By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid
I think the question, “Who the **** Is Esperanza Spalding?” is getting a rather thorough answer since her Grammy win: incredible jazz instrumentalist/vocalist whose game is recognized by Prince, POTUS Obama, and the Portland Jazz Festival.
And, Best New Artist nominee/competitor Justin Bieber’s answer to the question is: “…and a mixed-race woman who has a pettable afro.”
I first saw the offense on my Tumblr dashboard–and reblogged it: (click on the link if the animated GIF below doesn’t work):
Which came from this source (the “petting” starts at :21):
I guess Usher and nem (yeah, I’m considering Bieber’s mom as a part of “nem”) didn’t school young Bieber on this cardinal rule:
Let alone on the Presumptuous Hand Action, which is what he did.
I thought Spalding was rather gracious about the incident but, as quite a few of us afro-rocking Black women have had to be after such a personal space-invading move least, as one Tumblizen remarked, we “get pegged as an Angry Black Woman”…but in that animated GIF, Spalding looked like she made a split-second decision not to cut Bieber.
Of course, the media has made much of the fact that some of Justin Bieber’s fans hacked Spalding’s wiki page due to the upset. And she was a trending topic on Twitter, much of it from said Bieber fans–and perhaps fans of the other artists who lost to Spalding–who were fuming over it three days later. Though no one’s articulated it yet, the attacks have a strangely racialized element to it, namely that the vitriol around a white man losing to a woman of color and how quickly those who identify with that privilege come to defend it by shredding those who challenge it. Just has a certain Tea-Party, “they’re taking our…” contour in the shade-throwing. So, Bieber’s touching Spalding’s hair–regardless of the complimentary intention behind it–and the vituperations towards her win are linked in the exercise of white privilege: both attempt to made Spalding an object to touch and to dismiss (if not erase) her as a talented person.
In light of this incident, the “who the **** is Esperanza Spalding” question gets replaced with simply with “what the ****?”