Twerking and Auction Block Culture

My first introduction to the word “twerk” was on Usher’s highly anticipated 8701 albums. The album, released in the summer of 2001, featured the song “Twerk it Out.” A melodic tune, “Twerk it Out” features a rhythm and blues flow that has largely dissipated from the contemporary sound. Though sexual in undertone, Usher’s “twerking” references a sensuality absent from its contemporary use. Nevertheless, while this song marked my introduction to the word, it hardly introduced “twerking.”

Twerking, or the sexualized gyration in which one uses their waist and upper leg to thrust the derriere and pelvic region, derived from rhythmic motions that did not originate as sexual. In its European abduction, this movement became “twerking,” an act that seemingly centralizes and celebrates the derriere. For this reason, twerking appears a badge of glory for those who have the right attributes.

Twerking, however, does not place the derriere in an exalted position. So while it appears that many curvy black girls and women have accepted their bodies, those who credit twerking with this pride do so under the oppressive gaze of white supremacist propaganda. Twerking marks a commodified culture propagated for profit. Therefore, twerking designates the black woman’s derriere as exhibition, an exhibition reminiscent of the auction block culture that compartmentalized the African foremother.

Perhaps the most referenced foremother with regards to the black female body is Saartje Baartman. Baartman, a voluptuous Khoi-Khoi woman exhibited in a French circus during the 18th century, functioned as a line of demarcation between black and white women. Particularly, the French appointed Baartman as a symbol of an exaggerated and “freakish” sexuality that aligned black woman with animals. This alignment underscored European humanity. Though she did not twerk, Baartman epitomizes what results from twerk culture— a villanized imaging that delineates the black woman as an animal to be bought and sold. Simultaneously, this depiction illustrates a line of demarcation between civilization and chastity. Thus, by twerking, black women take a place beside Baartman, not as beautiful black women, but as powerful figures rendered powerless by the white gaze.

Yet, with a psyche severely distorted by disenfranchisement, Twerking appears to walk the fine line between appreciation and exploitation. This statement, contentious in both theory and execution, proves most evident in Normani’s recent video (and reception) for her single “Motivation.”

Motivation marks the first solo effort from Normani— the sole black woman in girl group 5th Harmony. During her time in the group known for songs like “Worth It,” and “Work from Home,” Normani was an obvious standout. Though not the first member of the group to go solo, Normani was the only member of the group to exhibit talent in both singing and dancing. Yet, while her talent made her hard to ignore, it is what Normani meant to the little black girls seeking to see themselves that proves most resonant. Normani planted a mustard seed of hope for the brown girl to see that the spotlight looks beautiful on brown skin. This evidences that we as a people still have a pertinent issue with regards to cultivating our children to see beyond the oppressive gaze. What I mean here, is that black children remain forced to look to the auction block for inspiration, to mimic our ancestor’s exploitation and not the parts of them that his story refuses to remember.

Normani’s new video “Motivation,” proves a contemporized version of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” sixteen years after the solo hit transitioned Beyonce from girl group member into a solo superstar. “Motivation,” promises the same for Normani, but this foreboding fact poses an important query:

Do we really need another Beyonce?

For clarity, by “we,” I speak specifically to those of African descent displaced in America.

I also pose this inquiry as someone who grew up loving Beyonce. While her talent, beauty, and body was not something that I necessarily looked up to—it was something that I appreciated and still appreciate. Beyonce had a similar body to the women in my family, so as young girl becoming a woman, she subconsciously aided in my body confidence. However, Beyonce’s moves, which would make her into a global superstar, itemized not only her own physique, but the black female aesthetic that has went on to consummate a beauty standard autonomous from its black female origins. So, while it may seem that Beyonce twerked her way to the top, “Crazy In Love” marks the beginning of a contemporary trajectory where America fell crazy in love with an itemized black aesthetic but not the black woman.

What’s interesting about Beyonce is that though pegged as a light-skinned black woman, her rise to the top, highlights that though not a Kelly Rowland or a Grace Jones, Beyonce does not function as a Mariah Carey, whose voice and passable appearance made it so that her voice, not her body, proved enough for her stardom. Beyonce, however, twerked her way to the allusive top, and it is her “showmanship,” not necessarily her voice, that consummated her icon-status. Perhaps, the only black woman to reach international stardom without using her body is Whitney Houston, which is a large part of her irreplaceable legacy. Nevertheless, as black bodies under the white supremacist spotlight, both Whitney Houston and Beyonce symbolize the black woman on the auction block, bought and sold millions of times as an artist and as an itemized entity.

Similarly, while the world appears to superficially celebrate Normani’s voice, body, and dance moves at the moment, this enthusiasm would greatly dissipate if she were a black woman using her mind to lead her people away from anti-blackness. Normani’s reception is just another example of how America will always have a space for the black person who uses their body. America will always have a place for the sexy black girl, whose sex appeal comes to encompass what remains a woman’s most desired and profitable asset, her beauty. This video and its reception proves another example of how America will promote the belief that Hollywood is anything other than a stage for the black woman who can solely incite a superficial pride that cannot and will not inspire true change.

As a potential “new Beyonce” that is darker-skinned, Normani suggests that things have changed. Normani resumes the distorted American story where the black woman who has twerked her way to the top proves that the country loves black people and appreciates black women.

This, of course, could not be further from the truth. For if the country truly loved and appreciated black women, there would be no Beyonce or Normani. Instead, black women would see images that encouraged them to use their minds, their creativity, not their bodies that act as a boat that continues to transition black female humanity into cargo.

Thus, the answer to my earlier query is, of course, no. The black community does not need another Beyonce, or another image engineered by white supremacy that delineates beauty and aesthetic superiority. What we do need more of are black thinkers that can appreciate the Beyonce’s and the Normani’s without the desire to imitate.

This transition is exciting to consider in juxtaposition to a rather important trend. Here, I speak to the parity between the black female twerk and phallic instruments. In the Motivation video, Normani twerks to a trumpet. Similarly, singer-rapper Lizzo adds to her tokenized presence by twerking and playing the flute. This parity garners notable media attention as black women display their physical abilities amidst simulated sex scenes. These graphic, yet celebrated, images work to subconsciously teach black women to view their beauty as consummated in provoking sexual enticement. These simulated sex scenes of course “sell,” but more problematically, they reveal black women sold to a record industry and a lusty white supremacist gaze that employs their body as a bridge to social and economic superiority.


