Remember when Jennifer Lopez dropped the 2001 “I’m Real” murder remix with Ja Rule that featured the inexcusable line “I tell them n-ggas, mind their biz, but they don’t hear me though”? In 2016, that would be like Selena Gomez jumping on a track with Future and proclaiming she tells them n-ggas mind their biz about her and Justin Beiber. Now imagine if Black Twitter existed back in the early 2000s when black passes were handed out more freely than condoms at a health clinic. J. Lo would’ve never gotten a chance to become Jenny from the Block; she’d still be on that block because the critics would’ve ended her career with rapid aggression.
But that’s not what happened in our pre-social media world. Save for a few questions from radio personalities about the proud Puerto Rican entertainer’s “right” to use the n-word, this notable incident of the singer getting way too comfortable with the fame and acceptance her relationship with Diddy bought her among the black community went largely unchecked. And here we are in 2016 looking at one of the most influential — and the highest paid — Latinos in the entertainment industry proclaiming all lives matter.
J. Lo made that declaration on Twitter in an attempt to promote her new single “Love Makes the World Go Round,” which she performed on “Today” Monday with Lin-Manuel Miranda in front of 50 survivors of the tragic Orlando Shooting at Pulse nightclub and their families.
But that wasn’t the first or only time, J. Lo used the controversial “All Lives Matter” hashtag, which is universally understood among African Americans as a slap in the face in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But even though J. Lo wasn’t called to task for her behavior back in 2001, since that time she’s widely been regarded as a shape shifter who assumes the stereotypical characteristics of whatever race benefits her career at the time. Hence the “black” Jennifer Lopez period during her relationship with Diddy, the whitewashed romcom version of Jenny we witnesses while she was with Ben Afflack, and el orgullo latina Jennifer who married Marc Anthony. As one critic charged on IG: “You’re like a chameleon. You wanna be black when it’s convenient and you can make a dollar “Jenny from the block.”
Honestly, I never understood why Jennifer Lopez got a pass for that n-word stint 15 years ago, and I’m not lying when I say I thought her silence on the Black Lives Matter movement was questionable even before she aligned herself with the wrong hashtag. As a woman of color who has directly profited off of the talent, promotion, and fiscal support of African-Americans (and black men specifically) her refusal to denounce the systemic racism that led to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and her divisive and dismissive use of the #AllLivesMatter hashtag during this time does nothing to disprove longstanding criticisms that she is in fact “urban” when she wants to be. And that’s simply not okay when black people carried the singer and actress before the Latino community even did. But we won’t talk about how Mexicans didn’t even want the Puerto Rican Bronx native to play Tejano singer Selena in the biopic of the same name. And yet we’re the ones who thought her crop top and bandanna ensemble at the VMAs with Diddy in 2000 was cute.
It’s not enough for J. Lo to have deleted her controversial tweet. She needs to explain why she thought it appropriate to begin with and why she hasn’t taken any measurable stance against police brutality in our community. It’s interesting how President Obama spoke to the disproportionate policing of black and Latino men that occurs in the wake of Sterling and Castile’s deaths — two black men — while the Latino community, which Jennifer Lopez represents, largely remains silent on the subject. There are a lot of times when inclusivity is a good thing, when it comes to the sentiment that all lives matter when all lives aren’t being murdered, it’s counterproductive. And this time I refuse to give J. Lo a pass.