Be brave and critique what you loveBy Samaria Johnson | 11/10/2014 12:00am
Over the weekend, Nicki Minaj, in conjunction with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Drake, released a lyric video full of Nazi imagery. The parallels aren’t even a stretch; in fact, they are quite blatant. The symbols, the banners, the color scheme, the characters – everything in the video directly references Nazi Germany. I’ll readily admit I’m partial to Nicki Minaj. I admire her spirit and I respect her hustle, but she messed up. Nicki might not have been in charge of her video’s creative direction – the person ultimately responsible for this unforgivable act of anti-Semitism would be one Jeffrey Osborne, for the record – but it’s her name on her work, and therefore Nicki is culpable as well.
We have a habit of placing our favorites on pedestals. We’ll forgive a lot of people if we love them; the same goes for our favorite books, movies, shows and the like. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is a difference between “I love them, so I’ll overlook all of their mistakes” and “I love them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll let them get away with anything and everything.” It’s important to recognize when someone or something is in the wrong. If you can’t get enough of Lena Dunham’s show “Girls” and have her new memoir on your Amazon Christmas wish list, remind yourself that Lena compared parts of her relationship with her sister to that of a sexual predator taking advantage of a young girl. Feel free to crush on Michael Fassbender so hard you’ll sit through every movie he’s in, regardless of how much you actually like it, but don’t pretend he’s the best; he’s on record for severe violence against an ex-girlfriend.
There are lesser evils, so to speak, that celebrities have done or said, because no one is perfect and that expectation is wholly unfair. Sometimes ignorance isn’t malicious; sometimes mistakes are symptoms of typical-but-fixable immaturity and so on. Intentions don’t excuse consequences, of course, but sometimes I can understand where someone is coming from. That said, we should not get so comfortable in our affection for something that we fail to be honest; yes, One Direction is full of beautiful, talented boys, but yes, the fan base could do without their many lyrics about male entitlement to girls’ affections. And if you’re so caught up in something that you justify blatant racism, misogyny, queerphobia, classism or any other sort of discrimination rather than using those problems as learning experiences and working to correct them, then you’re part of the problem as well. You’re continuing the perpetuation of abuse and exploitation of others by failing to challenge those things.
If you love something (or someone), then be brave enough to call it out when it’s in the wrong. I do my best not to judge the journey, but the point of being on a journey is to keep growing. Burying well-deserved criticism in accolades won’t do the world any good. If your fave is problematic, own up to that. I’ll never skip “Anaconda” when it pops up on shuffle, true. But in a conversation about casual instances of anti-Semitism in American pop culture, that’s never going to come up. It’s irrelevant and it’s harmful. Love thy neighbor, indeed.
Samaria Johnson is a senior majoring in history. Her column runs biweekly.