“Whaaaaaat, Bruno Mars ain’t Black?” That was my first thought when I heard about the appropriation scandal. Of course, I know that Bruno Mars isn’t Black . . . technically; but come-on I know I saw him at the cookout at least three times. He even won the Spades tournament a couple of years ago. Seriously though, the race-situation is becoming blurrier by the day; and people who are non-White are bonded by the racism in America. Bruno most certainly ain’t White (his dad is Puerto Rican).
I then was somewhat annoyed by the accusation. “Don’t we Black folks, we Americans, have enough issues already that we don’t have to look for new ones? We don’t have time for the petty. We are too busy dealing with the real. Especially when #45 jump-ropes using my last nerves on a daily basis.
I also reasoned that Bruno has always given props to Black musicians. He said in an interview last year:
ON “BLACK MUSIC”: “When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag. I’m a child raised in the ’90s. Pop music was heavily rooted in R&B from Whitney, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, TLC, Babyface, New Edition, Michael, and so much more. As kids this is what was playing on MTV and the radio. This is what we were dancing to at school functions and BBQs. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these artists who inspired me. They have brought me so much joy and created the soundtrack to my life filled with memories that I’ll never forget. Most importantly, they were the superstars that set the bar for me and showed me what it takes to sing a song that can get the whole world dancing, or give a performance that people will talk about forever. Watching them made me feel like I had to be as great as they were in order to even stand a chance in this music business. You gotta sing as if Jodeci is performing after you and dance as if Bobby Brown is coming up next.”
Lastly I thought, perhaps arrogantly, that it would be tough to create music without mimicking Black folks. We are the Alpha and the Omega in this arena.
But, later, when I was driving down one of the Sequoia lined backroads in Northern California, my mind was turning over a conversation I had that morning with a marketing person about how my blog, Beatnik24, may negatively affect HR professionals from continuing to hire me for Diversity & Inclusion trainings. I know many majority diversity and inclusion trainers who say many of the things that I write about in my blog – and who are applauded for their “authentic take.” Boom! Then it hit me and I got it (funny how perspective changes when the issue becomes personal) — a message is received and viewed differently dependent on who is delivering the message. If I speak about White privilege, for instance, I will be viewed by some as hostile, or adversarial; but if a White woman speaks about White privilege she will be viewed by some as insightful and cutting edge.
Bruno Mars may have a “look” that makes him more marketable (acceptable) to a broader audience than some artists. Being racially ambiguous may have opened some doors, hearts and ears for him that other talented (or even more talented) artists would like entrance into. Many women don’t get listened to at work the same way men do; or younger employees ideas may get chosen over an older employee’s ideas (or vice versa). This dynamic is not fair—no doubt.
But why should we be angry with Bruno? I’m not angry with the White women who deliver the same message that I deliver with better results because it isn’t their fault. It is a product of our divided society of institutionalized racism. So, I will continue to write about sensitive topics on my blog; just as Bruno Mars should continue sing whatever he is inspired to sing. He shouldn’t be kept hostage by the ills of our society anymore than any of us should.