Usher has stepped up in support Justin Bieber, releasing a statement defending the younger pop star from charges of racism after years-old videos emerged this week showing Bieber using racial slurs and making offensive jokes.
Usher, who has long been a friend and collaborator of Bieber’s, published the statement on Saturday as the caption to an old photo he posted on Instagram of himself with his arm around the singer, who looks to be about the same age as he was in the notorious videos.
“At my core, I am a person that supports growth and understands without judgement, that growth often comes as a result of pain and continues effort,” wrote Usher, who was just 15 when he released his own debut album, Usher. “As I have watched Justin Bieber navigate difficult waters as a young man, I can tell you that he hasn’t always chosen the path of his greatest potential, but he is unequivocally not a racist. What he was 5 years ago was a naive child who did not understand the negative power and degradation that comes from playing with racial slurs. What he is now is a young man faced with an opportunity to become his best self, an example to the millions of kids that follow him to not make the same mistakes.”
This is not the first time Usher has publicly come to Bieber’s defense. In December 2013, the month before Bieber’s public relations troubles further escalated with his arrest for an alleged DUI in Miami, Usher told the Associated Press that that all of the controversies the singer had provoked in the previous year were just a part of growing up in the public eye. “The beautiful part about it is that those that are invested in a long term story you understand that there are peaks and valleys in every person’s life,” he said. “Unfortunately the reality is he has to live with a camera in front of him, but what he chooses to do on or off camera is analyzed or scrutinized in some off way.”
Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun, both released statements through Instagram earlier this week apparently addressing the videos, in which Bieber, as a young teenager, told a racist joke and changed the lyrics to one of his songs to make it about killing black people and joining the KKK. Bieber posted shots of Scripture pages dealing with sin and salvation. “Some mistakes have no excuses,” wrote Braun. “They are just wrong. But how a man reacts to those mistakes. . . How he owns it and learns from it. . . That defines him more than the mistake itself.”