Before not watching Sunday’s Super Bowl, I was engaged in a conversation with Kyla Jenée Lacey, a contributor to The Root, about appropriation. Specifically, we were talking about Indonesian rapper Rich Chigga’s music.
I told her the story of two white women who went on a Christmas road trip and discovered the delicious tortillas served in Puerto Nuevo, Mexico. The women talked to cooks in the town before returning to Portland, Ore., to open their own food truck selling their version of the tortilla recipe.
I explained to Lacey how, in America, you can buy tortillas on every street corner and how Mexican food is like black culture. It has become a part of American culture, so technically, they don’t see themselves as culture vultures or thieves. Hip-hop, like cornrows and tacos, belongs to all of us, so, according to them, they aren’t stealing the recipe, to which Lacey replied:
“But we literally invented the shit!”
It was not a hologram.
Before Justin Timberlake gave America a Dollar Tree, musically muddled version of Bruno Mars’ Great Value version of Michael Jackson during halftime of the Super Bowl, there was some hand-wringing about whether the “Man of the Woods” would dare unleash a hologram of Prince in the Purple One’s hometown of Minneapolis. We knew Prince wasn’t with that bullshit.
Yes, Prince literally said the shit. Luckily, frequent collaborator Sheila E. calmed all our nerves and assured us that Justin Timberlake might be trying to reclaim his white roots, but he was not that far gone. He’d never do something so crazy.
We exhaled in the same manner we did when white women assured us before Election Day that they wouldn’t be voting for the insane-clown pussy grabber for president. Disaster averted. Of course, J.T. would never do such a thing.
After all, Timberlake has built a career wading waist-deep through black music. He respected the art form and the culture. He was simply influenced by it and would never show any disrespect to the people from whom he had so lightly pilfered his style. I’m sure his arms were tired from throwing Janet Jackson under the bus, so there was no reason for him to cross the line.
Look, ma’am, it was not a hologram!
A hologram is defined as “a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser or other coherent light source.” Sure, you could see it from every angle in the stadium, which makes it three-dimensional. Yes, it was formed by projecting a light source. But it was not a hologram, because ... well ...
Why y’all gotta be so technical?
It was a tribute.
I know you’re probably saying: But a tribute is defined as “an act, statement or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect or admiration,” so not respecting Prince Nelson Rogers’ wishes is the opposite of a tribute, but you are forgetting one thing:
It was the Super Bowl.
Isn’t this what this football season, the entire NFL and America have always been about?
Isn’t this a perfect end to a season that took black lives and used them for the spectacle of sport? That took a nonviolent, peaceful protest against injustice and inequality and fashioned it into a hodgepodge of bullshit about the troops, the flag and a 250-year-old racist song?
Can’t you see the beautiful analogy of a white boy gleefully moonwalking in vintage Jordans singing in falsetto to songs that would have appeared on what Billboard called its “Black Music” chart until 1990?
Isn’t it appropriate how the “not a hologram” took place in the shadow of where the 4-year-old daughter of Philando Castile’s girlfriend watched his brains and skull litter the sidewalk while America said what happened to him “wasn’t a murder”?
That they said kneeling during the anthem “wasn’t respectful,” but a Super Bowl commercial appropriating the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who railed against American capitalism, was “a tribute”?
To be honest, I hate that I missed it. I would have loved to see it, if for nothing else but to remind myself that I am a hologram, too. To them, nothing black is real, only shadows and light meant for touchdowns, target practice and prancing around on stages.
It all belongs to them. We belong to them. Therefore the theft of our culture, art, words and very lives should never be referred to as appropriation or theft ...