Erykah Badu Ignites Controversy with Comments on Adolph Hitler (UPDATE)

Erykah’s recent interview with Vulture is currently trending on social media.

The controversial comments came after she was asked about criticism over her support of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and being called anti-semitic because of it. She says that things were taken out of context.

Things turn weird when she uses Adolph Hitler as an example of seeing the good in any man.

Okay, thank you. I know this is maybe a weird pivot, but I think it’s relevant. When I was doing research for this interview I came across an article from after you’d gone to Israel, where the Israeli press was linking you to Louis Farrakhan and his alleged anti-Semitism and it seemed that you were being criticized for defending him rather than denouncing anti-Semitism. I don’t know if those reports were accurate, but isn’t it valid to criticize the hurtful idea in an instance like that? Even if you respect the person who holds that idea?

Absolutely. But I never made a statement about Louis Farrakhan — ever. What you’re talking about happened in Palestine. At the time, the working title of my album was Saviours’ Day — which is a holiday for the Nation of Islam but also my birthday. So I’d gone to PalestineIn a press conference prior to a 2008 show in Tel Aviv, Badu expressed solidarity with Palestinian rappers who use hip-hop as a “form of liberation,” and defended Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, Million Man March leader, and alleged anti-Semite.

He is “not an anti-Semite,” said Badu. “He loves all people.” and journalists asked me, “Do you believe in Louis Farrakhan? Do you follow him?” Sure I do. I’ll follow anyone who has positive aspects. He single-handedly changed half of the Nation of Islam to clean eating, clean living, caring for their families. He has flaws — like any man — but I’m not responsible for that. I said I’ve appreciated what he’s done for a lot of black Americans. I mean, I’m not Muslim, I’m not Christian, I’m not anything; I’m an observer who can see good things and bad things. If you say something good about someone, people think it means that you’ve chosen a side. But I don’t choose sides. I see all sides simultaneously.

That’s not something most of us are good at.

We’re not, and I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with anything I had to say about Louis Farrakhan. But I’m not an anti-Semitic person. I don’t even know what anti-Semitic was before I was called it. I’m a humanist. I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler.

Come again?

Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.

No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?

Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, MarsBadu’s daughter with enigmatic rapper Jay Electronica. She also has another daughter, Puma, with the West Coast rapper the D.O.C. , I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that you might be operating on a higher moral plane than I am, but I think going down the route of “Hitler was a child once too” is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction.

Maybe so. It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes.

But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?

Why can’t I say what I’m saying? Because he did such terrible things?

Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?

You asked me a question. I could’ve chosen not to answer. I don’t walk around thinking about Hitler or Louis Farrakhan. But I understand what you’re saying: “Why would you want to risk fueling hateful thinking?” I have a platform, and I would never want to hurt people. I would never do that. I would never even imagine doing that. I would never even want a group of white men who believe that the Confederate flag is worth saving to feel bad. That’s not how I operate.

Another interesting tidbit is that the interviewer is Jewish.

Erykah also had some interesting things to say about Bill Cosby and marching for racial injustce:

I think I follow, but can you tell me more about how that parable applies here?

That I don’t want to get scared into not thinking for myself. I weigh everything. Even what you just asked me, I would have to really think about it and know the facts in each of those situations before I made a judgment. Because I love Bill Cosby, and I love what he’s done for the world. But if he’s sick, why would I be angry with him? The people who got hurt, I feel so bad for them. I want them to feel better, too. But sick people do evil things; hurt people hurt people. I know I could be crucified for saying that, because I’m supposed to be on the purple team or the green team. I’m not trying to rebel against what everybody’s saying, but maybe I want to measure it. Somebody will call me and ask me to come to a march because such and such got shot. In that situation I want to know what really happened. I’m not going to jump up and go march just because I’m green and the person who got shot is green. The rush to get mad doesn’t make sense to me.

UPDATE: Erykah Badu responded to the controversy on her Twitter account. In the corresponding tweets on the subject, media outlets and blogs got the story wrong but she apologized for using “the worst possible example in Adolph Hitler.” She also says that we need to read the full Vulture interview before making a judgment.

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8 comments

  1. Hitler and the rest of these racists don’t give a f-ck about her black a-s. They will never try to see the good in her. She’s always somewhere trying to sound deep but this here sounds dumb as sh-t.

  2. I get what she’s trying to say but the truth is yes, some people are all bad and all evil. Hitler is one of them. There’s no denying that.

  3. She sounds like a lot of white people who want to minimize the bad a person has done just because they have done something good like how white people aggrandize the “founding fathers” but completely ignore or minimize the negative impact of slavery, sexism, and the atrocities committed against Native Americans by these “brilliant men”. Where do we draw the line? We can acknowledge the complete person without lionizing them, and we can tell the truth without being sympathetic: she fails at both. She seems to be praising an atrocious human being and showing sympathy to his less than idyllic childhood and there is no reason for her to do that other than complete ignorance to how he horrifically destroyed human lives. Maybe she needs to watch some videos of starving people in concentration camps or dead bodies piled upon dead bodies on his orders, or Dr. Mengele performing medical experiments on Jews, or better yet maybe she just needs to shut up.

  4. I’ve been done with her since she said little girls need to wear long skirts so they won’t tempt their teachers.

  5. Read a book already, how can you be deep when you don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about. Shut up, you stupid idiot, just stop talking.

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