Justin Timberlake and Black Twitter Face Off About Jesse Williams’ Speech at the 2016 BET Awards

But can we focus on the bigger picture, please?

Jesse Williams won the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards Sunday (June 26), and he gave a hella woke speech about cultural appropriation, police brutality and Black injustice in the United States. It was poignant, powerful and set Twitter ablaze.

Justin Timberlake was one of many people moved by the speech. After Williams’ sermon, the 35-year-old singer tweeted, “@iJesseWilliams tho…#Inspired #BET2016.” That’s harmless enough, but it’s what Timberlake said next that has Black Twitter up in arms.

Huffington Post writer Ernest Owens responded to Timberlake’s “#Inspired” speech with sharp criticism of the pop star’s appropriating past. (A heavy portion of Timberlake’s discography is R&B-influenced.) “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet [Jackson] too. #BETAwards,” Owens tweeted. (Timberlake evaded much of the criticism for his 2004 Super Bowl Halftime performance with Jackson that led to that infamous wardrobe malfunction.)

Timberlake responded to Owens, “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”

Many Black Twitter users thought Timberlake’s response was condescending, and they let him know it. Check out a few of the pointed reactions.

Timberlake obviously felt the heat, because he later sent out a series of apology tweets.

Is Timberlake missing the point? Yes. This type of erasure rhetoric is exactly what ables the appropriation Williams criticized in his speech. However, we should still cut him some slack. JT meant no harm by what he said, and he also apologized for sticking his foot in his mouth. That takes guts. We’re human. We make mistakes. What separates the good guys from the bad guys is the ability to cop to those mistakes, which Timberlake did.

Plus, harping on this minor Twitter tête-à-tête trivializes Williams’ speech to a single instance. There is a greater picture here–bigger than Timberlake. Let’s focus on fixing the issues Williams discussed and not turn them into tabloid fodder.