Think Before You Speak

Indian? Perhaps. Inuit? Maybe. Ignorant? Without a doubt… (Source: Shutterstock c/o Huffington Post)

Okay, so call me late to the party, if you must.  But to be honest, I wasn’t even going to comment on the recent gaffe committed by Justin Bieber regarding his aboriginal heritage.  It didn’t seem worth noting considering…it’s only Justin Bieber.

But then, a couple of things hit me today.

The first was the fact that it’s Justin Bieber.  Harmless?  Not in the least.  This young man’s influence has grown worldwide, and ignorance – no matter how innocent it may appear in an off-the-cuff response – is not bliss.

The second was reading an article in the Winnipeg Free Press by Colleen Simard, Let’s cut the Biebs some slack.  Go ahead…read it.  I’ll wait here.

While Ms. Simard does make some valid points, the fact remains that there is something seriously wrong with an eighteen year old that does not know his heritage, yet feels the need to joke about it.  I mean, that’s like converting to Judaism for the jokes, am I right?  Jerry Seinfeld would agree, I think.

Let me clarify, before anyone jumps down my throat here.  I recognize that some families do not know their full heritage.  At that point, it absolutely makes sense that an eighteen year old would not know much about their background.  However, if one is “part Indian” or “Inuit or something”, it might be prudent for said individual to perhaps do a little digging into their family history to confirm that fact.  Not only that, but last I heard, aboriginal groups didn’t always get along with each other – so which is it?  “Indian” or Inuit?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain – he didn’t use the “E” word to describe Inuit, at least.

Maybe all the “Inuit or something” folks that I’m acquainted with are pleased that Bieber has made an attempt to identify with them – but then, perhaps not.  I think I’d be happier for a better role model.

Simard states that “anyone who believes aboriginal people get a free ride isn’t very educated.”  Might I remind you, Ms. Simard, that many of Justin’s fans are young, impressionable teens?  Younger even, than he is?  And I’m just going to put it out there – I don’t think that the educational system is making it very well-known that aboriginal people aren’t getting a free ride.  There is still a great deal of people who believe this very idea.  I mean, considering the number of Tweets I see on a regular basis where the biggest concern over Nunavut from Canadian students equates to how annoying it is to colour on a map in Geography class, I hardly think his fans are concerned over knowing the truth about the myth of the aboriginal “free ride”.

From what I recall of being eighteen, and forgive me because it was quite some time ago, there were a lot of expectations put on those of us on the cusp of adulthood.  I was in the final years of high school, ready to step out into the world to make something of myself.  In a short time, I would be going off to university, making my own mistakes, my own decisions and my own choices.  Perhaps I didn’t always make the right ones, but I also didn’t have millions of fans around the world hanging on to my every word.  If that were the case, I think I’d have ensured that I did my homework before making statements to major media outlets.

“C’mon, cut the Biebs some slack. He is, after all, just a kid,” insists Simard.

Here’s the thing…he’s not just a kid.  He’s eighteen now – in the eyes of the law, he can be tried as an adult for any crime he might decide to commit.  He can buy lottery tickets (not that he needs to).  He can vote.  I’d say that the “just a kid” excuse won’t fly.  And considering just how worldly he is in comparison to others his age, I’d say the excuse is even less valid.

Hannah Taylor founded the Ladybug Foundation to teach others about the plight of the homeless at the age of eight.  Craig Kielburger founded Free the Children after learning of child labour around the world at the age of twelve.

Just a kid, indeed.

Perhaps this is the reason I can’t stomach ignorance from an eighteen year old – particularly one who has such influence.  Perhaps looking to a pop star to be a role model for intelligence is asking a little too much, but I’d have much more respect for Bieber if he’d own up to his ignorance and set the record straight…not just for the aboriginal groups that he painted with such a wide brush, but for himself.


11 thoughts on “Think Before You Speak

  1. In an ironic twist, I am commenting without full facts of what he said. Lately I’ve noticed what seems to be the return of the cyclical fad Vine DeLoria Jr. referred to as the “Cherokee Indian Princess grandmother” myth.

    I know even less of Bieber’s heritage than he does,but it wouldn’t surprise me much if there were some trend leveraging going on. Princess myths would play well to his fan base.

  2. Yeah, I agree with Oma. He should be more aware of his influence. Whether he likes it or not, he is a role model of sorts to his fans. They will (blindly) follow his lead. It’s not cool to be ignorant.

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