Black Business Spotlight: Nude Barre

A medley of personal style and professional aspiration, stockings, tights, or hoisery- are a part of my daily life. However, despite its essential status to my lifestyle, the cost is often overwhelming to my meager earnings. This cost, while personal harmful, was also an expense outside black economics– marking its true detriment. This detriment finds its remedy in black-owned hosiery company  Nude Barre.  nude-barre-crystallized-fishnet-tights

Launched by dancer turned businessman Erin Carpenter, NudeBarre enables the darker-skinned woman to enter the “nude” conversation. Donned by celebrities from Wendy Williams to Tyra Banks, Carpenter cures the conflict faced by black women from all walks of life in finding their hosiery hue. Plagued with the decision to don a lighter shade at the exchange for an “ashy” look or the too-dark shade that borderlines blackface  Nude Barre specifically speaks to the brown girl’s experience. The brown woman bears a unique experience to colorism as her central placement on the color spectrum bears an often understated correspondence to colorism. Not bound to the extremes of “light” or “dark” the “brown” woman, in her shade diversity, is often omitted from the categories of color that commonly compartmentalize blackness.   nudebarreshades.png

Nude Barre, has 16 shades that brilliantly capture every shade. In capturing 16 shades, Nude Barre emerges as inclusive to every lifestyle previously abandoned in the exclusivity of a white-dominated society.  Nude Barre hosiery also has a spandex component that makes the tights both comfortable and non-restrictive. The hosiery also comes in a variety of styles for children and adults: opaque, crystallized and fishnet. My picks are the opaque and fishnet. The opaque issues a sheer look that is both sexy and sophisticated. The fishnet stockings are a classy take on the typically risqué fashion. The fishnet stockings, being couture to color, offer a sheer look that appears transparent to the casual onlooker. The sheer look makes the fishnets, in addition to the opaque, perfect for both work and play.

nude-barre-tights

While Nude Barre is certainly a great product, its greatness is largely a product of its creation. Made for black women by a black woman, Nude Barre offers fashion and culture. Nude Barre as a company epitomizes the beauty in blackness by demonstrating not a need for inclusion in history, but a means to write our own.

***I was not paid or asked to write this review. My efforts are sincerely a product of my belief in the product and wish to uphold black femininity.

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Beyonce as Black Conscious?

My consistent criticism of popular culture is its often indifference to contemporary conflict. Admittedly Hollywood offers starlets, singers and others of the same sort a view from the top that all too frequently distanbeyonce-new-video-435c5cd2-fb7b-4d27-9e8c-f921b8d2cdeaces them from reality. Reality, well specifically speaking- black reality observes a prominent presence in Superstar Beyonce’s latest video Formation. While the majority of Beyonce’s career has been of feminist motive, empowering women in gold sequenced attire-Queen Bey takes on a seemingly activist stance–embodying a formation that counters her previous “safe” positioning.

The video- set in modern New Orleans, features Beyonce in a number of striking poses in  ensembles ranging from victorian to contemporary athletic. The lyrics are raunchy. Her attire-couture. Blue Ivy-precious. While Beyonce’s proclamation of “Creole” heritage may be attributed to an attempt to dilute her blackness, and her shameless rendering of the “f” word attributed to an attempt to appear more “urban” than uppity- Formation embodies the extreme and exists to shock.  However, the most shocking of what is obviously an attempt to launch a new initiative exists in the singers diverse attempt to encompass conflicts central to blackness– from lyrics to backdrop.

I. Central Issue: Hair

“I like my baby hair with baby hair and Afro.”

Blue-Ivy-Beyonce-Formation-Music-Video-PicturesSince her birth, Blue Ivy has been the source of extensive criticism for her hair. Up until this video, Beyonce maintained a relatively quiet stance. This statement, accompanied by a cute cameo by Blue Ivy, makes a strong statement about black hair in it’s natural state; suggesting that underneath the blonde hair society has come to associate with Beyonce, lies  love for her “nappy” roots. Since hair has always been a source of humiliation and exploitation for black women, featuring Blue in her natural state is empowering not only the innocence of childhood but the innocence of black childhood-free from western influence and standards of beauty. It is also worth mentioning that the video generally omits the straight-haired aesthetics, as Beyonce and all black dancers don inauthentic hair (and colors)  but of ethnic texture. This is of course not a feat, but overtly asserts a more cultured initiative that the typical long, straight weaves that have intertwined with contemporary black femininity.

