Chrisette Michele –contemporary R&B singer, celebrated mostly if not solely by blacks, faced harsh criticism surrounding her performance at the Trump pre- inaugural ceremony. Fans criticized Michele, questioning how she as a black woman could perform for someone so overtly opposed to the black collective. Admittedly, much of this criticism comes from those who sat silently as singer Mary J. Blige shamefully sang for Presidential nominee Hilary Clinton, and who nodded along as singer-superstar Beyonce sang Clinton’s praises. A failure to criticize these cultural icons for their enthusiastic support for a woman responsible for economically raping the black diaspora and displacing life sentences onto black bodies for petty crimes, renders the criticism surrounding Michelle hypocritical at best and ignorant at worst.
Although I would hope that this sentiment is obvious, I am in no way a Trump supporter as he epitomizes the racial psychopathy that stole this country and soiled the legacy of my ancestors. Nevertheless, many have become so engulfed in hating Trump that they overlook the subtle racism that consumes their daily lives and our history of equally offensive and harmful behavior.
The late and great Michael Jackson broke the MTV color barrier, yet no one questions why the biggest black stars perform on a network that when founded did not deem black artists worthy enough to feature. The New York Yankees were one of the last teams to implement integration, yet garner countless fans from the black collective. Makeup companies originally excluded darker hues from their color palette, eliminating black women from the quest towards conventional beauty. Although the year 2017, esteemed brands like Givenchy solely accommodate those who passed the paper bag test. The Academy seated winner Hattie McDaniels at a segregated table from her Gone With the Wind costars, yet many black actors and actresses continue to strive for this “honor” as the apex of success. Few criticized Jackie Robinson’s decision to integrate the all white baseball league, or Steppin’ Fetchit for personifying the laziness and vapid nature whites attribute to blackness. Even fewer criticize Beyonce for altering her looks to resemble a white woman. In fact Mrs. Knowles remains a celebrated figure of black femininity.
So, while I do not criticize those who oppose Miss Michele’s decision, I do question whether skeptics render a similar gaze onto their own decisions. In other words, criticism towards Michele’s participation cannot function without acknowledging the way the black collective participates in their own oppression on a daily basis. From assuming a position of deference with regard to esteemed white universities like Harvard, Yale or Stanford to working for the enemy only to place your hard-earned money back into their pockets or into their banks, Michele is neither better nor worse than any individual in the black collective. Whether it is simply speaking English, bearing your slave master’s last name or wearing western clothes, we as members of the black collective all maintain a position of suffering due to the systemic implementations of white supremacy.
Neither better nor worse than the black collective as a whole, evaluating Miss Michele’s literal and figurative performance as consistent with oppressed behavior seen throughout history can serve as a means for us to be better.