In considering the black body as a bridge to their oppressor’s economic franchisement, it is imperative to note that one does not have to use their body to twerk. Twerking, like enslavement, was never about the body. The body functions as a medium to obtain and exhibit cognitive control and build dependency on a pernicious oppression. The dependence manifests itself in the oppressed’s continued quest for an economic opportunity from their oppressors. So whether acquiring a recording contract, or employment at a lauded establishment, black women (and people) remain subject to the normalized expectation that they perform, or work (werk) for a price. Sometimes this price is millions, other times it is just enough to pay the rent, but regardless of what the price affords the black woman, it will never afford her the self, or esteem necessary to circumvent cognitive bondage.

The ubiquitous auction block culture propagates that, for the black woman, the road to the top begins at the bottom, or as seen in auction block culture, with their bottoms. The black woman simply cannot and will not twerk her way to the top; this behavior only secures her place at the bottom of a society that keeps her looking up.

This image makes me think of the late Toni Morrison’s novel Sula where the black population occupies the top of a hill that the whites name “bottom.” The whites occupy the bottom of the hill, in which they name “top,” of course. We see parity between these concepts and the body. Notably, the top, or large breasts, which traditionally corresponded to the white female physique, consummated the “top” or apex with regards to Western beauty. A shapely derriere, on the other hand, constituted the “bottom” or a base attribute. Auction block culture reinforces this ideology, an ideology seemingly complicated by the black female physique now copied and pasted onto African-adjacent women. Here, we see that the black female body, detached from the black woman, is literally bought and sold for the benefit of a white supremacist society that has done nothing to negotiate the “top” “bottom” concepts, but have dismembered the black woman on the Hollywood auction block and sold (and continues to sell) her temple to anyone willing to pay.

Black blood continues to translate into white money, and twerking merely helps our oppressors to advertise their product. Their product, remains the commodified black body and the black mind as long as we look to the African adjacent hoping for them to accept or acknowledge what they can never be. For a black woman’s body was never a “bottom.” Rather, a black woman’s behind illustrates her cultural apex.

Here is where I should say something like, let Normani’s video be a “motivation” to fall “crazy in love” with a definition of blackness autonomous from Western influence. For this post, however, I wish to ask you a question. Twerking has become the picture that accompanies the the black female narrative, but if the black women at the “top,” be it Normani who twerks her way into a point of reference, Beyonce who twerks her way into international stardom, or Michelle Obama who socially twerks her way into American status, how is this different than the black woman who twerks in places seen to constitute society’s base, like a street corner or in a strip club?

The black female pop star is no different than the black female street walker, just as Michelle Obama is no different than the academically decorated black women seeking a seat in the corner office in a corporation founded on her ancestor’s blood. Commonly, the pop star and the corporate superstar twerk to emerge as “something,” or to be seen as “someone” in this white supremacist society. There is no “top” for us in American society. Every turn in this labyrinth is to employ black people as workers in their own destitution.

While twerking may yield different results and prices, twerkers continue to pay with their souls—an irretrievable loss for the black collective and a sustainable win for the African adjacent.

Twerking is what you do when the sound of your oppression sounds like a beat.


Black Power ❤


Remembering Toni Morrison

Though I met Morrison as a child, I did not understand her until I was an adult. I was an adolescent who pursued her text perilously. Like Beloved protagonist Sethe, I journeyed to the unknown knowing that what lied ahead was better than what I was leaving behind. Reading Beloved change me, delineating the full extent to which the literary world encompassed a realm of its own. Beloved, like The Bluest Eye, God Help the Child, and Sula, archived the black female narrative in a way that only a black woman could. As a writer, Morrison archived portions of herself and her experience that provided a new way for the black woman and the black writer to see herself and embrace how central she remains to her community. As a black woman who spent her entire life studying English as a discipline, Morrison provided a special means for me to see myself. Specifically, it is because I started my journey to literary scholarship at Howard University that English equated to blackness. Morrison took the terms “novelist,” English,” “professor,” and “editor,” terms that previously marked linearity to white men, and occasionally white women, and adorned them in black.

Additionally, Morrison’s prose proved consistently pedagogical. The Bluest Eye taught me that “self-hatred” is a process too often passed down, or inherited. The text introduced readers to a generational genocide that functioned as though genetic. During this a process, one ultimately loses a part of themselves that they never really had to begin with.

Yet, despite Morrison’s literary genuis, a common contention that followed her in her lifetime was that she was unnecessarily hard on black men. I came into reading Morrison with this in the back of my mind. I even encountered those who enjoyed Morrison’s work because they felt comforted by what they considered negative portrayals of black men. I, however, could not disagree more with these contentions. Specifically, in reference to Cholly Breedlove of The Bluest Eye and Halle Suggs of Beloved, Morrison does not paint a blissful or idealistic portrait; rather, she depicts black men as wounded by the white ideal. To be clear, by wounded, I don’t mean weak. Instead, Morrison takes black male portrayal past a single dimension and illustrates the black man as he is, complicated and layered, a challenge she endured with love.

Morrison created a world where the black people could not only be, but a world where the black man was not violently placed into a box and caricatured as a hero, super-negro, or hoodlum, but human.

Morrison, notably through Beloved, taught me that through fiction we can create fact. Through literature, Morrison showed the black community that we have the power to fill in the gaps in our story. Her prose taught readers that genre enables us to meet our ancestors and to archive, a world, a truth, a story that we were told did not exist. From her works, we, as black women and black people, learned parts of ourselves that we were either taught to suppress, or that remained buried in caricature. Morrison’s essays, novels, and speeches illustrated the humanity this country tried to strip from black people, and her language mastery delineated our severed tongue as a weapon.

Yet, in remembering our greats, it is imperative that we not forget what their lives teach us. Particularly, attaining placement as a prominent black author in America, does not come without a cost. Recently, the white community ignited an uproar upon learning that there was to be a street posthumously named for prolific black intellect Dr. Ben. The African adjacent listed numerous reasons why the street naming should not take place. The most reasont reason would have to be the resentment engendered from Dr. Ben’s refusal to have his word revieved by the African adjacent.

This is interesting to consider with regards to the late and great Toni Morrison, who wrote black narratives that only went out to the public after edited by a white male publisher. This affiliation provides cause to question whether Morrison’s national reverie reflects her true greatness, or whether Morrison’s acclaim reflects a means for white media to Americanize black achievement. For those who regard Morrison’s national acclaim, it is imperative to note that Morrison’s high regard does not encompass what she meant nd will continue to mean for black people.

