Bruno Mars is all over the news but not because of his talent, new hit single or his Grammy win. But because of his heritage and his “lack of blackness”. Many are accusing Bruno of cultural appropriation and being a “culture vulture”, similar to the likes of Macklemore, G-eazy and Iggy Azalea. Many people are torn and frankly I think the entire discourse is garbage.
Because Bruno Mars is black and he’s not appropriating anything. He’s paying tribute to the musical influences that made him who he is musically and to discredit his talent and blackness but most of all it completely disregards the concept and discussion of blackness in Latin American and the Caribbean.
The problem with this discourse is that its too US centric and excludes a lot of conversations and perspectives about Blackness and Black identity in other countries that have African diaspora. This is NOT saying that Bruno Mars doesn’t benefit from from being racially ambiguous because he does as well as other artists that are as racially ambiguous like Cardi B, Jhene Aiko, Rosario Dawson and The Rock. These artists all benefit from this and have incredible commercial and international success because of their talent AND their brand that used their racially ambiguity to its full potential.
But this shouldn’t be an excuse to deny someone’s blackness, their culture and the context from which their black identity comes from. So to summarize: Bruno Mars is black, he’s not appropriating but he does benefit from being racially ambiguous in a system of fame that loves black culture but not black people.
Next time if we want to come for people who appropriate black culture, go get Whoa Vicky or Danielle Bregoli.