Five on-stage acts of racism – Jesus, twerking & the KKK

Racism is alive, well and kicking ever so freely in the music business. It seems it’s not enough to simply entertain a crowd these days – some musicians feel they have to use their concerts to drum up publicity by upping the shock factor. FIRDAUS KHAN sums up five acts that crossed the line.

1. “My mamma used to say only Jesus can save us”
Kanye West’s 2013 album, Yeezus, in which he described himself as “a close high” to God, caused online rows and religious controversy, but if that weren’t enough, a performance he did in the same year featured a “white Jesus”, which some Christians found disrespectful. And the cherry on top? Outside the venue, T-shirts featuring the Confederate flag, an infamous mark of slavery and segregation, along with a caption which said “I ain’t comin’ down” were sold.

2. “Now we’re talking astrology, getting our nails did all Japanese-y”
Katy Perry’s 2014 song This Is How We Do brought up all kinds of racial stereotyping with its lines about “Japanese-y” nails (whatever those are) and “chique at La Super Rica, grabbing tacos”. The 2013 American Music Awards also saw her perform the song Unconditionally dressed as a geisha. We’re still not sure how the costume and the song related, and while Perry has claimed that her interest in other cultures is a doting obsession, it doesn’t always translate that way.

3. “To my home girls here with the big butt…”
Miley Cyrus’ twerking made headlines around the world for its shock-value and humour, but also for its cultural [in]appropriation.

Twerking, which sprung from Jamaican and New Orleans dance styles, is characterised as part of ratchet culture, and Cyrus – who once said that she wants to make music that “feels black” – drew a slew of criticism for “accessorising” with black people and for her cultural appropriation of twerking.

4. “My brother said some racist shit a couple years back”
Last year, rapper Macklemore donned a plastic hook-nose and fake beard to sing his hit single Thrift Shop, drawing criticisms of anti-semitism. He denied the allegations, saying the get-up had been a last minute attempt to disguise himself using items from a costume store on his website, before arriving incognito and surprising the audience. But fans weren’t buying it.

5. “Die wit kaffir, ja julle naaiers, skrik wakker”
Closer to home, South Africa’s Die Antwoord recently went on stage in costumes reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), hate group that has terrorised black communities in the American south for more than a hundred years. However, this is not Die Antwoord’s first KKK reference – fans say the group’s backup dancers often don outfits resembling cut-up bed sheets, too.

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Added to their routine use of blackface and vividly racist lyrics, you have to ask why Die Antwoord are still en vogue.

So, are these just careless slips or carefully calculated publicity stunts? Give us your take in the comments.

– Featured image via Die Antwoord official Instagram account