Nevertheless, this truth compliments the legacy Morrison leaves behind. Morrison’s Americanized legacy illustrates the danger that lies in valuing our greats by American standards. Morrison is not great because of her publisher, her inclusion in the literary canon, or because of her American and European accolades. Morrison is great due to the publsher she was, and because of the new standard and canon she helped created for black readers and writers. Morrison consummated greatness because she used her platform to nurture other black writers. Thus, her life and literary presence teaches the black community what remains foundational in restoring our collective; that it is not about recognition, it is about responsibility.

Literary Mother Morrison, may you rest in peace.

Though absent in presence, your spirit remains between every line, and on every page. For tis’ the legacy of every writer ❤

Oh Marianne, The Great White Hope Ain’t the GOAT

This country has an obsession with aesthetical emotion. By aesthetical emotion, I speak to the appearance of emotion being far more valuable than the feeling itself. America, specifically contemporary media, encourages performance but curses action.

In that regard, 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson immerses herself in the contemporary racial fervor by pandering to those seeking feel-good commentary, those who feel vindicated when white people speak on black lives, and those who vehemently oppose Williamson but will employ her as a reference to delineate that all white people are not racists.

In juxtaposition to Marianne Williams, African adjacent candidates who root their policies in anti-trumpism appear as apples who fail to fall far from the white supremacist tree. This same comparison exposes the melanated candidates as black in legality only. The media, however, portrays Marianne Williamson as a loony whose grand ideas present an unrealistic diagnosis to very real American problems, and as a writer whose ideas, not initiatives, guide her into an abstract stupor that appear grand solely to the under-represented.

Williamson however, is not a loony; she a sorceress of strategy. Williamson encompasses what the late professor and literary critic Arthur P. Davis considered the idealistic fool, but she isn’t however, fooling me.

Williamson set twitter ablaze last week when she assessed the damage of slavery. She spoke confidently and assertively to the financial debt the United States owes those once considered cargo. To many, Marianne Williamson’s words spoke truth to power. Williamson’s words, however, revealed the persistent power of the great white hope.

With all the issues that continue to haunt the black community, the 2020 presidential race, though featuring two melanated candidates, still features a dearth in black representation. Black candidates are to be only black in theory, but be “American” when answering questions about race. Williamson only exposes this truth in the access she has to a public pro-blackness, to use the term loosely, that the African abductee cannot.

Specifically, Williamson made the news for speaking about reparations because she is a white woman. She garnered traction as a progressive and even radical candidate because she is a white woman. Williamson illustrates that black lives matter when white people say so, for this is the American way. Additionally, Williamson illustrates the white woman, who says what America murders black people for even thinking, who wins her way into melanated hearts and to the top of black institutions. News that Williamson will speak at the upcoming #ADOS conference in Kentucky acts as an omen for the American leaders that await the African in American seeking the valor of the red, white, and blue. Williamson is the omen of what awaits the black person satiated by aesthetical emotion. Specifically, Williamson articulates a sentiment, a national act of retribution, that she cannot feel. Her words imbue her visibility as a white woman at the expense of black invisibility.

Social and political invisibility continues to haunt black identity, an invisibility that is perhaps most prevalent in presidential debates. Bernie Sanders, uses the word “revolutionary” but fails to distance himself from white conservatism, Elizabeth Warren’s reparation policy casts reparation as a cake that must serve everyone, even herself, and the other politicians mask their anti-black ideologies with “race-neutral” speech.

Commonly, the 2020 candidates illustrate that white supremacy has not died, it has only diversified. This is systemically terrifying, as politicians speak of diversity only to diversify their appeal. Employing this approach, politicians ensure that America remains the same,particularly, that America continues to benefit and oppress the same people.

Simply put, you cannot solve a problem in whcih you are a part. Waiting for white people to solve a problem is the same thing as ceasing to act in anticipation of new problems. True change cannot and will not happen until black people unapologetically speak truth to their own power.

It is not progressive to have any African-adjacent person as an authority on black issues. To put it bluntly, Marianne Williamson does not speak for black people or the black experience because she cannot. She is not the portrait of progress. Williamson illustrates that “President” remains a derogatory word for those of the black collective.

Perhaps most importantly, Williamson illustrates that the “great white hope” continues to embody a portrait of progress to an oppressed people. Many people will read this pose, render me another angry black womab, and castigate me for critiquing the sole candidate who put my issues on the table. To these contentions, I say that to support Williamson is to ceer on the master’s wife as she takes a seat at the table my ancestors built. What does it matter what she says when she’s at the table if me or my people do not have seat?

I understand that many of my skinfolk still view whitness, or the white ally, as essential for black liberation. Kinfolk, however, understand that the great white hope does not embody hope at all. Instead, this fixation on hope, which imbues an aesthetical emotion that borderlines despair, reveals that what we need as a collective is more than hope and far more than a president.


I grew up in a world without Tiana. In my youth, all the princesses were white. This dearth revealed the western world as regarding princesses like it did Christmas, only worth adulation when white.

The sole exception was Jasmine from Aladdin.

Jasmine had brown skin and thick black hair, so my childhood eyes saw her as bearing the aesthetics most similar to my own.

Jasmine, though, wasn’t my shero; she was merely the most interesting to look at.

Not having black representation in the early years of my childhood encouraged creativity. I wrote stories with black girls as the lead, not seeking to find myself, but to write myself into a world that wished to cast me as a spectator.

Nevertheless, whether created or consumed, representation means a lot to a child, as it helps etch together their dreams, and becomes the foundation for whom they become. To like Jasmine was the closest thing to choosing the black doll, but for black kids looking to find themselves in an anti-black world, the result is too often a loss that births a lost identity.

Tiana, who debuted a decade ago in Disney’s The Princess in the Frog (2009), offers the black girl an ability to find herself in the white-washed world of Walt Disney. To some, this movie marked a step in the right direction. Regardless of the sentiment, the movie was certainly a step, a step toward using the black body to ensure the black child remains vested in white representation to determine their worth.

The current contention surrounding a “black Ariel” reflects said vestment.

