There was a time when musical artists and their more controversial views could co-exist without much impact on their following, but because of the power that is the internet, it’s been clear for quite a few years that those days are long behind us. For M.I.A., whose controversial statements traditionally have found her at odds with governments and corporations, she has to feel taken aback that her latest critics are Black Lives Matter activists, some of whom have been irritated enough with her recent comments to push for her expulsion from Afropunk in London in September.
It all began in late April, with a lengthy interview with the Standard, in which she was asked among many topics about the black power symbolism in Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance, and responded:
“It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter. It’s not a new thing to me — it’s what Lauryn Hill was saying in the 1990s, or Public Enemy in the 1980s. Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That’s a more interesting question. And you cannot ask it on a song that’s on Apple, you cannot ask it onan American TV programme, you cannot create that tag on Twitter, Michelle Obama is not going to hump you back.”
Black activists went on the attack, disputing her claims about U.S. media’s willingness to cover police brutality and racial inequality in the judicial system (the main thrusts of the movement), and also added she needed lessons in intersectionality, pointing out there are plenty of black Muslim and refugees impacted by systemic racism in America.
M.I.A. claims her Tweets were misunderstood, but by then it was too late. Whether her intentions were noble or part of her pushing her own personal agenda as the voice of global refugees, she was viewed by many as the typical Johnny-come-lately outsider wanting to jump in and layer her agenda on top of a specific activist movement started for and by black people, one that had already been dealing with tons of push back on social media and elsewhere by white critics attempting to flip the script and erase their efforts by declaring “all lives matter.”
The timing of the article and Tweets that followed couldn’t have been worse, fanning flames for London music lovers who were ticked to see her announced in June as the headliner for Afropunk’s first event in London in September. Already criticized by some in recent years a la Drake for lifting ideas without credit from lesser known U.K. musicians, there were pushes to boycott the event if AfroPunk didn’t find a replacement.
M.I.A. again responded to the controversy on Twitter, first complaining about the low rate of pay provided by the festival, and then apropos of seemingly nothing other than antisemitism, described Matthew Morgan, as “mixed black and Israel,” a Tweet she went on to delete. Whether it was her decision or Afropunk’s, yesterday, she announced she wouldn’t perform at the event because “I’ve been told “to stay in my lane,” again making a comment about issues related to refugees.
Conflict-loving Azealia Banks, oh she who hath been exiled from Twitter for calling Zayn Malik a “curry scented bitch,” inserted herself into the argument with an Instagram post defending M.I.A., explaining she is a black artist and that those who are criticizing her have been brainwashed by the press, writing, “Everything/Everyone that is on the opposite side of the Aryan/Christian/Zionist world supremacy agenda has been marked as BLACK. And has been marked FOR DEATH. This includes, Africans, Indians, African Americans, Arabs, Muslims, south East Asians, aboriginal people, ETC.” Her support is especially odd given Banks herself has famously spoke out about being “culturally smudged” as a rap artist.
And sure, it’s easy to understand and appreciate their utopic vision for world harmony among oppressed people, and yet, that’s not how activist movements work i.e. a tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears laid down to create an identity and speak to a specific cause, only to have a well-known celeb with a much bigger platform come along and say essentially, “Baseball is a cute U.S. sport and all, you guys, but you’ve been playing it forever, besides, everyone in the world plays soccer so you should, too. We also use a ball!”
Afropunk meanwhile has stayed mum so it’s not clear if she is officially out of the lineup or not. What is for sure though this is not a great look for M.I.A. As mentioned before, it’s one thing as a musician to be attacked by the NFL and Paris Saint German, it’s quite another to be taken on by black activist members, a state of affairs that puts real cracks in the foundation of everything she says she stands for.
At her root, M.I.A. has a track record of standing up for the underdog. One would hope she doesn’t brush recent events aside as people too small minded to understand her big picture view of the world. The smallest of olive branches would go a long way. The issue with creatives, however, is that they’re accustomed to being told their ideas are wrong. Choosing to ignore the naysayers is what often brings them to the party though nowadays can also get them escorted out.
Leave M.I.A the fuck alone. You guys are idiots and have COMPLETELY missed the point of what she’s trying to tell you. THIS IS A BLACK PERSON. SriLankans/Indians are BLACK. U guys keep for getting that black is not something we share as an ethnicity it’s something we share as a GLOBAL STRUGGLE. Everything/Everyone that is on the opposite side of the Aryan/Christian/Zionist world supremacy agenda has been marked as BLACK. And has been marked FOR DEATH. This includes, Africans, Indians, African Americans, Arabs, Muslims, south East Asians, aboriginal people, ETC. you motherfuckers DONT GET IT. m.I.a is trying to explain this deeply complex idea to you all with examples of current events but the LIBERAL MEDIA has its dick so far down you sheeples throats that you can’t even understand what she’s saying. SHES TELLING YOU THAT HER PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING JUST AS OURS ARE. LEAVE MAYA THE FUCK ALONE AND LET HER DO HER PERFORMANCE. FOR FUCKS SAKE. (Ps: no one said Muslim is an ethnicity! Just like “black” isn’t !)