In an interview during his podcast Pod Save the People, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson chatted with singer Katy Perry. During the interview, Perry brought up her problematic history of appropriating both Black and Asian cultures in past performances and music videos.
Most of Perry’s cultural appropriation occurred a few years back, the most notable ones happening in 2013 during her American Music Awards performance where she blatantly stole and Westernized Japanese culture, and with her 2014 “This Is How We Do” music video, where she utilized and employed hairstyles and negative stereotypes associated with black culture.
The public’s response to the interview generated mixed feelings. Some applauded Perry for acknowledging her past mistakes, while others heavily critiqued the singer for various reasons, some being that she had ulterior motives for doing so due to the recent drop of her album, Witness.
The two-minute video, however, brings up several deeper issues that need to be addressed. First off, nowhere in the video did Katy Perry explicitly apologize to the Black and Japanese women whose culture she appropriated, whereas instead, she offered a simple anecdote of a conversation about the topic happening between a friend and her. “I listened and I heard and I didn’t know,” Perry said, bringing up the fact that as a 32-year-old, white women, she has the privilege to say that at the time, she didn’t know or understand the problem with distastefully misrepresenting and stealing from other cultures under the guise of appreciation. Offering up your lack of awareness as justification isn’t a valid or sincere apology Katy Perry. Especially in a society where while white celebrities have the opportunity to wake up bright and early in the morning to pick and choose which culture they want to steal from today, black girls and women are prevented from obtaining their education because their natural hair is “unacceptable” or they are discriminated against in the workplace.
Social media has a history of commending white people when they exhibit signs of basic human decency because we so often see them exhibit signs of trash behavior. Katy Perry acknowledging her cultural appropriation shouldn’t be granted respect or praise; being able to acknowledge when you’re wrong, take ownership of it, and actively work to not do it again is a trait that should be required of everyone. Katy Perry’s surface-level “apology” isn’t anywhere near sufficient or impressive enough to have even received the amount of attention that it did. So no, we shouldn’t be proud of or salute Katy Perry for this insufficient “apology” of hers and need to stop hyping up white people when they do the bare minimum.