The social media world exploded this week when reports that Halle Bailey, a 19-year-old black actress, would play Ariel in an upcoming project. Many people from the black community appeared elated that a black actress would play Ariel. Contrarily, the African adjacent seemed to be angry and dismissive to the upcoming project. In short, the African adjacent launched the hashtag #notmyariel, vowing not to support the film, while those of African descent expressed interest in the film for the opposite reason. This tension revealed a vestment in representation on both sides. On one hand, the tension showed the African adjacent’s espousal to segregated representation. On the other hand, this tension exposed the contemporary diversity project as masking a stagnant segregationist ideology that affords the black community a pseudo-liberation engendered through black casting.

The original Ariel, though a cartoon, cast a fair-skinned white woman with blue eyes and red hair as its lead. The film seemed more of an allegory about the migrant (Irish, German, Polish, etc) white assimilating into American culture. Specifically, The Little Mermaid reads more of a “coming into whiteness tale” non-parallel to the black experience. Ursula, the film’s villain, evokes a caricatured version of the black collective summoned to the margins of the world, a fact illustrated by Ursula’s literal placement in the sea’s underground.

I provide this assessment to state that casting a black lead in an initially racist film seems more like damage control, in addition to yet another celebration of black women applicable or exoticized by western beauty standards. Additionally, given the not-so-subtle racial undertones of the film, there is cause to question why any black person would want to be a part of the film, or support any contemporary adaptation.

Casting an Ariel of African descent does not make the little Mermaid a black narrative.

The hashtag #notmyariel should have been perpetuated by the black collective because whether Ariel is black or not, she remains a product of white creation designed to execute a white agenda. The black Ariel functions similarly to black faces solicited to diversify white space physically.

These faces lead many off the cliff of a contemporized present that is only disparate from the past in date. Specifically, seeing a black face in a white space deflects many from creating their own. Casting a black lead only reflects capitalistic creativity. Meaning, a black Ariel does mean that black lives matter; a black Ariel implies that black lives matter when equating to white currency.

Furthermore, turning white princesses black only festers an inclusionary narrative that perpetuates cyclical disenfranchisement. Creation affords linearity and linearity marks significant strides toward liberation.

A black Ariel doesn’t solve racism, if anything the deflection she brings gifts racism a venomous continuity.

Moreover, this is #NotourAriel, not our story, and quite frankly, as a collective, this is not our battle nor our victory.

What To The Displaced African in America is The Fourth of July?

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. Frederick Douglass, “What To The Slave is the Fourth of July? (1852)

In 1852, Frederick Douglass spoke the sentiments that all those who descended from those enslaved in America should cognitively echo. His now famous speech confronts the paradox of those who bear an ancestral testament to America’s original sin celebrating their oppressor’s freedom. Centuries after Douglass’s speech, The Fourth of July continues to orchestrate human behavior, engendering barbecues and family get togethers. For those whose lineage speaks to what America repeats in gesture, The Fourth of July is to remember America but to forget that there ancestor’s were America’s property—to forget that Americans owned their ancestors.  The red, white, and blue therefore, becomes the foundation for a selective history. 

Yes, Independence Day, an acknowledgment of America’s divorce from Britain, celebrates America; however, what this holiday underscores most is exactly who is American.

 July 4th, like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, document American status for Americans. While the DOI and the constitution make it possible for Americans to be American, the Fourth of July celebrates this feat. Specifically, The Fourth of July celebrates the American identity severed from Britain. 

For the displaced African in America,  the Fourth of July delineates that though there is an “I” in America, there is also a “me.” The “I” correlates to the inclusionary narrative perpetuated by the myth of the American dream, a myth that selective amnesia substantiates. The “I” and “me” appears to include any and all, but there is also a reason why white is central on the flag. Irregardless, of who America comes to house or even accompany in identity politics, the “I” and “me,” consistently aligns with the African adjacent. 

There is reason why July 4th is a holiday, and it isn’t because we are all American. It is  because this too is a showcase of power where those who aren’t even allowed a fair entry into the race, or their race) are to cheer for its consistent victor. This analogy is perhaps most pertinent in considering the now cliche call to return America back to its indigenous state, or for America to be what it promised to be, is to return to 1776 when America was a free nation, whose espousal to external control did not preclude the enslavement and legal dehumanization of American people.  My ancestors, Africans ripped from their mother continent, watched these fireworks from bondage and its various manifestations. As American sang of its independence, my ancestors knew this was not a shared victory. They knew that to celebrate America was to celebrate America, but that this was not to celebrate themselves or their collective. 

Yet there would be no victory without the enslaved ancestors of those now compartmentalized by the term “black american.” There would be America without those kidnapped from Africa, stripped of their names, their tongues irretrievably severed. July fourth celebrates the birth of a nation, which form my viewpoint is a convenient lie. America was pulled from womb of Africa, birthed from those kidnapped, whose labor and mistreatment would birth, to borrow a term from the late Zora Neale Hurston, the awful beauty that is America. The abducted’s blue blood turned red birthed the whiteness that continues to oppress the black collective perhaps most diabolical in celebratory fervor. 

For clarity, this celebratory fervor does not cast the descendants of the enslaved as victims. Rather, it articulates that we are the victory.

That is what the fourth of July means to the Displaced African in America. 

With the spirit of the ancestors and the power of blackness,


Kamala Harris, The Presidential Race and the Race Card

Before I begin this post, please allow me to state what I am sure will get lost in translation. To those whom race was cast upon like paint on an assembly-line car, or like sprinkles on ice cream placed to intensify the flavor absent in what lies beneath, race is not a card. Specifically, those Americanized by western influence as opposed to those who seize and adopt an American identity, cannot and do not employ race as a card.

This statement is not to mark victimhood, but to note that which has been cast upon the black collective for the benefit of others, that which enters the room before personhood arrives, is not a card to be played, but a “play” in a rigged game. To those who pursue and implement a raceless body politic, race is a card embodied by the model minority our shared oppressor grants the black fruit who has forgetten its roots. This performance is precisely what the world witnessed with California Senator Kamala Harris’s performance in the second democratic debate.

During the debate, when a mirage of candidates spoke over one another in an effort to both prove their presence and solidify their right to candidacy, Harris inserted a scripted line so strategically placed that it appeared impromtu. Harris jumped into the verbal melee with now trending line:

“Americans don’t want to see a food fight, they want to talk about how they’re going to put food on the table.”

