not true. I confronted Timberlake on Twitter almost five years ago about its history of cultural appropriation and disregard for Jackson. He didn’t take it very well

It was in June 2016 during the BET Awards that actor Jesse Williams went viral that night when his acceptance speech for the Humanitarian Award in Defense of Black Lives Matter gave voice to a generation of activists separate from the mainstream media Felt misunderstood at the time I was a freelance journalist covering racist injustices and tweeting along with many followers who praised Williams’ timely remarks then stepped into Timberlake and put himself in a black Twitter moment with a rather deaf-mute attempt to join the conversation Timberlake speaks in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and tweeted, “Jesse Williams tho … # Inspired”

I can still remember how upset I was when I saw his tweet Timberlake, who has long appropriated the musical styles and aesthetics of black artists, was once again “inspired” by a black man who exploited black people Creator claimed Timberlake and his “blue-eyed soul” benefited from a racist system where white artists who play R&B took precedence over black artists who invented the genre Timberlake and many others would not have reached such career heights if not their mix of talent , white privilege and racist industry would have preferred them more for their “mainstream” appeal

With all of this in mind, I thought it fair to let Timberlake know how “inspired” he was. Would he talk about his white privilege? Would he take responsibility for the racism Williams spoke of? Would this be the moment he finally recognized how his knowing saved him from facing the same test Janet Jackson had seen over a decade ago?

Instead, Timberlake avoided my questions entirely and decided to condescently refer to me as the “sweet soul” that I read given my public profile as a black queer journalist and / or a southern shadow versus “homophobic” bless your little heart, in any case, his answer to all questions, followed by a “bye”, made it clear to me that he didn’t have time to have a fair conversation about racism in the music industry

In pure Timberlake fashion, he instantly victimized himself. Instead of apologizing to Janet or addressing the issue my tweeted, he tweeted about “responding to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general answer” and how he “shouldn’t have answered anyway”

The next morning, the media covered the exchange, and many found that I was placing too much pressure on Timberlake or asked whether or not it was fair to accuse him of cultural appropriation and online users were quick to sympathize with him, though Black Twitter tore apart its worthy tweets Charlemagne, the god of the breakfast club, made me and others who criticized Timberlake on Twitter the “donkey of the day” while Whoopi Goldberg defended the pop superstar on The View by saying: “We’re all appropriate, my tweets have been posted on various news outlets – even the Daily Show – and many of them refused to name me or claim they were from a legitimate journalist.”

Timberlake had hijacked the narrative again and presented himself as an innocent white man trying to praise a black man for something good until someone got him to respond to something that was “not meant to be a general answer, just like Jackson and Spears I began – to a lesser extent – to see his manipulative routine of “clueless doer” work to his advantage. I was framed as the noisy black guy on Twitter trying to fuck up while becoming the unsung hero who joins a Twitter -Mob hired Oh, cry me a river

It wasn’t until 2018, when Timberlake reappeared as “Man of the Woods” for his new folk album, that he’d deal with the backlash. Timberlake played with this new sober and reflective character, telling music journalist Zane Lowe about Apple’s Beats 1, that his song “Say Something” was traded with country singer Chris Stapleton via our infamous Twitter exchange. Timberlake basically doubled the sacrifice for his new project. Was this his “Cry Me A River” Part 2, only this time because of his failure, his to oppose your own racism?

Timberlake told Lowe in an interview that the lyrics to the song were about expressing yourself, but not getting caught up in the “rhythm” of the song

“I felt awful, you feel awful,” says Timberlake of our exchange. Why did I do this? “

But that’s exactly what he meant Timberlake showed me and the rest of the world exactly who he was to women like Britney Spears and Janet Jackson who endured his horrific press conferences and television interviews in which he repeatedly disregarded their legacy in this Were not “missteps” but deliberate acts that did real harm They were deliberate, they were malicious Timberlake was an opportunist who made the industry flourish at the expense of the misfortunes of others

Britney and Janet had to wait almost two decades for a half-hearted two-for-one apology I still wonder: if Britney’s bombshell documentary had never been released, would Janet have received an apology at all? Because five years ago the answer was a resounding no

Britney Spears

World News – FI – Justin Timberlake revealed his true colors to me