It’s reggaeton star J. Balvin’s turn to get dragged severely for his apparent throw-away comments about global superstar Rihanna. While playing a game of “F*@k, Marry, Kill” with Brazilian vlogger Sir Kazzio, Balvin said about the Barbadian beauty, “Rihanna isn’t a good woman to marry, just fool around.” Catch the comment at about the 4:20 mark.
Oh, the irony that a man that has made millions coopting a Afro-Carribean art form (reggaeton) chose to talk smack about an Afro-Carribean pop star. Right? It’s so tired and typical that it’s annoying to even have to point out how stupid it is. Of course, Balvin has since apologized but it doesn’t erase the fact that he is reinforcing horrible stereotypes about Black women in Latin America that we NEED to be done with. There is a saying in Brazil: “Branca para casar, mulata para fornicar, negra para trabalhar.” Which literally translates to, “White women for marriage, mulata women for sex, black women for work,” so we can’t spend our lives with our heads in the sand pretending like these kind of statements are acceptable and light-hearted or taken out of context.
What makes his comment even MORE dumb is that he’s basically professed his love for Rihanna before, as evidenced by this perfect receipt found and posted on Twitter:
In a statement released by his reps, Balvin apologized for the slight:
“Balvin has the utmost respect for Rihanna, which he has stated multiple times in interviews – repeatedly naming her as one of the artists he would most like to work with one day. In this particular case, which is being taken out of context by some, a Brazilian video Blog interview requested he answer two rounds of Kiss, Marry, Kill. J Balvin lightheartedly choose his two recent ‘Machika’ collaborators Anitta and Jeon as his ‘Marry’ responses because he knows each of them well – leaving only the ‘kiss’ or ‘kill responses remaining. He would no more wish to show any type of disrespect to Rihanna, as he would wish harm on the other names presented.”
It would be easier to accept the apology and just move on if this were the first time a white Latinx pop star had said something problematic about a Black peer, but considering the fact that Camila Cabello was caught out using the n-word, specifically in reference to her former Fifth Harmony bandmate Normani Kordie and the only thing she had to say about it was that she is going to avoid social media in the future because, “There’s no way to live life without making mistakes or saying the wrong thing,” I’m not sure how much hope there is for some of these folks to wake up and smell the privilege they’ve been raised with.
Up Up and coming singer Sabrina Claudio was also exposed for using the n-word recently and referring to a lower-class brown fan as a “sweaty chonga.” But at the very least, she issued what seemed to be a more sincere apology, writing on Twitter, “I am deeply sorry for the insensitive words I’ve used…I’ve made mistakes and while I cannot take them back, I will learn from them.”
Last but not least, how can we forget Selena Gomez and how she so easily dismissed the #BlackLivesMatter movement as a hashtag activism that couldn’t “save lives,” in a distorted attempt to defend her friend Taylor Swift who had been caught red-handed lying about a Black man (Kanye West) and whether or not he had asked permission to use her in one of his new songs.
I’m not saying that all of these folks are the worst people on the planet, but I am saying that there is a pervasive anti-Black sentiment in the Latinx community that needs to be regularly addressed instead of ignored, or worse, accepted. We need to hold our pop stars accountable for their actions, whether that means not listening to their music, or calling them out on social media when they clearly cross a line. If they’re not forced to be responsible for their attitudes, be they subconscious or intentional, then how do we expect to address the even more insidious and hidden racism that so many of our AfroLatinx brothers and sisters face day-to-day?