So while Senator Harris may not bring food to the referenced political food fight, her seat at the table makes her an avid participant–an avid participant who knows she is unlikely to win a food fight with food. Instead, Harris seeks a victory in siding with those without food. Particularly, Harris’s words resonated with many because it exposed the other candidates as self-centered Americans vested more in hearing themselves talk then in hearing the needs of the American people. Harris, as a woman and self-proclaimed person of color, inserts herself as she who remembers what the other, paler, candidates forgot. 

This “foodless” victory is perpahs best personfied by those who smiled or gloated in Harris’s words, those seemingly oblivious to this performance reflecting strategy not empathy. This movement proved merely a warm-up for an exchange with candidate Joe Biden that made Harris a memorable candidate and debate standout. Harris’s heightened status as viable democratic candidate translated to virtually everything for America and nothing for the black community. 

When asked about a police shooting, Harris transitioned to a discussion about bussing. This transition enabled Harris to employ a personal anecdote which exposed Biden as a political segregationist. The message was clear: Harris pre-selected Biden as her biggest competition and precisely executed a plan to take him down. Specifically, Biden’s proximity to Former president Obama is possibly his most valuable asset. This proximity allows Biden to embody a sort of political and even historical nostalgia that supersedes his past political acts. Harris sullied this nostalgia with an anecdote of being the little girl bussed to what would become the foundation for her political presence. This ancedote illustrated Biden as embodying the obstacles non-whites must overcome to thrive in America. Harris’s curated move cornered Biden and pulled his political pedestal from beneath him on national television. 

Harris’s move was a brilliant one, enabled by her self-categorization as a black person deprived of American status and human rights by a powerful white man. Though noted as a victory in the press, Harris’s move employs race as a card Harris plays to dismantle her white opponent when she isn’t even running as a black candidate. If we are being completely honest, Harris is not even a black senator, nor was she a black prosecutor. That is of course if “black,” means for the black community, but I digress.

Truth is, Harris is only taken seriously as a candidate because like former president Barack Obama, Harris embodies an incidental blackness. Harris, like Obama, bears no direct linearity to America’s original sin, western enslavement. Thus, America can look at these candidates and look past not directly at America’s unabridged narrative. Instead, Harris’s blackness is an occassional marker to be played like a card in a game of spades or poker. 

This is not to say that Biden’s hypocrisy and racism was not worthy of exposition, it was. This is to say that Harris’s actions are not about educational equality for black youth. No, Harris’s actions, specifically, her evoked blackness, reflected a selfish attempt to win by any means necessary. To put it bluntly, Harris’s bussing comments tossed black people under a bus enlisted to run over her white opponent.  

I’ll be honest, I was previously an adamant believer that race could never be a card to anyone of African descent. However, when a black person pursues and attains relevancy or prominence from their American status, but evokes race to avoid losing to the very faction they attempt to imitate, race is a card actualized as, not as a core identity factor.

This idea of race as a card exploited by those who pander to the black community on the basis of re-presentation, is not something to take lightly. Specifically, though Harris employed her race as a means to usurp Biden, should Harris make her way into the White House, the black collective will remain on the back burner as non-black women, lgbt rights, and migrants remain central, while Harris’s incidental blackness functions to display America’s “progess.” Harris illustrates what the white world, in its contemporary fixation on black representation, seduces the black collective to forget–that black candidates are only as black as the issues they pursue. 

For race is not a card, convenience, or even a color—it’s a circumstance, an experience, a visualized violence personified in a cyclical disenfranchisement only altered in a refusal to look back its detrimental effect on its first victims.

The Politics of Black Female Invisibility

It was a beautiful Sunday— a dichotomous backdrop to the tension that accompanies my weekly trips to acquire the fruits and vegetables on my grocery list. No longer dwelling in the predominately black, middle-class environment that nurtured my childhood (and a number of years in my adulthood), the grocery store functions as a hyper-site for racial violence. As a member of the black collective, I am expected to be happy to be in any establishment. In America, I am not a customer; I am a consumer who exists solely for monetary gain. The African-adjacent customers who frequent this establishment illustrate these sentiments in the cavalier disregard for black personhood they exude without thought or apology.

While selecting some vegetables, a child ran his cart into mine, and his white mother, without as much of a glance or mouthed apology, moved the cart to continue her stride down the aisle with her chin and chest poked out. In this instance, this white woman taught her black child not to respect black women. Now, I know this stems from the reality that white women must impose invisibility onto black women to imbue their visibility. This visibility, often compromised by the very standards that exist to uphold it, incites what often proves a lifetime journey for the African-adjacent woman to create her desirability. What I mean here, to put it bluntly, is that through western standards exist to uphold white female beauty and virtue, few white women actualize these standards. Thus, the African-adjacent woman must denigrate her African counterpart to comepensate for her own deficiences.

The “link” below illustrates an identical scenario. The featured example depicts a white defendant with a chip on her shoulder when addressing both the plaintiff and the judge. The defendant must ignore the romantic relationship the black female plaintiff had with her son in order to construct a reality where the black woman lacks chastity and parental certainty. Similarly, she must continually challenge the black female Judge’s authority and expertise to compensate for her non-existent accomplishments in a setting to which everything is in her favor. The defendant’s actions illustrate the gallant strides taken to make the black woman disappear; the defendant engenders and imposed invisibility that the African-adjacent woman employs as a means to survive. It is the African-adjacent’s desire to survive by any means necessary that makes lumping females together under the “woman” umbrella a violent praxis that demands black women cosign their invisibility.
This invisibility praxis is even performed by those within the black collective who are espoused to the ideology that blackness must subscribe to specific inaquedacies that if defied must be ignored. A few years back, I boarded a bus and a black woman around my age told her 8-9-year-old son to walk in front of me to board the bus. My reaction was to step aside and allow her and the child she wore in a carrier to board before me. Then it was, of course, no interest to be in front of me. This experience personfied something said to me years earlier during a freelance interview I conducted. In the interview, a black female entrepreneaur articulated the praxis among black women where black women pretend not to see one another. In this instance, the same experience that made me and this young lady sisters of the same struggle, proved a catalyst for an invisibility that she internalized as a necessary component to the black female experience. As a young black woman, with multiple children subject to the perils and unkindness that too often burden commuters, she attains hyper-visibility in terms of stereotypes but a diminished or abused personhood due to her blackness.

