Earlier this month, self-proclaimed image consultant Kevin Samuels went viral for an on-air session he had with a black female client. In the session, Samuels responded to his client’s want for a man that brings home a six-figure income. The client, a thirty-five-year-old woman who makes six figures herself, has a teenaged son. Samuels contended that the client did not qualify for the men that she desires. To clarify here, Samuel’s use of the word “qualify” speaks specifically to the client’s physical appearance and her status as a mother— a status he deems social suicide to her desired partner and lifestyle.
Now, Samuels is, of course, fully entitled to his opinion, but having an opinion does not make it correct. Nevertheless, there is some truth in what Samuels said, and there is a glaring issue with placing value on a man for how much he earns as the caller does early in the session. The caller’s erring is easily matched and nullified in the overemphasis this world places on looks.
In The Invention of Woman, Oyeronke Oyewumi underscores the visual as an important component in the exteriorization of European thought as a default way of thinking. The visual also plays a huge component in gender. Taken together, gender is a repository for racism. This is, in large part, the issue with Samuel’s rhetoric and prominence among his black male and black female audience.
I will be honest and say that few things make me feel as disappointed and upset as the inauthentic aesthetic that has engulfed much of the black female optic. From weaves to the false eyelashes and nails, this aesthetic betrays the drastic measures the western world has taken to assassinate the African-descended woman’s natural aesthetic. Nevertheless, participating in what I perceive as slave culture, is not grounds for disrespect. Particularly, it is the critical gaze and ridicule that Samuels renders that is the reason why black women don this aesthetic. It is this pervasive and normalized scrutiny espoused with general disbelief in black female beauty that creates an internal void, a deficit fictively oscillated with weaves, eyelashes, wigs, and other social depressants. Rather than using his words to lift a young lady knocked down by imbalanced standards, Samuels contributes to the epidemic facing black people with his words and ideology
This brings me to my next point. Black women remain held to impossible standards simply non-existent to women of other races. When African-adjacent women approach or interact with black men, the issue is not whether they are average, a mother, overweight, a high earner, under or “over” educated; rather, their appeal lies in their non-blackness. Samuels upholds this imbalance with his praise of mixed-race and non-black women of all ages and circumstances as better romantic investments than black women.
Thus, telling a black woman he deems average that she does not qualify for what women with less going for them could acquire with non-blackness adheres to the racism embedded in gender. Gender is not a sister to biology, it is kin to racism, and it functions as another means to globalize racism under a seemingly autonomous category. Moreover, Samuel’s implementation of gender as racism illuminates his plight to actualize the ways of a white man in a black male body.
Yes, we live in a visual world. But this visual remains vested in whiteness as a portrait of superiority. Moreover, Samuels did not inform the young lady as to what he calls a “high-value man” wants, he informed her what white men, and those, like himself, who want to emulate white men (and white women), value.
Samuels itemized this young lady and other female callers in a manner reminiscent to the way prospective slave owners examined the black canvass to decide whether or not they were worth the purchase. Samuels socially reproduces this dehumanizing gesture under the contemporary label “image consultant.” Mimicking the ways of the anti-black oppressors is indicative of personal defeat. To make this into a career is to launch and implement a collective assault against the black collective.
Samuels’s overt assault against black women is disturbing, so much so it becomes cause to question why this black man remains vested in restoring gender relations to a tradition that has never seen him as human. The most common explanations seem to be that Samuels wishes he were a woman himself, or that his efforts seem an effort to engender desire for and compatability with the “average” black man. Both prove resoundingly less significant to the internalized anti-blackness that fuels his platform. Nevertheless, because he identifies with his anti-black adversaries in his attempt to assassinate the self and esteem of she who keeps culture and births nations, his actions constitute social genocide against black people normalized in a social media culture.
Encompassed in said culture, the show appears to offer nuanced masculinity, a more blunt Steve Harvey approach to male coaching of black women yearning for improved relationships with black men. Though there are numerous issues with this dynamic, this culture of male coaching reinforces gender as another vessel to engender blacks to bend to standards that fail to advance us as a people. Specifically, the curse of Keven Samuels consummates a feat for gender: to convince systemized black men and women that we are our own worst enemies. Samuels socially reproduces the Moynihan report of the 1960s where a white man blamed black women for the systemically implemented conflicts facing the black community.
The cyclical disenfranchisement bestowed upon the black collective has taken an aggressively social form to which all black people should take note. Curses on our collective advancement have taken up diversity by appearing as cures. Samuel’s social reproduction of past evils foreshadows the promised place past problems maintain in the contemporary moment.