The only time I ever met Usher was at his very first album release party in 1994. At the time, I was working for NARAS (The Grammy Awards) and Usher was just a child with great talent; not much older than Justin Bieber in the video above. That is to say, I remember what Usher was like as a child, before the stardom and without ever engaging in ANY of the Justin Bieber foolishness in the intervening years.
Recently on social media, Usher offered the following in response to Justin Bieber's controversial videos:
At my core, I am a person that supports growth and understands without judgment, that growth often comes as a result of pain and continues effort. As I have watched Justin Bieber navigate difficult waters as a young man, I can tell you that he hasn't always chosen the path of his greatest potential, but he is unequivocally not a racist.
Usher, in an attempt to protect his investment better known as Justin Bieber, employs the use of the classic tool of the straw man.
A straw man is a flawed argumentation technique based on the misrepresentation of the issue. It is answering a question not asked and/or making a claim not in contention.
In today's world it is convention to label people as "racists," categorizing people with respect to behavior. All-too-often, people misalign any "racially offensive behavior" with being a "racist." From Paula Deen to Donald Sterling and now Justin Bieber, the straw man argument revolves around debunking whether (insert celebrity name) is a "racist." When you fall into the trap, you've already missed the point.
Stop missing the point.
The deflection and misrepresentation are designed to get us to debate whether the offender in question passes some ridiculous and impossible litmus test of being categorized as a racist, short of white sheets and lynchings. Accordingly as the straw man argument continues, if (x person) doesn't rise to the level of being an actual racist (i.e. white sheets); then the original behavior at issue is somehow less egregious or less contemptible in nature. This is a tool of misrepresentation and distraction; focusing on a title or categorization instead of the actual behavior.
Put another way; the straw man conclusion is that if you agree Bieber fails the "racist" test, then outrage or offense taken at the videos falls short as well.
Whether Justin Bieber "is a racist" is not and never was the point. It was never an issue of whether Justin Bieber privately hopes for the subjugation of African-American people. Usher is trying to provide answers to unrelated and unasked questions.
This is and always was concerning the fact that Bieber's videos are hateful and morally reprehensible. We should all be in agreement and not engaging in fake debates. This is also now about Usher defending the indefensible. A video in which Bieber gleefully sings about killing N****s is not navigating "difficult waters" or an inability to choose the "path of greatest potential."
How hard is it to avoid singing about black genocide... as a "joke?" AND... avoid filming it too?! How hard are those waters to navigate? It is easier to avoid altogether than to apologize or excuse them after the fact.
Let's be absolutely clear. At no point did Usher "unequivocally" condemn the behavior, he provided cover for it.
Stop insulting our collective intelligence, Usher.
The video is neither isolated in nature nor is the underlying behavior. Were Bieber's Toronto assault charge, California vandalism charges and Florida DUI charges more of the paths that weren't of "greatest potential?" Stop with the euphemisms! Usher Raymond is not only defending his friend and financial investment, he is calling all of us fools in the process.
Usher Raymond declaring "unequivocally" that Justin Bieber is not a racist, is not the issue. The issue is that Justin Bieber is "unequivocally" an ass with consistently abhorrent behavior, including that of a racial nature.
The only thing more troubling than the behavior is the willingness to publicly defend, excuse or argue mitigating circumstances to explain it.
Usher Raymond has never been known for taking any meaningful stance on substantive issues. And truthfully, there's nothing wrong with that.
When given the opportunity to support the guy he is financially tied to and best-known lately from criminal and racially hateful behavior, he goes all-in, pushing all of his chips into the center.
Usher, you do know that when Bieber says "N****r," he is talking about you too, right?
Thank you, Usher for showing us who you are. And to take the advice of the late Dr. Maya Angelou, we believe you (and Bieber). What Justin Bieber did was wrong and unacceptable. Usher, by trivializing and defending the indefensible after the fact only made it worse.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of "The Mo'Kelly Show" on KFI AM640. The Mo'Kelly Report is a syndicated politics and entertainment journal. Contact him at email@example.com and all commentary is welcome.