By Terrell Peterson
It is well documented in history that there is an imbalance of fairness, not only between men and women but between various ethnic groups. Discrimination is an evil that no one, no matter how much power, money, or success they have, can escape. This was the case with pop icon Janet Jackson in 2004 when she performed at Super Bowl XXXVIII and had what Guinness World Records regards as the “Most Searched in Internet History” when she had a public wardrobe malfunctions. Jackson performed alongside fellow pop star Justin Timberlake and in their routine there was a slight mistake were Timberlake tore open her clothing.
This exposed her right breast to those in attendance and the 140 million viewers watching from home. After the incident, both Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake issued apologies for the escapade; however, it seems Jackson was the only one who received backlash for the event. At the Grammy Awards the following week, CBS, which also aired the Super Bowl that year, allowed Justin Timberlake to attend the celebration but would not permit Jackson to attend, although she was supposed to present an award. This was a blatant form of sexism and racism in its purest form.
This performance also hindered other aspects of Jackson’s life at the time, such as her musical output, film career, and reputation. The success of Jackson’s album “Damita Jo,” was impeded because of the superbowl accident. Networks such as CBS and Viacom, proceeded to boycott her album. Since there was little promotion of her album on television or the radio, its success was solely dependent on her star power alone. She then lost her starring role in the biographical film Lena Horne which was being produced by the American Broadcasting Company owned by Disney. Afterwards, the Mickey Mouse statue in Disney World, with a Janet Jackson inspired outfit, was taken down as a result of the performance.
In recent times, Justin Timberlake was announced as the headliner for Super Bowl LII while Jackson is still banned. The fact that the two shared in the same unfortunate event but only Jackson has felt the cruel wrath of society displays not only how the public reacts to minute mistakes by a woman but how there are devastating effects for black celebrities no matter the amount of success they have achieved. The companies were so concerned on their image that they failed to realize what exactly occurred. Since Justin was the person who performed the action but failed to face any repercussions, it was evident that the company was bias to certain gender and ethnicities,” says Byron Hannah, Site Director of YMCA sponsored program ACES. “Historically, when you are comparing the two ethnicities and sexes, African-American women are the most disadvantaged in relation to equality. We do not receive equal pay. As a society when we entertain legal and moral inequality, we subconsciously entertain the idea of exploiting African-American women in different realm,” says Hallie Allen, Chief of Staff for the Residence Hall Association.The dilemma of sexism and racism is one that has always existed since the beginning of civilization and even though there have been laws set in place that prohibit all forms of discrimination, it does not seem that man will adhere to the rules that they themselves set.