Bruno Mars has an extensive resume in the music industry. He’s made hits in the pop, funk, R&B, and soul genres, so it seemed fitting that he opened for the biggest awards show for African Americans and people of color in the entertainment industry, the BET awards.
But there’s just one thing missing from the resume of the half-Puerto Rican, half-Filipino who was born and raised in Hawaii: appropriating black culture.
Jenn M. Jackson, the Managing Editor of Black Youth Project and a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, took to Twitter to air her thoughts about the “24K Magic” singer.
I really need y'all to stop with this Bruno Mars praise and be more critical about the ways we understand appropriation.— Jenn M. Jackson (@JennMJack) June 25, 2017
To highlight some of the tweets in her thread, Jackson believes that Mars (born Peter Gene Hernandez) is a non-black person of color who feels that making black music is economically productive.
“These claims that Bruno Mars is bringing Funk back’ are erasive to Black Funk artists who pioneered the tradition. FUNK. NEVER. LEFT.” She writes. “Yes, he gives ‘credit’ to Funk artists on occasion. He also has a primarily white audience which has no memory or care for Black artists. In Bruno’s case, ‘bringing Funk back’ essentially means, ‘Funk was a Black thing and now I gave it to white people.’ That’s appropriation.”
She then called out Eminem, Justin Timberlake, and Robin Thicke for appropriating black culture, too. However, everyone gave them passes.
What Jackson seems to be looking for is more criticism from fans demanding that he give more credit to black funk artists, but she already conceded that Mars gives credit to those artists already who inspired him.
This did not sit well with many Bruno fans, who follow his career enough to know what he’s said and done.
girl WHO ARE YOU? why are you so bitter over Bruno's success? he acknowledges the help of black artists.— kaiden (@hypebruno) June 25, 2017
Jackson’s criticism is indicative of the social justice mentality. Social justice warriors find microaggressions in everything under the sun. They’re no longer thinking rationally about society’s real ills. Instead, they focus on abstract issues that doesn’t move the needle towards making our society more just and fair for everyone.
To borrow a line from the rapper Murs who wrestled with this very same issue back in 2004 on the song “And this is for…” and came to the realization that “good music transcends all physical limits.”
If you’re passionate about making a specific genre of music, it shouldn’t matter what color you are. You should make music and let the free market decide if it’s a product that resonates with others.
Watch Bruno Mars’ opening performance at the 2017 BET awards and decide for yourself if he deserves to be on stage.