Normani struggled under the spotlight while in Fifth Harmony when anonymous racist trolls “posted Photoshopped images of her being lynched; others sent death threats,” according to her new Rolling Stone cover story. But the resurfaced racist posts from former bandmate Camila Cabello‘s old Tumblr account hit closer to home for Normani after sharing the spotlight with her during their 5H days.
In December, a Twitter user posted a thread exposing Cabello’s archived racist Tumblr posts, reportedly from 2012, weaving together screenshots of memes the then-14-year-old singer published that were based on stereotypes and carelessly threw around the N-word. Cabello apologized for her past “horrible and hurtful language” the day after the Twitter user posted the viral thread, but it still strikes a chord with Normani, who had stayed silent on the news.
When RS writer Brittany Spanos asked her about Cabello’s posts during the interview, posted online Friday morning (Feb. 28), Normani said she’d get back to Spanos. The “Motivation” singer later penned an email that talked about how devastated she felt revisiting the racist Tumblr memes when Fifth Harmony had the fabric of “a safe haven and a sisterhood.”
“I want to be very clear about what I’m going to say on this uncomfortable subject and figured it would be best to write out my thoughts to avoid being misconstrued, as I have been in the past. I struggled with talking about this because I didn’t want it to be a part of my narrative, but I am a black woman, who is a part of an entire generation that has a similar story,” Normani’s email began.
She continued in her written statement: “I face senseless attacks daily, as does the rest of my community. This represents a day in the life for us. I have been tolerating discrimination far before I could even comprehend what exactly was happening. Direct and subliminal hatred has been geared towards me for many years solely because of the color of my skin. It would be dishonest if I said that this particular scenario didn’t hurt me. It was devastating that this came from a place that was supposed to be a safe haven and a sisterhood, because I knew that if the tables were turned I would defend each of them in a single heartbeat. It took days for her to acknowledge what I was dealing with online and then years for her to take responsibility for the offensive tweets that recently resurfaced. Whether or not it was her intention, this made me feel like I was second to the relationship that she had with her fans.”
But that wasn’t the only 5H-based relationship Normani expressed as uneasy: The other members of the former girl group didn’t readily come to her defense while she was dealing with racist online bullies either, as the 23-year-old artist described them as “not knowing how to be there for me the way that I needed it because it wasn’t their own experience, and because when they look at me they don’t see me.”
According to the interview, Normani often felt like “the other one in the room” for being the sole black female in the group. Her father, Derrick Hamilton, chimed in to say she was “still scarred” from Harmonizers targeting her online for believing she once shaded Cabello for being “quirky.” But the rehashed disharmony Normani experienced is not the singer’s main takeaway, especially for her young black fans.
“I don’t want to say that this situation leaves me hopeless because I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity for personal growth,” Normani continued in the email. “I really hope that an important lesson was learned in this. I hope there is genuine understanding about why this was absolutely unacceptable. I have spoken what is in my heart and pray this is transparent enough that I never have to speak on it again. To my brown men and women, we are like no other. Our power lies within our culture. We are descendants of an endless line of strong and resilient kings and queens. We have been and will continue to win in all that we do simply because of who we are. We deserve to be celebrated, I deserve to be celebrated and I’m just getting started.”