II. Central Issue: Negro Nose

“I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils”

While the late great Michael Jackson endured a public struggle with his black aesthetics, this is a conflict all persons of the black diaspora face to various extents. Thus, to assert love for the source of the Sphinx’s shattered nose whose genetics and insecurity descended down to contemporary Africans in America and beyond– is nothing short of empowering.

III. Central Issue: Police Brutality

Formation also features a hooded black child breakdancing in front of a gang of shielded police officers. With the increasing number of contemporary lynchings carried out by the police, its acknowledgement by A-list stars has gone largely under discussed.  Bey breaks this silence as the dancing, hooded child- faceless in a sea of blue, seemingly signifies the unbreakable black spirit that no bullet or coward with a badge can sever.

IV. Eff the Police  beyonceformation

Perhaps the most resounding image of the video is the footage of Beyonce on a sinking police car. Immediately, I thought of 2005s act of racial genocide, known to most as Hurricane Katrina. It then occurred to me that much of the video appears to take place in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The French Quarter went largely unscathed during Katrina due to its high levees absent from communities containing the darker- hued and less wealthy. While Beyonce’s placement on the wrong side of the levees implies a placement on the wrong side of history, the drowning cop car counters this misalignment in silently proclaiming ” F*ck the police.” This assertion encompasses the shared 90s frustration and tenacity of NWA, rendering a deserving epithet to a force of white supremacy designed to distress, destroy and divide the black community.

beyonce-formation-ddotomenTransformation through Formation? 

Beyonce resurrects from her two year hiatus as a negro (or creole) with an attitude in her own right. While Formation isn’t exactly angry, it encompasses the anger of a generation fed up with consistent injustice. Now, I am in now way asserting Beyonce as  a contemporary Assata Shakur. However, I do commend Beyonce for using the power of her platform to voice the concerns of those who supported her in her rise to fame- black people.

Popular culture, from the Superbowl to the Oscars works to distract blacks (and society) from the sole month dedicated to the richness of black legacy. Thus,  I can’t think of a better way for a black pop star to commemorate black history month that to redirect societal attention back to black.

Cheers to Beyonce for assuming a “formation” that aligns her where she belongs- with her people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viola Davis, and The Bittersweetness of Black Presence in Traditionally White Spaces

According to the media we made history last night. The “we” speaks to those who reside at the crossroads of race and gender and “we” as a society. Now if we are talking in terms of patters and history then we did in fact make history last night. The media will nurture the belief that we as a country have forged a new path that praises diversity, whereas all history did was repeat itself.   Viola_Davis

Last night, the Emmy Awards crowned its first black female recipient of the “Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series” category. This recipient is none other than the incomparable Viola Davis for her starring role on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. My eyes welt up with tears as Davis, beautifully dressed in an ivory gown with her hair unapolegitcally natural, took the stage to accept her honor. The tears were partially of pride, but mainly because Davis’ win is merely another symbol to seduce society into believing the world “isn’t so bad” for black folk.

Davis’ victory suggest that the dark women or girls of America, those who are completely without any European/Anglo features  “don’t have to too bad” in America. Davis’ win is a small feat for black women as it does nothing to negate the black women who are harassed or murdered by the police. It does nothing to negate the countless black women who are overlooked as mentally ill or victims sexual abuse or assault. The same was true for Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar win, where her nomination didn’t even garner her a walk through the front door. Viola Davis, much like Lupita Nyong’o ( 2014 Academy Award recipient) and Hattie McDaniel (the first black women to receive this honor) appear to forge a place for the unconventional, but this place exists solely in time, and time, much like symbols, is fleeting.