I use these personal anecdotes to sketch and shade an experience shared by those of the African diaspora. Mainly, I divulge these experiences to illustrate what I call “the politics of black female invisibility.” Though invisibility is a core component to the black female experience, the politics of black female invisibility do not actualize conventional invisibility. The invisibility politic proceeds with the ambition to make the black women see herself as invisible, to engender an internalized black female denigration that becomes merely a way of life. Instead, this politic functions as a reaction to a hyper-visible state that must be fantastically altered by an foisted invisibility. This post examines some the many forms of the black female invisibility politic.

Racist Against White People

I suppose you do not have to be a black woman to experience this phrasing, but I do think black women in closer proximity to African-adjacent women are more likely to experience this phrasing than black men. Personally, I’ve heard this phrasing countless times from white, or non-black people of color, a phrase that obscures racism with a racist narcissism that refuses to acknowledge that racism is not a two-way street. By this, I mean that you cannot claim to be a victim of that in which you benefit. This phrasing, “racist against white people” casts blacks as assailants in a social, economic, and cognitive assault cast against them. Thus, the phrase “racist against white people” imposes a collective invisibility manifested in an individualized encounter.

Gender Imposition

The word “woman” has become one of the most common and socially accepted ways to ignore the being of black female form. Films, or even policies that appear rooted in female exclusion, overlook that gender challenges remain a unique conflict for those who share origins with the Harriet Tubmans and Sojourner Truths. For example, the diversity initiatives that we see in movies and other industries, remain anchored in the white female ideal whether hiring the African-adjacent or a person of African descent.

Women of Color

Though this term functions with more specificity than “woman,” it performs a similar assault. This term, in its contemporary implementation, replaces black and joins blackness with other non-white factions. “Woman of color” seeks to universalize the non-white female struggle. This violent universalizing makes it so that that the black woman functions as a non-white, not a black person, which ultimately compromises her personhood.

Oh, Didn’t See You There

It was a hot summer’s day in July, and I was excited to enjoy a movie night with my family in the city (what New Yorkers call Manhattan). The theatre was packed with city dwellers and tourists, so we were apparently not the only ones with this idea. As I stood at the kiosk and attempted to purchase tickets, I was startled to see a pair of pale hands begin to navigate the screen as if I were not standing there. Shocked, my aunt came to my defense. The damage, however, had already been done, a damage sealed by the equally shocked look on her face. “I’m sorry” she said, but she was not sorry. We were not invisible, but insignificant to a white woman in a world where acknowledging black people remains optional. In a world painted white, to show any respect for our person or body was just too inconvenient .

The Reach Around

This kind of black female invisibility is a unique kind, because it reflects the highest form of visibility countered by coerced invisibility. Here, the invisibility functions as a shield from feeling lesser to someone who is to function as subserviant. The reach around is not only performed by the African adjacent but by the African who, circumscribed to a collective inferiority, strives to reduce their kinfolk to an inferiority expected of their people. The reach around occurs when a black woman demands visual or intellectual acknowledgement seen as incompatible with her blackness. Not only is blackness supposed to occupy a space of invisibility, but blacks are to command said invisibility as well. Black women are not to occupy spaces of beauty, intelligence, or confidence and if they do, they often encounter the reach around— a praxis that functions to erase their attributes to salvage the fictive superiority of whiteness. The reach around occurs when an agent enthusiastically acknowledges those around a black woman deemed hyper-visible to attack the self and esteem of a black person perceived as having too much in their favor to warrant overt recognition by those who need her to be invisible in order to maintain relevancy.

The wallflower

Where you are spoken to as if you are not there.

The wallflower functions similarly to the Mascot syndrome the late Malcolm X delineated in his Autobiography. The wallflower literally casts the black person on the margins in order to centralize the African adjacent person. For example, if you’ve been in a predominately white environment, or even watched a reality or scripted series that features this dynamic, you can attest to the African-adjacent discussing the person of African descent, or something they said, as if they were not there. This behavior attains a new height in that the assailants are often serial offenders who view their actions as an innocuous acknowledgement that, of course, is not an acknowledgment at all.

The Isolated stare

Staring as a part of your body to dismember your totality

This typically occurs when a speaker stares at a black woman’s body, hair, etc, as she speaks or performs a task. This behavior is always done in a conspicuous manner seeking to make the black woman feel self-conscious about an envy-inducing attribute.

Material Gaze

Focusing on an exterior form.

The material gaze imposes the invisibility politic by imposing a superficial gaze onto the black body. Two consistent examples of this would be Michelle Obama and Serena Williams, both of whom are black woman of notable achievement yet are often violently circumscribed to berated physical attributes.

Consistent Comparison

No recognition; just comparison.

This black female invisibility politic occurs when a black woman is constantly compared to another person or to other people. This praxis functions to ignore a black woman’s individuality and accomplishments and to convince the black female subject that they are “common.”

Individual Scenario: “So and so does (insert positive attribute or accomplishment associated with the subject)
Collective Scenario: She’s the black (insert African-adjacent person)

Closing Thoughts

In writing this post, I hope to form a sister circle that validates what can function as confusing in isolation. However, while I can not ensure what, if any, effect my words may yield, it is most significant that the being of black female* form remains central. In examining the black female invisibility politic, it becomes imperative to underscore that black female invisibility is not a fact but a function; a function the being of black female form can overcome and divert in a collective awareness.

  • Note: I use the phrase “being of the black female form” as a means to detach from the western phrasing “black woman,” as the contents of this post illustrates the term as an oxymoron.

The Burning House of Black Space

    I am not friendly, and I seldom smile when among gentrifiers in a diluted black space. I have high expectations for those given the gift of melanin, yet I am frequently disappointed by those who consent to the various manifestations of our collective disenfranchisement. The portrait of being eaten alive, drawn by the white bodies welcomed with effortless comfort and inclusivity, does not amuse me nor prompt my involvement. Sears of rage shoot through my body as I watch a white person, appointed by a melanated person, handle the money belonging to a black organization at a historically black institution. 

    I cannot and will not eat, drink, or trade stories with those who study my delivery and my thoughts to one day appropriate as “esteemed intellects” with an “incredible ability to relate.” My detachment and critical space complicate their inevitable imitation, exposing the devilish ways antithetical to the white saviour space they have already resumed. Their interpretations and “analysis” are inevitably flawed because to theorize about what you will never encompass incites an irreversible emptiness. The efforts of the African adjacent to interpret the black experience and black artistic expression do not sound better because it can not be better. The same feeling overcomes me as I listen to my favorite artists who are increasing paired with the African adjacent. To the onlooker, this non-black is merely a feature, but to the critical gaze, this musical presence foreshadows the same fate as a Starbucks in a predominately black area. Their presence features doom, not diversity—their performance occupies the mimetic space theorist Homi Bahba marks between mimicry and mockery. 

