Dear Justin Timberlake,
As a proud stan for 17 years, I feel like we have the kind of relationship in which we can be honest with each other. I mean, I stuck with you during the Britney Spears years, the cornrows and the decades-long hellatuses between albums. I traveled to NYC for the release of your first solo album and I saw you on your last tour FIVE times in two different states. Sometimes I worry that I'm on some sort of list.
But I can't worry about that when reports are swirling that you are close to becoming the official half-time act for the 2018 Super Bowl.
Please understand when I say the following:
You seem like a reasonable celebrity hellbent on world domination, so I'm sure you'll appreciate these receipts:
You don’t get political…and the NFL is a minefield right now. Thanks to Sunkist Satan’s horrifically racist comments and now actions, he has managed to shift an all-but-forgotten about police brutality protest started by now blackballed ex-player-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick into a debate patriotism and forced allegiance to the flag. Despite donating to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the occasional benefit concert, you’ve generally avoided emphatic statements about politics and race (which I don't have a huge problem with). And when you tried, it hasn’t ended well.
Now just participating in the NFL’s biggest event is a very real political statement you may not be ready to make and will invite questions you may not be equipped to answer (Psst: All lives matter isn't the answer). You pick up choreography damn fast, so follow your friend Jay Z's move, and sit this one out. I'd prefer you take a knee.
There’s no reason to do it. It's one thing when people know you sans last name. It's another entirely when you're identified solely by initials. JT, you have wheelbarrows of Emmys and Grammys. You were nominated for an Oscar this year. You still hold the record for the most physical copies of an album sold in a single week. I can pick out your voice and bucket-playing in the background of "'Yonce."
Performing at the Super Bowl won't further your career, especially when it’ll be under the judgy spotlight of protests and Trump tweets. Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is nothing. You could just release a new song instead. Or guest-star on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Leave the Super Bowl half-time show to the Left Sharks and country stars.
You made a movie with Woody Allen, an infamously alleged rapist. You will have enough uncomfortable questions during promotion for Wonder Wheel. You’re on your own with that one, dude.
People still haven’t forgotten your last Super Bowl performance. No one remembers the outcome of the 2004 Super Bowl, because the half-time performance ended with Janet Jackson’s bare breast. Like everything else, when you fuck up, you do it BIG. While I will always think the ramifications of one bare breast flashed on stage for .3 seconds was incredibly overblown, I can’t deny that time has allowed me the fully grasp the racial and sexual implications of that unfortunate “wardrobe malfunction" and the consequences afterwards. Unless Miss Jackson is joining you on that stage, stay the hell away from it.
You should know better. Even as a lifetime fan, I can’t deny that your staggering success can at least partly be attributed to your white male privilege. As a white man who has built a career off of performing R&B, you don’t get to be ignorant. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t appreciate and make millions off of black music but ignore or side-step the mistreatment of black and brown people in this country. You are better than the Miley Cyruses and Katy Perrys and Kim Kardashians, who wear offensive, exploit and profit from offensive caricatures of blackness while ignoring the very grim realities and struggles. I’ve expect more of you and I've always gotten it. Now is not the time to drop the ball. I am a black woman before I am a fan of yours.
That’s my only allegiance.