Over the weekend, Katy Perry ruffled some feathers with an offhanded comment she made about Barack Obama during an Instagram live video. Background: The singer is sporting a new, blonde haircut — a serious departure even from some of her more extravagant colored wigs. Even for regular civilians, such a drastic change warrants some social media comments. So it’s no surprise that when Perry went live on Instagram over the weekend, a commenter said “I miss your old, black hair.” What no one expected was Perry's sarcastic response, “Awww, really? Do you miss Barack Obama as well? Okay. Times change. Bye.” Even she registered the ridiculousness of her comments and cut the video short, with the encouragement of her friends. As for the rest of the internet? They weren’t particularly happy.
The dragging commenced almost immediately with people calling her comments “in poor taste,” cringe-worthy, and “gross.” The situation also stirred producer Mano, who has worked with the likes of the Weeknd, to recount a personal experience with Perry. According to a tweet that Mano — who is Black — posted in 2013, she referred to him “her n---a” in an attempt to relate to him. And while people are using Perry’s comments about Obama to insist that she’s canceled, Mano’s experience is the reason I know it’s not true.
White women, especially if they identify on any part of the feminist spectrum, always get a pass on being problematic with regards to race. Neither Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, nor Rebel Wilson have missed out on a single endorsement or opportunity for being lazy on race. Madonna called her son the n-word on Instagram and was still cheered when she popped her butt on “Carpool Karaoke.” Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t think she owed anyone an explanation as she sang all the words to Kanye and Jay Z’s “N***s In Paris.” Beyoncé is her best friend, after all.
Despite the layers of racially charged themes at play in Perry's comment: hair, which is still highly politicized, the word ‘black’ itself, and our first Black president — I’d like to state for the record that I wasn’t particularly offended. If anything, I thought it was a mean response to someone who was expressing fondness for the hair color that defined Katy Perry for years. I don’t like to be reminded that the only president who could ever rock 360-degree waves has moved on, leaving Trump to take his place. Was Perry’s comment annoying? Yep. Totally not funny? Absolutely. Maybe even a little rude? I think so. Cause for outrage? Not really. Moments like these are often a slippery slope; not everyone agrees on what crosses the line in terms of racial insensitivity — or worse.
I didn’t hear a peep about the art for Perry’s new single with Migos, where her head is being served on a platter while the hands of Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff reach out to it. It couldn’t be a more obvious example of Black men literally consuming white women. And I found her use of the n-word with Mano to be completely unacceptable, especially since he expressed his discomfort to her, and she remained steadfast in defending her cultural crossover. Had these comments come from a politician, or even a more conservative pop star, these stories would have probably made more headlines. But alas, when you support Hillary and make music for young women, people find it in their hearts to look the other way.