    It is between mimicry and mockery that you will find those who praise the African adjacent for merely being non-black. Some skinfolk, bound to mental bondage,  believe the African Adjacent access the African better than the African. I wish I could turn a blind eye to the violent invitation my elder extended when he told me to speak and think more like my white male peer, but all I see is how this white world continues to place blacks with no self or esteem in high places. This comparison functions to convince the oppressed they are to be compared, deterring from the truth that to be black is to be beyond comparison. I wish the words “he does not know what he’s doing” would appease the disappointment that follows his violent invitation. I wish that knowing these actions reflect the subconscious did not make things worse.

    Efforts to dialogue with who color designates as my kinfolk expose them as a skinfolk. To articulate preserving black space as integral is to encompass an anti-whiteness that, to the hegemonically influenced mind, must be refuted by claims of the “nice” and deserving whites who inhabit our black spaces. These attributes as aligned with those who invade black spaces insult the reality that their presence symbolizes an absent black body; their presence symbolizes black opportunity seized by a faction in close proximity to every global luxury.  The gentrification of black space is a mentally violent praxis that, though newly acknowledged for its physicality, is seldom engaged for its psychological effects. Conversations surrounding black spatial invasion is perhaps most significant in the contemporary context as both black neighborhoods, and black colleges find themselves inundated with a growing African-adjacent presence. Some interpret this invasion as diversity; however, the African adjacent come to conquer not to congregate, yet fear too often precludes any discussion that connects the dots between the two. 

    The linearity between black erasure and contemporary integration presented itself in smaller but equally violent displays in my undergraduate career. I recall from my undergraduate days at an HBCU, an interracial couple. She aesthetically channelled Mary J. Blige, and he resembled the lead from Save by the Bell mixed with a Ken doll. They paraded around campus together in an ostentatious display of their relationship that always seemed to garner hyper-visibility along the trajectory of the hill.  This sparked animus reactions from onlookers, to which my younger self found herself on the wrong side. I see now that what I initially saw as hecklers were those reacting to the stealth agenda of a white man. His presence as a white man on a historically black college campus, via full scholarship, embodied a systemic violence that assaulted the black collective in image and act. This individual threw salt in a collective wound by parading around the campus with a black woman as his trophy—as a violent mark of his penetration of black space, as a flag to mark his colonial conquest of the black female body. His presence on the campus was not enough.  No. He had to recruit the black female body as an accolade of his seized acceptance and authority in a predominately black space. 

    A growing fraction of the students at historically black institutions are whites, whites who are being trained to teach primary pages of the black narrative to black students. It is a mode of violence for any member of the black collective to occupy the same air as those who systemically disenfranchise the black community behind a fake smile and performative empathy. To the gentrifiers, the black university, the black community, and the black sound are just another means to symbolize their fictive power. Their acquisition holds no regard to our story, our legacies, our resilience encompassed in our spaces. For them, it is just another school, lover, neighborhood, or song cleaned up by their presence; whereas to the black collective, gentrification festers an unhealed wound of displacement.

Thus, to welcome gentrifiers is to welcome the flames in this burning house that is the “black” institution. Some fight these flames with a normalized inferiority manifested in phrases like “Well, what are we going to do?” and “nothing will ever change.” Things, however, will change. In ignoring the attack on black space, the historically black college will become like Harlem, Brooklyn, Oakland, Washington DC, Atlanta and many other cities in the United States—markers of a black past. Gentrification is unfortunate and unfair, but it is not a force beyond our means to fight as black people.

    Others buy into a different systemic spell, and use discussions of the gentrified college to pacify their regret in being unable to experience the HBCU, or any college, first hand. Thus, hearing of the HBCU’s “imperfections” proves the perfect opportunity to isolate a common problem. Just as white presence in black space, be it a community or school, possesses a positive in revealing the seemingly black person as melanated; similarly, these adversial comments by skinfolk illustrate those lured into a systemically endured inferiority as allies to the African adjacent. 

    Others whom I encounter, regard the truth of gentrification as an inconvenience they must shun with silence or bluntly state that they fail to understand the problem. The often unasked question is: why is she so angry? My question remains: Why aren’t you?

    The African adjacent, be it white people, or non-black people of color, observe an advantage the black collective does not. These groups understand and implement the value of nation. Despite this truth, the African adjacent purposely integrates and work to dismantle the black ability to create or maintain what Frantz Fanon called a national consciousness while diversifying how the black diaspora must apologize for any attempt to reassemble our collective consciousness. We are to invite the colonialism socially reproduced by our oppressors. We are to remain bound to past the white world continues to demand that we forget. 

    Gentrification exposes that black space was at worst not black at all, and at best not black enough. The melanated or those with black skin, who, sick with white hegemony welcome the African adjacent, mistake the flames of genocide for friendship or franchisement. The need for black spaces vested in a black ideology remains central in attaining both value and victory for the black collective.

    Whether the black college, the black neighborhood, or the black family, the black community remains under attack. This attack promises to obliterate our existence—an assassination through gentrification veiled as integration. An integrated or gentrified space follows a gentrified or integrated mind, poisoned by the illusion of progress.  Separatist, though connotated as  unfavorable, bears the remedy to our conflict, or the key to our cage. Separatism, though a physical state, must follow a mental psyche separated from systemized infiltration. Blacks must separate from white values, standards, and modes of identification. We are not Americans; we are Africans displaced in America. Our last names are not surnames; they are dots that connect to a colonialism that still systemically suffocates us. We are not free via the Emancipation Proclamation, because many of our ancestors were not slaves despite being enslaved. Many of our ancestors separated from those who thought they had power over them. History won’t tell us about the freedom we took; instead, in adopting a gentrified ideology, one becomes satiated with the “giving” white world who only gives life to themselves via a serial mental murder called his-story. The gentrified space promises a different form of blackness embodied by the charred remains that mark what was once a black body. Therefore, we must separate, not for equality but survival.

Aladdin, A Warning to Black Voters?

Aladdin, in its most recent adaption, merges theatre and Bollywood on the big screen. Though inundated with Indian actors who possess brown undertones (to be generous), generally have fair skin and features consistent with western beauty. The film attempts a feminist core with a nuanced Jasmine who is even more determined to emerge from her subordinate placement. The most prevalent component of the film is the hidden lessons it holds for the black viewer, or, the black voter.