In her acceptance speech Davis speaks of “striving to cross the line where countless white women stood with outstretched arms, but I can’t get there.” While I internally commend Davis for her honesty, her statement sent chills up my spine. This simple line sums up the bittersweetness that accompanies Viola’s victory. Yes, it is wonderful to see black women acknowledged for their talent. However blacks must learn to live beyond praise from whites (or non blacks) as this need for recognition is often a source of exploitation. Black women do not need the acknowledgement of traditionally white spaces, because unlike Davis’ dream there are no outstretched arms. Any public praise from whites is symbolic at best and as temperate as the smile one issues a stranger.

vdnaturalSo as the smile that surfaces upon hearing of Davis’ victory fades, I envision the celebratory tone that Monday has in store for some. I picture black girls, old and young seeing themselves in Viola and feeling momentarily beautiful, until a peer calls them “ugly”, or they’re passed over for a job, randomly pulled over on their drive home or tossed aside for their lighter or longer haired counterpart.

As a community we must award our own greatness in order to be certain that the symbols of our beauty, poise,  talent and overall majesty is not just fleeting but a consistent sense of belonging and esteem amongst our women and girls. 

With that said, the true victory of last night’s Emmy’s was the heartfelt hug Taraji P. Henson gave Davis immediately following her victory. The sense of esteem and belonging epitomized in their embrace, paints victory as collaborative rather than singular. 

Nevertheless I commend Mrs. Davis on her victory, but mostly for her realization that her plight is our plight as black women. This plight is hindered in gloating over symbols such as this one that suggests we as blacks crossed the intangible line separating us from white women. This line is inevitably drawn in the sand,  and only with a strong sense of community will we see that accomplishments aren’t more grand when acknowledged by whites, beauty isn’t real only if whites say so. Davis’ talent and beauty shines beyond the Emmy stage much like the countless other black women overlooked and under appreciated around the globe. It may take another forty plus years if ever to gain public recognition, but the true victory lies in knowing we don’t need it.

The Convenience of Sisters and Suicide: A Discussion of Sandra Bland and Bobbi Kristina

Murder not death…

The world undoubtedly shines a little less bright with the loss of Sandra Bland and Bobbi Kristina. These fallen angels of the black diaspora, while separated in terms of fame and fortune, are united as casualties of racism. While the untimely loss of these two young ladies hurts many, white media personifies their indifference in their attempts to scorn the legacy of both women with whispers of suicide. Talk of suicide with regard to the black female body is not only blasphemy but it makes a mockery of the systematic racism that murdered both young women.   

A common fact of the late and great James Brown is that he was born dead. While this fact may be medically veracious in Brown’s case, it is actually true of all persons of the Black diaspora. As the long severed children of Africa cast unto the Americas valued far beneath our worth, blacks, collectively are born dead. In fact, many of us go through life dead unless we are both gifted and cursed to stumble upon some degree of consciousness.

Bobbi Kristina and the Gift and Curse of Fame and Fortune

As the daughter of superstar Whitney Houston and R&B star Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina was born into the spotlight. While her life may seem to possess the sugar and spice to make the less famous and far less fortunate envious, the gift of such a lavish life would prove to be a curse. As the daughter of one of the best voices of all time, Bobbi watched her mom reach the height of her fame. Consequently, Bobbi also saw how Houston was discarded as her spotlight dimmed. She watched as her father battled the burden of being wed  to a woman whose star burned just a little brighter.

In wake of her January tragedy, many blamed her parents for letting her down. These accusations completely casts the blame away from a society so doused in white supremacy that it failed both her and her parents. Fame fools many blacks into believing that the number of people who know your name and the amount of zeros on a check make them somehow more valuable. This fallacy is explicitly unveiled when celebrities learn that they too are pawns in racism. For they too are disenfranchised and undervalued as highly paid slaves whose value is solely based on their ability to generate money for whites.

Despite their fame and fortune Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston were still plagued with a dynamic that destroys many black unions. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing said it best in her controversial book The Isis Papers:

The first lessons to Black women were harsh and cruel ones of sexual assault and abuse, taking their children away and forcing them to watch as their men were lynched and castrated. But then the harsh lessons were followed by milder treatment of Black Women as compared to black men.

