Madonna Denies Claims of Racism in Altering Photos of Civil Rights Activists

Madonna Denies Claims of Racism in Altering Photos of Civil Rights Activists


Was Madonna racist for posting images of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson Mandela altered with black strings across their faces on Instagram to promote her latest album, Rebel Heart? Many people think that is the case, and her use of the photos of the civil rights leaders, as well as one of Reggae legend, Bob Marley, has prompted an angry backlash from users of Twitter and other social media sites. She, however, denies that she was being racist, and said she was just acknowledging that they were rebels.

Madonna’s face, with black string on it, is on the cover of Rebel Heart. When the Lucky Star singer posted doctored images of the civil rights leaders, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, some people criticized her for attempting to compare herself to them. Others wrote that using the likenesses of these famous people who fought for the rights and freedoms of oppressed people everywhere was being crass and taking commercialism too far.

However, Madonna issued a statement in which she states that she was not trying to compare herself to them, and she said that the images were created by her fans, not herself. She argued that she had also posted photos of people who were not black, like Marilyn Monroe and even one of Homer Simpson.

Madonna added captions to some of the photos. For Bob Marley’s, she wrote “This #rebelheart sang about ONE LOVE!” and for the photo of Martin Luther King, Jr, the caption was “This #rebelheart had a dream!”

The Material Girl says that she is not comparing herself to Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr, by the posting of the Instagrams or her album’s artwork, but she does think of them as being “rebel hearts,” like herself. They were rebels in far different ways, though, and stood up for the rights and freedoms of millions of people.

Her posting of the altered visages of civil rights leaders, and of Bob Marley, might have been innocuous to her; but, if so, Madonna was not anticipating many people to react as negatively as they have. Hundreds of her followers on Twitter have declared that she showed insensitivity, at best, though hundreds of others have defended her right to express herself artistically.

Rebel Heart is scheduled to be released on March 10. Just days after many songs from it were leaked, in a raw state, Madonna released six of the songs in a more finished form on December 19, 2014. They rapidly charted in the Top Ten around the world in over 30 different countries. Living for Love was one of the most popular of the songs she released. Since then, hackers have leaked other songs from the album.

In an interview with Billboard in December, Madonna said that she decided to call her upcoming album Rebel Heart because she felt it showed two different sides of her, the “romantic side,” and also the more “rebellious, renegade side.”

Did Madonna go too far by posting altered images of civil rights leaders on Instagram? If so, was she acting in a racist manner, or was she simply expressing herself artistically? Madonna has proven, if nothing else, that she is still able to stir up controversy.

Written By: Douglas Cobb

Irish Independent
ABC News
Photo by Aktiv I Oslo.noFlickr License