As the story surrounding Ahmaud Arbery’s death continues to make its rounds in the news cycle, African-Americans, rich, broke, and in-between, are throwing their couple of pennies in the discussion. LeBron James, itching to be at the forefront of many non-sports related issues, put out his statement. That spurred Fox Sports commentator Jason Whitlock. Fresh out of Twitter jail, Candace Owens came out swinging. Recently, Roc Nation stalwarts Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Meek Mill, and Yo Gotti let their stances be known. Singer and songwriter Lizzo is the latest to chime in.
The Detroit native, whose 2019 release Cuz I Love You was a Platinum-selling success, went to Instagram to voice her opinion on the Ahmaud Arbery shooting:
“I haven’t spoken on politics online in a while because it feels like screaming into a void, but I think while we are changing as a nation we should be paying attention and making positive change. Love y’all.
“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we always talk about how our system is broken, but it’s not broken. The system is actually working in favor of white supremacy”
“If anything we need to break this system, so that we can build a new system that is founded on equality. We have a long way to go before that happens and these tragedies that continue to happen—we have to make noise. Let’s put justice in our own hands.”
“You know you grow up, and you go to school for a little bit, and they teach you that there’s one America, and then you learn that there’s another America. And I’ve been heartbroken about it for most of my life. This is an outright, slow genocide since the 1860s.”
“That is the only way that the system breaks is that the people that the system is working for, stop functioning in it, and the system malfunctions because it no longer serves white supremacy.”
“I would love to see white male allyship. Yes the system works supremely in your favor, but compassion, empathy, have a heart. Do something for somebody else. Step outside of your comfort zone and save a life.”
“I just feel like Black people, I wanted to lift you up right now because we have to continue to watch these tragedies happen in real-time to people who look like us. It is heartbreaking.”
On the surface, this is a great philanthropic message, in hopes that people will listen, shed a tear, and take action against a cruel societal structure that serves white people. However, when you consider the growing number of celebrities speaking on society’s issues (plights that overwhelmingly do not affect them), there is an argument to be made for not speaking on them at all. You cannot please two distinctly different audiences without alienating one or the other.
Today, fans expect more from their celebrity heroes. Showcasing one’s craft at a high level is not good enough. Musicians must sing, rap, dance, write, be a fashion icon, be a political pundit, and offer a myriad of opinions unrelated to their field of expertise. Silence is compliance, right? Lizzo, much like LeBron, felt the social media pressure to speak out on issues in the African-American community and be a zealot for change. They want to use their platform for a good cause, but because of their lack of knowledge on a particular subject, lack of information, or lack of proximity to the issues they are addressing they inadvertently cause more damage. What African-American celebrities do not realize, or do not care to realize, is that there are more knowledgable voices in social justice, economic, and political arenas than themselves. In the Arbery case, the opinions of law enforcement officials should hold more merit than the opinions of a musician. Instead of making a bold Instagram post, celebrities should funnel some of their audience to the pages of these experts.
Lizzo tries to be a social warrior of justice to her African-American audience while she is simultaneously getting paid by her non-Black audience. White people have largely generated sales for many black musicians for decades now. Beyonce routinely sells more records and generates more revenue from European nations than she does in the States. Lizzo’s discography reveals a somewhat similar narrative. By bringing white supremacy into the discussion about Arbery, she is potentially alienating the part of her fanbase that allows her to live the blessed lifestyle that she enjoys. Furthermore, the Arbery discussion is becoming further diluted with topics that do not pertain to the murder itself, thanks in part to Lizzo’s Instagram video.
Lizzo, like many African-American celebrities in the entertainment sphere, is pulled into the Twitter-fueled ideology that she must speak out against injustice. She is trying to stand up for the Black culture while she sings and dances for (and gets paid by) the White culture. “No man can serve two masters...Ye cannot serve God and mammon”.