There is a video trail permanently etched onto the internet documenting Shia LaBeouf’s tragic transformation from Disney’s beloved problem child on Even Stevens to a 31-year-old “former-star-of” with problematic tendencies. From his frequent run-ins with the law, to his unusual interviews and volatile behavior, it’s been increasingly clear that he isn’t all the way right in the head. His most recent incident — in which he spewed racist comments towards Black arresting officers — is even more of a testament to his downward spiral. But more important, it’s yet another wakeup call that it’s time stop indulging in white celebrities trying on our culture at night, only to unmask their true racist form in the morning.
In a frantic attempt at damage control, Shia issued an apology on Twitter, revealing how “deeply ashamed” he was for his recent behavior. And while wanting to take responsibility for his actions, he somehow (as most public statements do these days) placed some of the blame elsewhere. “I have been struggling with addiction publicly for far too long, and I am actively taking steps toward securing my sobriety,” he admitted. Sure, we should appreciate Shia’s honesty and hope that he starts his journey towards recovery. After all, addiction of any kind is a serious illness and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But let’s be clear, no substance makes you racist; at best, it just amplifies a character that Sober You would otherwise be able to conceal around certain social groups in order to avoid conflict.
The truth is, it’s getting really exhausting to keep inviting white celebrities into the mix to spit a couple of bars off the dome or partake in the latest dance craze, only to be hit with a clip of their racist escapades the next day. Our smiles were just as big as Sway’s when Shia recited his fiery freestyle on Sway in the Morning in Nov. 2016. His performance garnered more than 6 million views on YouTube. We even laughed when he and Soulja Boy — who was at war with nearly every celebrity in the game at the time — ignited a mini feud following Shia’s comments that he could slay any and every rapper in the industry. We didn’t actually believe that Shia was the next Eminem or was going to be a part of the greatest rap beef in history, but we certainly entertained the idea of Hip-Hop LeBeouf.
Nearly every digital hip-hop publication reported on Shia’s tattoos, which illustrate portraits of rap icons Tupac and Missy Elliott. It’s not every day you see a white celebrity commemorating two rappers with ink on his knees. And yes, both of the tattoos were beautifully done, but more often than not, we fail to look beneath the surface. During an interview with Variety, the actor admitted that he wasn’t even a big fan of Missy Elliott, he just got it because, well, why not? “I don’t love Missy Elliott like I want two tattoos. But you’re in a tattoo parlor and peer pressure,” he said.
It’s becoming more clear that stars like Shia, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber like the hip-hop image, but not the actual culture and movement itself. Miley, while never saying anything inherently racist, dedicated an entire year of her life to twerking, rapping and calling on every rap artist to feature on her hip-hop-centric album, Bangerz. But as soon as she had moved on, she turned her back on hip-hop, dumbing it down to a misogynistic community. Justin Bieber has befriended every hip-hop artist in the industry and has been featured on a number of hooks as well. He’s marked his body head to toe, mimicking rappers like Lil Wayne, but his love for the style didn’t deter him from singing, “one less lonely n***er,” and tell racist jokes. Similarly, Shia has tried his best to look the part, but turned his back on the same people he claimed to support when the clicks and page views died down. Although it should, their alliance with hip-hop does not equal their support or respect for Black people.
We all want a good laugh and people like Shia definitely fulfill that when there’s nothing else to do. But while their “wanna be down” antics are funny at times, we can no longer dap them up or engage in playful conversation.
(Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)