Black couple Kordale and Kaleb made headlines a few years back when images of them combing their daughter’s hair went viral. The image seemingly resonated most profoundly with black women proving nostalgic in mirroring a shared experience—having our hair combed and braided by a loved one. Thus, most black women probably viewed the images as positive and cosigned what appeared to be a portrait of black love. However, these images were not one of black love—but a white supremacist initiative that merely uses black bodies as a vessel to spew a racist message to an unassuming gaze.
It is impossible to render an analysis on this image without acknowledging the elephant in the room. The couple garners its traction and popularity because of the stigma surrounding black men. Despite the countless men who have abandoned their children of various races and ethnicities outside of blackness, black men remain irretrievably attached to child abandonment. So Kordale and Kaleb exists as an aberration to black male identity, suggesting that same sex unions forge a “straighter” path for the black man.
Acne Studios features Kordale, Kaleb and their four children as models for their fall 2017 campaign—making the couple the first black LGBT couple featured on a fashion campaign.
Acne Studios is of course white owned.
Had Kordale and Kaleb been featured in a spread celebrating a motley of black couples, by a black publication, their feature would appear inclusive and not incisive. However, a white publishing company deeming a black same sex couple the face of the modern family, is obviously trying to appear diverse by featuring the intersectionality of those othered by race and sexuality. However, this strive for white liberalism is not without compromise.
Namely, Kordale and Kaleb’s popularized image functions to issues an invisibility to the black woman—an essential figure in the survival of the black collective. While I do believe and support the many variations of of black love, it is not only a preference but a collective necessity that the black and woman co exist. For without the heterosexual union between a black man and a black woman, there would be no Kordale, Kaleb, or any of their four children. A severed union between the black female womb and black seed of the black male negates blackness in its entirety—making this image poison to the black collective in its appointment by a collective solely interested in their own survival.
Thus, the couple, despite containing two black people, functions against the black community– a collective it was never supposed to uplift in the first place.
What is perhaps most interesting about Kordale and Kaleb the brand is that it solicits the approval and embrace of the black woman, casting the black female body as driving force in her own erasure.
I want to emphasize that the issue at hand is not a Kordale and Kaleb as a couple. As a pro black person, I can support all facets of black love. What I cannot support is whites designating who is what is signifiant to black people. Namely, Kordale and Kaleb’s placement functions to paint them as a modern family. A placement that is not without ill intent, as this glorification is not allotted to same sex white couples in a mainstream setting.
Notable, the majority faction fails to glorify same sex unions with the same enthusiasm that same sex black couples are celebrated and even exploited throughout the media. It is also imperative to note that the gay black man, not the gay black woman, is a figure that frequents much of contemporary portrayals of black men. Therefore, the fascination with the gay black male dismisses both the cisgender black woman and the black lesbian— a faction barely given any shine in mainstream culture. Consider The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s breakout star Titus Burgess– a black gay male. When has a black female ever garnered so much celebration and traction for her orientation and flamboyance? The black gay male is also seen on OWN’s Greenleaf in the character “Kevin,” and in the hairstylists on both Being Mary Jane (BET) and Daytime Divas (VH1)–just to name a few. While ABC’s Scandal had one episode that features black female senior citizens who were also lesbians, this feature is seldom featured or celebrated in mainstream culture. This pattern is anything but coincidental. Rather, it exposes a fascination and obsession the white world has with black male hyper sexuality, namely the black male phallus.
While we do see a same-sex white couple on the hit ABC series Modern Family, the couple is not paired with a white child, but an asian child. In depicting the modern white family, same sex couples are never glamorized and certainly are not deemed an informal emblem of white love. For example, same sex couples frequent the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, but the series is one focused on degeneracy, making its feature of same-sex couples an indirect critique. Thus, while the series does have lead white males and females in same sex unions, they harbor a perception sullied in what is depicted as one many poor decisions made by those in or of the system.
Moreover, same- sex white couples raising children s never granted a feature quite like the one earned by Kordale and Kaleb. There is a reason for this.
While the black community is constantly issued images of black men in dresses, wigs, or lusting for other men, from movies like The Nutty Professor where comedian Eddie Murphy dresses up as a woman, to primetime series where gay black men play roles seemingly existing to spice up below average writing,whites project oppositional images of themselves to their collective. For example, Perez Hilton, an infamous Hollywood gossiper, imbues attention for his work not his sexual orientation. Same sex white couples rarely make headlines and are not featured on major campaigns. This is because white normalcy functions to ensure the survival of the white race–a survival only granted through reproduction. Please note that the word “normal” is implemented here to reflect western conventionality. I only wish to distinguish between what the world suggests is normal to blacks, versus what the world implements as normal to the white collective. Furthermore, it is not an accident that perception of the black family is nuanced by two figures who cannot populate the collective.
The black gay male attains extensive traction in the Oscar award-winning film Moonlight, and prime time series like Greenleaf where a beloved character faces rejection from the black community due to his intersectional identity. The issue with this portrayal is of course its demonizing of the black collective, but also in undermining similar, yet vastly underrepresented sentiments existing in the white collective. Blacks have been impossibly demonized, labeled as homophobic by a homophobic world who silently disapproves of said activity within their own faction. The glorification of same sex unions has been especially displaced onto the black male collective, as a means to emasculate the most potent portrait of masculinity—the black man.
Thus, an image that seemingly extinguished stereotypes surrounding black men and paternity perpetuated on television shows like Maury and Divorce Court, fulfills the same purpose as the black celebrity— to induce black erasure.
To Kordale and Kaleb–you’ve been had.
Black Power ❤