To be clear, I am no way suggesting that Aladdin has any other agenda than the “diversity agenda” consistent with the society that encases it. Diversity occupies a violent space for the black collective. Specifically, contemporary diversity standards make it so that the African adjacent must attempt or perform diversity, but black spaces and black people must actually implement diversity initiatives. For example, the film appears to include a black cast member through Will Smith, but the black character is also the only one to pursue a love interest outside of this demographic; thus, the film (directed by Guy Ritchie who is a white man), must only pretend to seek a diversity that Smith’s character must implement.

Diversity takes on a very different manifestation with regards to the film’s targeted audience. Particularly, Aladdin targets adults seeking nostalgia and kids seeking “magic.” The film aims to to penetrate its audience’s psyche with a discourse on westernized ideals veiled by non-European bodies. This discourse, as it so often does, manifests in color.

For example, though Jafar, the Sultan’s advisor, has the same skin color as the rest of the cast, he remains paired with the color black. He has dark facial hair that covers the lower and sides of his face, wears dark clothing, and when he is temporarily Sultan, the kingdom becomes blackened in its presumed evil. This not-so-subtle color narrative is of course not unique. Child favorites like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King also assign dark colors and ambiance to its villains implementing a silent discourse on white superiority withered in a color narrative.

Will Smith, as the film’s genie, appears to anchor the film’s diversity initiative yet actualizes a white supremacist narrative authored in color. A black man as a genie adds another dimension to the role simultaneously exposing the ideology behind its initial conception. The genie emerges from a stimulated phallic like instrument that engenders the every wish of its master. The master-slave dynamic of course mirrors a colonized Africa, but the power contingencies also evoke a fictionalized “past.” The genie is easily the most powerful character in the film, yet his power remains circumscribed to a master. This dynamic reflects the general ideology that surrounds black talent, that black talent is best when paired with a master. This dynamic is often manifested in institutions that turn the wonder of black talent into workers employed to literally make his or her’s master or boss’s dreams come true.

Ironically, relegation is precisely what happens to Jafar, who becomes a worker when trying to supersede the genie’s power. Thus, though Robin Williams initially provided the voice for the genie, its conception seems anchored in the general perception of black people. Specifically, the genie mirrors the black friend, the sidekick, or what director Spike Lee called the “magical negro” seen in critically acclaimed films like Hitch, Bruce Almighty, and The Wedding Ringer. Even during Aladdin’s grand entrance as Prince Ali, his entourage featured the talents of black people, who though cast in the background like pictures on wallpaper, most likely went largely unseen by the audience.

The film also corresponds to a recent fixation fed to the American public, particularly the black female. The film highlights the Sultan seeking a husband for his daughter that will aid the kingdom’s agenda in maintaining its status. Though Jasmine and the Sultan are not black people, it is imperative for blacks to realize that empires seek power with their every move and marriage. Meghan Markle is part of an agenda, and those who cosign her “placement” also become a part of this agenda. Her placement in a European monarchy, like Will Smith’s placement in a European conjured tale, cast them as celebrated figures who re-present a portrait of white hegemony that appears revised by their pseudo inclusion.

Therefore, while Aladdin appears to offer a revisionist history with a female leader who marries for love and not power, the victory is for the African- adjacent woman not humankind. Blacks remain circumscribed to a traditional supporting role in ensuring the non-black lead learns his worth while teaching the black viewer to learn their place. Thus, the plot in many ways, illustrates the dynamic present in the upcoming election. Aladdin depicts blacks as the literal background to female leadership, a destiny that awaits a constituency espoused to a supporting role necessary to every earthly victory but their own.

What White People Want: A Tamed Shrew (What Women Want, A Review)

Will Packer (writer/director of 2017’s Girl Trip) kicks off 2019 with a remake of Mel Gibson’s What Women Want (2000) starring Taraji P. Henson (Empire; Baby Boy). Though casting a black woman who proclaims her racial and gender status towards the end of the film, Henson is the latest example of colorblind casting. By colorblind casting I speak specifically to black people hired to specifically to fulfill diversity aesthetics negated by a role written without regard for the black experience.

Ali, who alludes to the late Muhammad Ali, a reference supported by a juxtaposition between Henson and a photograph of Ali standing over his defeated opponent in the background, is a workholic who is vastly under appreciated in a male-dominated workplace. When she is overlooked for a promotion, she becomes determined to sign the biggest client to prove her worth. 

I’ll spare you what comes next because we have all seen it before. Girl messes up, but makes a big comeback where her relationships are stronger than they were before, and of course she gets the guy. Not a guy, but the guy.

The film appears to deviate from the norm in seeming to depict black disenfranchisement in its closing moments. The film however, actualizes what the global system of white supremacy hopes to make of black people. 

Upon announcing her plans to open her own business, Ali also reveals that her first two hires are white men. This is precisely what white hegemony hopes to make of the black person. In this moment Ali is not “the hope and dream of the enslaved,” but the hope and dream of the master. Ali personifies the slave that can be granted freedom because in freedom all she’ll do is recreate her oppression.

So while this recreation of the Mel Gibson “classic” appears an apology to those targeted by his racist language, the film performs within racist expectations.

This is perhaps best illustrated by the film’s portrayal of black vodou or witchcraft. The psychic, played by the one and only Erykah Badu, who is reminiscent of Mozell from Eve’s Bayou, pokes fun of Haitian Voudon— a praxis the western gaze labels, weird and unsafe. 

This depiction alone illustrates what white people want—for the oppressed to see themselves as weird, strange, and even dangerous.

The film offers a similar superficiality with regards to black love. Though What Men Want appears to show black love, Ali’s lusting after a young white neighbor who eventually turns her off with his Christian Grey preferences, shines a whole new light on her union with the tall, dark, and handsome black man she stands beside once the credits rolls. Specifically, this union depicted in the film is one of a woman meeting a good man who happens to be black not a powerful portrait of black love. 

In closing, the film is a contemporary manifestation of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Ali, a black woman, is the shrew tamed by the demands of western culture— an act solidified by Ali’s attachment to white bodies and westernized ideas of success and conventionality by the film’s end. Specifically, the film suggests that the black female shrew is “tamed” by westernized men. 

Thus, what white people want is immortal plantation politics and a woman black in body but lily white in ambition.