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Alesha Davis, a sophomore journalism and english double major from Fort Worth, TX, smiles for a portrait at Ohio University, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Athens, Ohio.

Opinion: Usher’s halftime show reminds us to be vigilant

I, like millions of others, tuned into the 2024 Super Bowl. I don’t know the first thing about sports, least of all football, but I enjoyed being around friends while watching ads and waiting for the main event, the halftime show, which I enjoyed.

Scrolling TikTok in bed that night, my feed was full of jokes about TEMU, gyrating and Travis Kelce. However, few creators took the time to remind us that Usher is a Zionist. In 2014, he made a post on Instagram supporting Israel, which he has since deleted. Although he has not commented on the Israel-Palestine conflict since then, his silence on the subject beyond the deletion of his past posts has indicated to many where his stance lies. 

It was also pointed out that performing at the Super Bowl at all is controversial. In 2017 and a few of the years following, several Black artists refused to perform at the Super Bowl to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, who had been blocked from the NFL for his civil rights activism. Among these artists were Cardi B, Andre 3000, Rihanna and this year's headliner, Usher.

Despite some of these artists now performing at the Super Bowl, the NFL still has major issues surrounding race. Research conducted by Utah State University sociology professors Christy Glass and Guadalupe Marquez-Velarde showed that Black athletes are segregated into the league's highest-risk positions, while white players still dominate the highest-paying roles. 

The study also found that racial hierarchies are replicated in other aspects of the organization (such as the overwhelmingly white majority coaches), and that racism continues to shape the experiences of Black players. The NFL portrays itself as an institution committed to racial progress, with a $250 million social justice fund and the recently updated Rooney Rule, but the NFL’s lack of change fails to align with this image. Considering the NFL’s lack of change, a few wonder why Usher and others have fallen back on their rejection of the NFL.

I had not known about Usher’s alleged Zionism or the artist boycott on the Super Bowl, and I am ashamed to admit I have not thought about the place the NFL had in the conflict with Kaepernick since the lawsuit.

Truthfully, I wanted to stick my head in the sand. I would like to be able to enjoy a performance without worrying about the political, economic, socio-cultural and environmental factors at play. I especially wanted to enjoy Usher’s performance because of the amount of criticism he faced for getting the role. But how can I call myself an activist if I don’t hold all celebrities to the same standard? What right do I have to pick and choose who to criticize? 

However, I am not an activist by choice. Partially it is for the good of the people, true, but fundamentally I am an activist because I don’t have a choice of anything else to be. I cannot stick my head in the sand because I am not allowed on beaches. My intersecting identities mean there is no space for me there. 

Even so, what right does that give me? Is it right to hold others to different standards based on oppression Olympics? Is the majority-white newspaper at my predominantly white college the right place to broadcast my battle between my thoughts? I don’t know. The last thing I want to do is give those with ill intentions ammo to justify their willful ignorance. And yet I share in hopes of gaining understanding from my peers who may or may not be listening. 

People love to argue, “So not allowed to have fun or enjoy music?” I’ve even complained about that to myself. But the people in Gaza are not allowed those things. The people of Rohingya. The people of Uyghur. The people of Nicaragua. Of many more whose oppression and suffering are being ignored. How tired they must be. How selfish we are. How selfish I am. 

I am not perfect nor do I possess the right answer. I can only remind myself daily to be mindful and hope to inspire others to do the same. 

Alesha Davis is a senior studying journalism and English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Alesha by tweeting her at @AleshaTDavis.

Alesha Davis

Equity Director

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