Justin Timberlake found himself mired in storm of Twitter fury after he was moved to tweet about "Grey's Anatomy" actor Jesse Williams' impassioned BET Awards speech about institutionalized racism America, which touched on issues ranging from race-driven police brutality to cultural appropriation.
The social media maelstrom began when Twitter user Ernest Owens called out Justin for tweeting, "@iJesseWilliams tho...#Inspired #BET2016," asking the singer, "So does this mean you're going to stop appropriating our music and culture? ... And apologize to Janet too. #BETAwards."
The Janet reference was a nod to the 2004 Super Bowl Half Time performance when Justin yanked off part of Janet's costume, exposing her breast.
If Ernest was looking for a fight, though, Justin didn't take the bait, tweeting instead, "Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye."
But that was hardly the end of the thread.
"How a major white pop star speaks on social issues after being 'inspired' by Jesse Williams... 'We are the same,'" Ernest tweeted.
Other followers got in on the conversation, too. "If 'we' are the 'same', why is it that you have been so successful and black R&B singers struggle to sell? You ain't that good," asked one Twitter user.
"#JustinTimberlake by saying we are all the same dismissed Jesse Williams speech entirely and proved his point at the same time well done ," tweeted another.
Eventually, JT spoke up again in an effort to explain where he was coming from -- and to apologize to those he'd offended.
"I feel misunderstood," he tweeted. "I responded to a specific tweet that wasn't meant to be a general response. I shouldn't have responded anyway…I forget this forum sometimes… I was truly inspired by @iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one… A human race. I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US. - JT."
In accepting his Humanitarian Award, Jesse, who's been active since 2014 in the Black Lives Matter movement, first dedicated the honor to "the real organizers all over the country: the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do," according to E! News.
He also included a shout-out to America's black women, promising, "we can and will do better for you."
Addressing racism's role in police brutality, he continued: "What we've been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday. So, what's going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours. Now -- I got more, y'all -- yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice's 14th birthday, so I don't want to hear anymore about how far we've come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it's so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt."
The actor went on to point out how "freedom is always conditional" when it comes to African-American rights.
"We've been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil -- black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit," he said.
"The thing is, though … the thing is that just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real."