Black women, were often used as subtle pawns to emasculate the black man, thus further complicating the already complicated concept of black love. Thus, much like the black celebrity, the black family is also plagued by racism. While many black parents hope for their children to rise above their own mistakes, racism makes so much of black life circular. So just as Houston and Brown’s union deteriorated by a side effect of racism, so was Bobbi’s Kristina’s pursuit for love.

Bobbi’s attempt to find love of her own drove into the arms of the man who would physically cause her death.  I say “physically cause her death”  because boyfriend Nick Gordon’s actions were a direct result a racism. Lusting after the white man’s wealth present in Bobbi’s inheritance, Gordon’s greed seduced him into murder.

Now, Gordon has maintained his innocence and has yet to be brought up on murder charges. Instead, the media speculates that Bobbi Kristina’s drug use was the cause of her untimely death, but drugs, with regards to blacks is also a side effect of racism. Drugs are what are placed in the outstretched black hand that pleads for aid. Rather than equip the black community with quality schools, therapist and an abundance of jobs- drugs are placed in closer proximity than any opportunity for advancement. The accessibility of blacks, be it celebrities or the non famous and less wealthy to drugs is virtually the same. Thus, the neighborhood wino has many of the same problems as a NBA player, actor/actress, or singer, as they are equally plagued by the construct of blackness that robs us of the equity of advancement.

The destruction of blacks by a white society, be it poverty, alcoholism, drug or substance abuse stems from the lessons in hate taught by white supremacy. Everything in America is constructed for black people to hate themselves. From the images we see on television to often overtly dysfunctional and disenfranchised lives we are predisposed to, blacks are taught to think less of themselves and highly of the white race. This distorted reality seduces blacks into inferior position varying greatly in form. In lusting over the fabricated superiority of whites, whites gain their own sense of self importance and leave blacks solely responsible for cleaning up a mess they made. Almost inevitably, blacks are left to reassemble a puzzle of which many of the pieces were never given. Nevertheless, in both her life and death, Bobbi epitomized that no money or fame negates the magnitude of the black experience.

She Who is Killed Cannot Kill Herself   

With a life that differed from Bobbi Kristina on the surface, Bland epitomizes the preference white society has for blacks who make a dollar, over blacks who make a difference. Bland was a young woman who lived through purpose. She understood the depth of all going on around her, and spoke out against it. See, white society can still thrive in their lies if one or two people decode their ways. However, if these people begin to talk to the masses, whites become anxious in fear of their fallacies being unveiled. Furthermore, by living through purpose, Bland epitomizes a person who is killed, not one who kills herself.

Bland’s case eerily reminds me of Emmitt Till’s murder. He too came from Chicago to a southern state and never made it back home. There seems to be an unspoken anxiety of southern states (who wish to operate as if they were their own country), against the behavior of less conservative states. In the state’s efforts to enforce that they see as “proper” behavior, Bland like Till become symbols of what happens when an equitable existence is demanded in a society that doesn’t see blacks as human.

To be black and female…

With the symbols like a Michelle Obama as the first black first lady, Oprah as a billionaire, and Gaby Douglas as an Olympic champion, society is seduced into believing that being black and female “isn’t that hard or bad.” These feats, while remarkable, represent a small minority of blacks that are able to defy  overt disenfranchisement by existing in spaces previously reserved solely for whites. However, these symbols are merely individuals, or part of whole that is entirely victimized by systematic racism. So, despite their success, these individuals  are still susceptible to a lack of cultural consciousness, which cripples them from helping the less franchised versions of themselves. Nevertheless, these individuals do not and should not represent the totality of the black experience as their success does not negate the racism that affects the entirety of the black diaspora. For in the face of discussing Michelle Obama and Oprah, let us not forget our sisters like Renisha McBride and Kindra Chapman who were slain by white supremacy.

Collaboratively, Sandra Bland and Bobbi Kristina depict the diversity of stress that comes with being both black and female in a world dominate by our antithesis- those who are white and male. Painting both women as suicidal is another way for white society to deflect blame away from themselves onto the victim.

