Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez likely thought she was performing a song of inclusion at President Joe Biden’s inaugural, but she’s being blasted now for her “white ignorance.”
Lopez sang “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie in a medley of patriotic songs she performed at the ceremony in January, and immediately faced criticism for what many say are “colonist” undertones in the song.
“The inauguration began by JLO singing a song celebrating stolen land and Indigenous genocide,” tweeted Nick Estes, a historian and podcaster.
The inauguration began by JLO singing a song celebrating stolen land and Indigenous genocide.
— Nick Estes (@nickwestes) January 20, 2021
The estimation might come as a shock to those who have believed the song to be a left-wing rebuke of capitalism and property rights by Guthrie, who famously applauded communism and admired Joseph Stalin.
According to activists, the song is an affront to indigenous people because it affirms that the land “belongs to you and me.”
Guthrie autobiographer Gustavus Stradler explained the problematic nature of the song at Al Jazeera:
His most famous song erases the true history of this continent, the fundamental violence and brutality of settler colonialism that made it possible for people of European ancestry to live here – facts that many white citizens of the US, across the political spectrum, would prefer not to consider. In the form in which most people encounter it, This Land Is Your Land replaces this actual past with an idealist fantasy of the “land” as an innocent place whose expanse and varied landscapes reflect Americans’ glorious capacity to come together across our differences.
Other activists excoriated Lopez, whose family is of Puerto Rican descent, for her act of “performative social justice” that excluded Native Americans.
“In the time that we’re in, I think that a lot of people are trying to break through the bubble of white ignorance,” said activist and musician Mali Obomsawin.
“I think having J.Lo sing a song that is supposed to unite all Americans — except for Natives of course — is really just in line with that performative social justice that the government and people higher up in the American system are being called to address.”