Almost immediately after leaving the stage following her headlining set at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, hip-hop star Lizzo accused a Summerfest security guard of hurling a racial epithet at her stylist and hair stylist as he attacked them backstage.
In a since-deleted tweet a short time later, Lizzo called the security guard a "racist bigot" and attached a cell phone video she took of him backstage.
"[This man in the] shorts and orange jacket in the buzz cut attacked my hair stylist and my stylist," she can be heard saying in the video. "He tackled them to the ground and manhandled them and slapped them. So listen, they keeping me from going over there and having my word with him but I'm filming this just in case we need some evidence and just in case I need to put this on the internet with his old, ugly ass."
She then yells to the guard, who is seen standing next to several other Summerfest security guards and a Milwaukee Police officer.
"He needs to be in handcuffs! Excuse me, sir, orange jacket, what's your name? Thanks for the video!"
Lizzo then lamented that she couldn't enjoy the success of her show because of the incident and asked that Summerfest staff provide her with footage of the alleged incident.
An hour later, she tweeted video footage of the Harley-Davidson crowd singing along as she performs before tweeting again about the confrontation: "[T]he struggle ain’t over. Racism and bigotry don’t care if you’re a headliner. Thank you @summerfest. We will be filing a complaint against that bigoted 'security' guard and I hope you’ll be cooperative in seeking justice."
Summerfest's official Twitter account then issued a statement:
Lizzo gave an incredible performance which she now feels is tarnished by events which occurred during the performance. We do not tolerate racism in any form. We will conduct a thorough investigation. We have an experienced crowd management staff who strive to protect performers & fans. While there may be challenges during a performance, we expect those challenges to be handled professionally & respectfully. If those standards were not met, we will take appropriate action.
Lizzo was apparently pleased with this, tweeting out to her 460,000 followers the news that Summerfest "will be investigating the guards who attacked my team! Thanks for the support and please send any footage you might have it all helps!"
After retweeting a few tweets about her show, Lizzo seemingly caught a few hours of sleep before tweeting at 7:19 am Friday morning that she was on "[her] way to London" to perform at the Glastonbury Music Festival.
Several minutes later, she deleted the tweet in which she had videotaped the security guard (clearly showing his face) and identified him as a "racist bigot."
At 9:12 am, she tweeted a rather cryptic message that "you don’t have to say the ‘n word’ to be racist. That’s not the sole requirement. Asking people to prove racism is another tool the oppressor uses to marginalize and discredit us."
As of the publication of this article, that message was the last Lizzo had tweeted about the incident.
Summerfest did not immediately release the results of its investigation, but based on Lizzo's statement that "asking people to prove racism is another tool" of oppression, one might reasonably infer that she was unable to prove that the guard acted in a racist manner.
In her deleted tweet, she claimed that the guard "used hurtful language," but seven hours later tweeted a "friendly reminder" that one need not "say the 'n word' to be racist." By the time she tweeted this, it would seem that Summerfest's investigation found that the guard did not use the n-word or use any hateful language when confronting the two members of Lizzo's entourage.
Moreover, removing a video in which Lizzo clearly showed the guard's face and accused him of a racially-motivated attack would seem to be a move meant to protect Lizzo from potential defamation action by the security guard if in fact he did not act in an improper manner. Lizzo herself said on that video that she was recording the guard "in case we need some evidence." Why would she remove such "evidence" so quickly?
And why would she follow up that removal with a reminder that forcing someone to prove their allegations of racism is "another tool the oppressor uses to marginalize and discredit us?"
The most logical explanation is that she was venting her frustration that neither she nor her team members could prove that the guard acted in a racist or even malicious manner and that Summerfest's investigation confirmed this. Cooler heads, it seems, prevailed and what was initially believed to be a racist confrontation was more likely than not a dispute over backstage access. As such, Lizzo either recognized that her video "evidence" identifying the guard was potentially defamatory or (perhaps more likely) her legal team recognized that it was potentially defamatory and asked her to take it down.
Occam's Razor would seem to apply here. What is the more logical cause of the backstage dust-up: A racist security guard brutally attacked two people for no reason while shouting an epithet at them, or two members of Lizzo's team who did not have proper credentials to get backstage were confronted by a security guard who asked to see them and the situation escalated from there?
The guard could very well have harbored a racial grudge and "manhandled" Lizzo's stylist and hairstylist because of it, but it sure doesn't seem like the more realistic scenario. And Lizzo's own words and actions Friday morning seem to indicate that her initial claims of racism simply weren't accurate.