Is Bruno Mars Even Black? The Cultural Appropriation Debate

This video addressing Bruno Mars cultural appropriation has sparked controversy.

Many Black fans have ran to his defense with fists in the air claiming, “the man is Black! Leave him be! Go after Iggy or Justin Timberlake!” But pointing our fingers at White people for cultural appropriation is picking the low-hanging fruit. We can hold Iggy, Timberlake, and Bruno Mars accountable. All at the same damn time. People are allowed to be concerned about more than one thing at a time.

People of color tend to get a pass for cultural appropriation merely because they aren’t White. And because the power dynamic isn’t as polarizing as a White person profiting off Black culture, it’s swept under the rug. So whether or not you agree with the claims that Bruno Mars is a culprit of cultural appropriation, it opens the important conversation about the relationship between non-Black people of color and Black people.

But first.

Bruno Mars has yet to confirm if he identifies as Black. Before we even accuse someone of stealing from Black culture, we must at least agree on whether or not someone is Black.

This isn’t the first time Bruno Mars’ identity was questioned. In 2017, he was accused of changing his name in order to hide his Puerto Rican heritage. He immediately cleared the air telling Latina:

 ““I never once said I changed my last name to hide the fact that I’m Puerto Rican. Why would I fucking say that? Who are you fooling? And why would anyone say that? That’s so insulting to me, to my family. That’s ridiculous. My last name is Hernandez. My father’s name is Pedrito Hernandez, and he’s a Puerto Rican pimp. There’s no denying that. “

In the same interview, Bruno Mars speaks about being mistaken for biracial(Black and White) while growing up in Hawaii. He’s identified with many things including Ashkenazi Jewish, Puerto Rican, Spanish and more. Everything but Black of course. Despite the numerous times he credits Black music as his inspiration, he never calls himself Black. He remains in the “safe zone” of racial ambiguity.

And I’ve already heard it.

Bruno Mars cultural appropriation? But How? Puerto Ricans are Black!

Nuance please.

If you’re Puerto Rican, chances are you MIGHT be Black. More African slaves were dropped off in the Caribbean than in the present-day United States. However. After the revolution, many Spaniards remained. Despite whatever ‘Latino’ label you want to give, Spaniards are White. Not even people of color. Spicy Whites perhaps. The ‘Mestizo’ race of people who were offspring of the White colonizers and indigenous Taino population in Puerto Rico also remained. Then of course you have the ‘Mulatto’ Black-Spaniards and tri-racial Creoles. Similar to Dominican Republic.

So to equate every person that’s Puerto Rican–especially when they specify that their mom is Spaniard– as Black is a grave generalization at best. An injustice to the Afro-Ricans that still experience anti-Blackness at the hands of non-Black people of color at worst.

Bruno Mars’ brown skin could just as easily come from his Filipino ancestry. Asians can also be of darker complexion. Cambodians. Filipinos. Indians. Vietnamese.

When a racially ambiguous person tells you they are all of these heritages except for Black, believe them.

Stop caping.

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