The Transformation of Justin Bieber From a White Youth to a Black Man

October 2, 2014 2:09 PM

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The Transformation of Justin Bieber From a White Youth to a Black Man

In what took Usher most of his 20-year music career to accomplish, it took Justin Bieber just a short five years to reap similar financial success and actually surpass his mentor. Usher Raymond IV was an R&B phenom who started his career much like Bieber as a young teen and is among America's top selling artists. He saw something special in the young star during their initial meetings. But that does not explain the rate in which Bieber shot to fame compared to his current counterparts such as Jason Derulo, Trey Songz and even Chris Brown. In fact, Justin Bieber rose to financial prowess singing R&B/pop music faster than any other black entertainer, ever, despite this being a genre created by their own kin. This is something W.E.B. Bois referred as the "wages of whiteness" in his seminal work, Black Reconstruction. The inherent worth and sublime value of white skin privilege (in part) captures that "something more" that Usher articulated in reference to Bieber during his 2010 interview with the LA Times. With his unearned privilege, Bieber was able to emulate his black contemporaries and generate massive profits beyond their reach. As his early appearance was that of a clean-cut "boy-next-door" from Canada with good looks (and luscious locks) singing pop, he has since morphed his image into the pants-sagging, tattooed "bad boy," suffusing his music with an urban contemporary vibe. This is an attempt at acting cool, and his public "persona" is imbedded within popular perceptions of black manhood.

Black men and boys are "onstage" every day. Their audience, both outside whites as well as other blacks in or outside their communities, can be caught looking in on them, observing how they walk, talk, dress and adapt to their social environments. For whites, these patterns are frequently seen in wi...

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