Once again embroiled in scandal, Justin Bieber has turned to scripture.
After two videos showing a then-teenage Bieber using a racial slur multiple times — he repeats a crass joke in one clip and parodies his own song in another — surfaced this week, the 20-year-old took to his Instagram to post words of virtue.
“Man’s tendacy is to hide from his sin, seeking refuge in the darkness,” the passage reads. “There he indulges in self-pity, denial, self-righteousness, blaming, and hatred.” The post continues with several Bible verses.
Not that we would ever dare to question anyone’s faith, but Bieber needs more than the Bible to get himself out of this.
To recap, a video was released last weekend showing the then-15-year-old pop star telling an offensive, racist joke. (In another troubling twist, recent reports indicate that TMZ held onto the video for years, baiting Bieber for appearances and cooperation.)
"Why are black people afraid of chainsaws?" Bieber asks, before giggling "Run n*****, n*****, n*****, n*****," as he imitated the sound of a chain saw. It’s an offensive joke that’s likely older than Bieber, and he quickly offered a heartfelt apology.
And then a second, more troubling video surfaced.
In the clip Bieber, 14 at the time, changes the words to his smash “One Less Lonely Girl” to “One Less Loney [N-word].”
"There'll be one less lonely n*****" he sings. "If I kill you, I'll be part of the KKK."
“As a kid, I didn’t understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt. I thought it was ok to repeat hurtful words and jokes, but didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t funny and that in fact my actions were continuing the ignorance,” he wrote in a lengthy apology that he posted on Twitter after the first video surfaced.
In retrospect, both clips are even more disturbing than they initially appear. The chainsaw joke looks like it was an outtake from “Never Say Never,” the 2011 documentary that traced his white-hot breakout into global superstardom.
And in the second video, he’s changing the words to a sweet, innocuous love song that has incited tears among his legions of diehard young female fans.
It's worth considering that “One Less Lonely Girl” is largely written and produced by black men, including Bieber's superstar mentor Usher. As he’s edged himself out of the tween hearthrob box and into more mature R&B-pop waters, Bieber has surrounded himself with numerous black celebrities.
Lil Wayne, Tyga, Drake, R. Kelly, Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown are just a few among Bieber's collaborators and friends, and much of his artistry (his style, his music, his vocals) has been borrowed from black culture. Dismissing the use of racist slurs as the mistakes of youth is unacceptable.
Ultimately, Bieber's apologies may have been sincerely delivered, but they also ring hollow. Bieber knew better then, and he knows better now.