The contemporary climate yields a disturbing trend. The trend that I speak of references non-black people of color as acquiring accolades and visibility at the expense of their black counterparts. The trend betrays a societal preference for what I call the knock-off. American culture, specifically, the 2019 Grammy Awards and the 2020 Super Bowl, displays a preference for the knock-off. This preference, while seeming revealing national favor, depicts anti-blackness as a diverse practice that consistently conveys a disdain for the black collective.
The knock-off in this post will speak specifically to non-persons of color used to spew an anti-black stance though seemingly to depict an anti-racist America. By knock offs, I reference those that genetically and socially imitate a design. The design, though inferior, satiates those seeking a look or flavor they cannot quite afford.
I feel as though I owe it to anyone reading this post to state that as a displaced African in America I no longer watch ANY award show. However, the curse of the contemporary climate is that you literally do not have to physically be present, but can be brought up to speed in minutes. With this said, Twitter informed the casual onlooker that Jennifer Lopez headlined a 2019 Motown tribute and Cardi B. became the first woman to win a grammy for best solo rap album in 2019. These “victories” revealed that spaces where black women (and people) sought refuge and authored their narrative were formally infiltrated and erased by Hispanic women from the Bronx.
This year, on the heels of the black community (some not all) continuing to boycott the NFL, the NFL selected Latina Artists Jennifer Lopez and Shakira for the half-time show. The selection reinforces an anti-black rhetoric in selecting those who embody a desire to be American in combat to those who’s criticism exposes her sins for what they are.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not align the “rise of the latina” with the current scenario in the white house. Specifically, the media panders Trump as anti hispanic/latino/chicano with his ambitions to build a wall, and his consistently racist rhetoric. Thus, the 2019 Grammys and the 2020 Super Bowl is definitely a means to appear more inclusive than the government, as the Grammys and the Superbowl depict an equally racist NFL as breaking down walls that Trump is aiming to build.
There is, however, a wall under construction. This wall is not keep out Mexicans, but blacks. Black women in particular witnessed this wall doing the 2019 Grammys and the 2020 Super Bowl that celebrated the knock-off for duplicating the dark woman.
Let me say this flat out. Jennifer Lopez and Belcalis Almanzar “Cardi B” are not black women. Though descended from black black women dropped off in what would become the Caribbean, this black woman’s face is a convenient fact for women whose place and navigation through world and industry reflect the opportunities made available and beautiful by black women, but appropriated and celebrated when exuded by non-black women.
Lopez and Almanzar are knock-offs, whose awards function to erase and assault the black woman.
Lopez is a clone of Janet Jackson who used a black man to transform her career, then dropped him, and the hip-hop facade she appropriated, when the caricature threatened her ability to profit.
Shakira stealthily performs a similar evil. Her transition from the Latin to American market marked a physical transformation that made the star look more like black bombshell Beyonce.
Cardi, as I noted in an earlier post, is nearly identical to Nicki Minaj. The colorful clothes, costumes, even Cardi’s personality, is a more exaggerated and less articulate version of the Nicki Minaj that would become a household name.
Cardi, Lopez, and Shakira ensure that the black woman remains disrespected and remains a door stopper that holds the door open for others to get through.
Following Cardi B’s win last year, rapper Cole said that he didn’t ever want to be “propped up by tearing somebody else down” and that “seeing Cardi win makes me feel like I won.” Cole’s comments echoed the sentiments that inundated much of social media following the Grammy’s and the post-super-bowl fervor.
Cole’s comments make me think of Ta-nehisi Coates bold line in “Nina Simone’s Face” where he states the following: “I am not trying to hurt people. But there is something deeply shameful—and hurtful—in the fact that even today a young Nina Simone would have a hard time being cast in her own biopic.” Zoe Saldana’s role as Nina Simone foreshadowed the black female erasure to follow. These performances and accolades matter because they cast black women as understudies in narratives written in black female blood, sweat, and tears. So to speak out about this injustices is not to be propped up by tearing someone else down, but acknowledging that they are tearing down the black woman to prop up the woman of color and the countless others among the honorary oppressed.
So, no, I did not feel like I won last years at the Grammys, and what I caught of this half-time performance, I did not enjoy either. I felt like my ancestors were killed, lynched and torched all over again. Particularly, I can not help but see a youthful Laura Nelson hanging off a bridge and imagining the knock-offs, in theory of course, thinking of ways to imitate her posthumous beauty.
I anticipate that many will contest my claims and argue that the black black woman I speak of references “our” ancestors. Well, I, as a black woman, do not have the luxury of forgetting my black foremothers or living in a world detached from theirs. Even as a black woman pursuing her PhD, I will always be a black woman only four generations removed from slavery. I will also always be the descendants of global diamond in a world that praises lesser stones, not because they are superior but because they scratch.
The knock-off is a Mimic man who is whatever you need them to be. Lopez is definitely white, or racially mute, in most of the movies in which she stars, Shakira has also had a very notable physical journey to whiteness, and Cardi B had also become an emblem of NYC “black” diversity, whatever that means. But Nicki, no matter how much Asian themed videos she shoots, will always be a black woman, and as we were so widely witnessed at the 2003 Super Bowl, and the backlash Beyonce received following the 2020 Super-bowl, so are Janet and Beyonce.
Though beautiful, entertaining, and innovative, blackness is too expensive in a world that invests just as much in catapulting blacks into noteriety as tearing them down. Moreover, the knock-off become a way to ensure that white hegemony does not have to deal with black people at all, but continues to obtain access to black greatness manifested as “good” (at best) from those who provide diluted access to what only the African displaced in America has mastered.