Bruno Mars doesn’t exactly hide his interracial roots. The “Uptown Funk” singer was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a father of half-Puerto Rican and half-Ashkenazi Jewish descent (from Ukraine and Hungary), and a mother of Filipino and Spanish descent.
Mars has been very honest about the debt he owes to music rooted in black culture, once saying: “Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.”
So not someone who can easily be accused of culturally appropriating black African-American music, right?
Not so fast. Watching Mars perform “Perm” at the BET (Black Entertainment Television Awards) on Sunday night, Jenn M. Jackson, an activist and writer who has penned a few pieces for the Washington Post, felt very triggered indeed.
“Bruno Mars does not identify as Black, ” she tweeted. “He is a non-Black person of color (POC) who has recently decided that singing Funk music is economically productive.”
She added that Mars “has a primarily white audience which has no memory or care for Black artists…Taking our s**t and repackaging it for white people is not innovation. Even if these non-Black ppl sing well, it’s appropriation. Period.”
In fairness to Jackson, she wasn’t the only person to be playing the cultural appropriation card while watching the BET Awards:
Wow BET making us sit through Bruno Mars and all this cultural appropriation?!!??!!
— Trap (@TrapAHolic__) June 26, 2017
I feel so conflicted whenever I watch Bruno Mars perform. Cultural appropriation on 💯 but can’t help but begrudgingly wiggle my hips #perm
— 🙂 (@dopeandcurvy) June 26, 2017
The backlash against the accusation that Bruno Mars is a cultural appropriator of black music was fierce, led by one of his fans, @hypeBruno, whose rebuttal got retweeted over 500 times: “Bruno Mars is a woke legend that understands that American music is black, find another artist to fit your agenda.”
Jackson was right at least about Mars being “economically productive.” The Richest website reported his net worth was $105 million.