Justin Bieber’s judgment may have reached a new low. The Biebs’ latest indiscretion, a graffiti drawing of a monkey he spray-painted while in Brazil, has landed the pop singer in seriously hot water with critics who say the graffiti is clearly a racist caricature of a black man.
As seen in a photo the 19-year-old singer from Ontario, Canada, posted to his Instagram account, the image shows what looks like a monkey, painted black, with “googly” eyes and his tongue sticking out. The monkey wears a tie, gold chain, gold earrings, a gold nose ring and a gold crown. He has a single gold tooth – or a lip stud, it’s sort of unclear – and bulging biceps.
Bieber posted a photo of the graffiti monkey two days ago with the caption, “This is my escape.” Unfortunately for the Biebs, he’ll have a hard time escaping the firestorm of criticism he’s about to experience for the crass piece of “art.”
"Does he think we're all monkeys?" another asked.
A role model to millions of “Beliebers,” the singer has in recent weeks displayed behavior that is not sitting well with music fans – or law enforcement, for that matter. Bieber was recently chided for leaving a Brazilian brothel with two women in tow. And concertgoers were not too happy with the singer when he skipped out early during a live performance, leaving his fans dumbfounded. Bieber was also cited for illegally tagging a hotel in Rio de Janeiro with another one of his graffiti drawings. The Biebs faces steep fines for defacing the property.
Even if Bieber’s latest monkey graffiti was an inadvertent – albeit ignorant – slip-up, racial stereotypes and caricatures have a long history in American culture. Its roots go back to a time in when blackface, a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows during the 19th and early-20th centuries, was popularized.
What do you think of Justin Bieber’s graffiti monkey? Do you think the drawing was racist? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Philip Ross joined IBTimes in March 2013. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from New York University and a B.A. in International Development Studies from the University of...