Let Bruno Live

Still from Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic music video (2016)

…but lest we forget, the phenomenon in this country of choosing the preferred minority is alive and well.

Just hours before music artist Bruno Mars took the stage of the annual Black Entertainment Television awards show, Twitter user Jenn M. Jackson (@JennMJack) said

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

Appropriation, by my definition — as an artist, is the claim and presentation of a tangible or intangible form of expression with no reference to the originator or inspiration. It’s swagga jackin’, it’s copying, it’s plagiarism, and it can turn foul. Many in on the conversation on Twitter seem to believe that Bruno Mars is either thee prime or seriously invalid example of the appropriation of Black culture. I personally believe that some of his fame is the result of a convenient popularity contest with anti-Blackness and blue eye soul as its biggest voter. So, I would say I fall in line with the more “prime example folks,” but I still say let him live.

Someone once told me the sad and not completely true joke that ‘the only thing white folks invented was the copyright office.’ Blasphemy. I’ve spent a large percentage of my life in school, so I recall the excessive number of years spent learning MLA, APA and parenthetical citations. All this so that I wouldn’t fail English in high school, be yanked from my university or have my graduate degree funding snatched in the event that I failed to note that some John or Jane said some thing I referenced. Was it not really that important?

But Bruno isn’t white and he doesn’t claim to be Black. I remember rocking to When I was Your Man, and shamefully feeding my curiosity as to “what” Bruno Mars was. I found out that Peter Gene Hernandez is the son of a half-Latino/half-Jewish father and a Filipino mother which to me didn’t add up to Blackity Black. Mkay, but the man is brown, a POC AND he openly expresses that his musical inspiration stems from many Black artists. Let him live. This still didn’t prevent me from doing a double take after hearing this man sing “Throw some perm on your attitude. Girl, you gotta to relax.” Pause. Big pause. This speaks to an internal cultural taboo that is often dismissed or unbeknownst to an appropriator.

So what is Bruno Mars to do to appease the people? Nothing differently, really. Jenn M. Jackson’s anti-Bruno tweets inspired both support and rejection of her thoughts. Do I really care if Bruno wins? I care not. But I will say that Bruno’s success and some of the cries of appropriation stem from a sense of powerlessness consistently faced by Black people in this country from the music industry to the courtroom. There is a growing popularity of the preferred minority or POC- of inability to be Black if Black. It’s exemplified by the erasure that is R&B’s transition to pop. It’s also clear because of the necessary screams that “Black Lives Matter” both in your favorite song and during a traffic stop. These things speak to my point that it can be upsetting when voices don’t get heard and when credit isn’t given. Bruno isn’t the leader in this plight, but he is certainly along for the joy ride.

I’ll end this with a random: Solange if you see this, hey girl hey!!!!