Let us see Bland and Brown as the symbols contemporary society wants us to forget, the symbols that represent the actuality of the black experience. Let us mourn Bland and Brown for the tragedy they are, and not celebrate minuscule victories that are racist in their attempt to distort our understanding of racism.

Most importantly, may our reflection on Bland and Brown grant a realization of the depth and intensity of systematic racism. For the only way to overcome racism, is to truly understand it.

Rachel Dolezal and the Beauty and Beast of Racial Envy

While many were outraged in the unveiling of NAACP president Rachel Dolezal as a white woman, her story was eerily familiar. Just two years ago as a graduate student, I had a roommate who played the very card that Ms. Dolezal played… the race card.

My former roommate, a white woman, selectively identified as black and tirelessly fawned for the approval of myself and my other black roommates. Every conversation was an effort to state her blackness, be it how “black her brothers looked” or how her “mulatto” heritage afforded her black aesthetics. A simple google search would reveal that my former roommate was a member of numerous organizations for black women, an affiliation that afforded her countless opportunities, despite her over ability to benefit from where privilege. race-card-EXPIRED

It was through my ex roommate,Ashley* that I saw the race card played for the first time. It was Ashley who taught me that the race card can only be played by those who assume a distance away from blackness, but assume a closer position for personal gain. Together, Ms, Dolezal, and Ashley work to demonstrate the desire of whites and other races to enjoy a degree of blackness (often  through exploiting the race card), without actually enduring the true plight of blackness.

I. A Proclamation of Insecurity 

I first heard about Ms. Dolezal during a trip to the hair salon. The details of her case were accompanied by a proclamation of insecurity enclosed in the words

“why would she want to be black?”

While this assertion was rendered by a black women, this idea is implanted in the minds of many, in the Americas and beyond. Racism as a system, tirelessly dispels myths of white superiority by presenting these myths as factual. These myths are perpetuated via media, education, general socio economics, implanting the myths of superiority into the subconscious of Western society.

Despite the structure of society that suggests otherwise, white superiority is perhaps the greatest lie ever told. Dolezal embodies the consequences of France’s Cress Wesling’s Color Confrontation Theory. According to Wesling’s theory whites stem from the albino offspring of African mothers. These albinos were outcasted due to their lack of color, and as a result suffered an inferiority complex that has lingered in the white race ever since. As a means to deflect their insecurity, whites created this system of racism that dispelled the superiority of blackness in favor of a myth of white superiority.

So while the acts of Ms. Dolezal and my former roommate may perplex some, in reality they embodies the fantasies of many non- black persons in AmeRachel-Dolezal-2rica. This fantasy being the desire to posses the beauty of blackness without truly enduring the black experience.

It is imperative to note that Dolezal’s decision was not desperate, as she did not assume the identity of any black person. Dolezal used the construction of her blackness to acquire a life that many blacks themselves struggle to achieve. She, like myself attended and graduated from Howard University. However, unlike myself, Dolezal was awarded a full scholarship. So unlike many blacks who are fortunate enough to acquire an education, Dolezal was able to accumulate an education unscathed by the burden of student loans. Dolezal, like myself is also a part-time college professor. However, Dolezal was appointed a professor of African American Studied without acquiring a degree in the field.

II. Exploiting Blackness

While the alterations Ms. Dolezal made to her appearance are borderline comical, her use of blackness to accelerate her life’s goals reveal her white privelege. While some may insist that Dolezal relinquished her white privelsge when she decided to go through life as a black women I disagree. First of all, Dolezal’s altered appearance does not match the appearance of a black woman. Her appearance is multiracial at best, but nonetheless she assumes a system of privilege in not being “too black.”dolezalwhite

Though her light eyes, light hair and light skin may have made her an average white woman,  it made her an above average black women in a system of racism that praises the presence of white features. So while the news attributes Dolezal’s affiliation with blackness to her black adopted siblings, I disagree. The juxtaposition of Ms. Dolezal to her adopted black siblings enlightened her to the advancements of her assets if she were to switch sides. She gained a heightened sense of self importance while in the presence of blacks, making her continued engagements with blacks an effort to maintain her high of self importance. Thus, Dolezals performance is within the bounds of systematic racism, as she selfishly advances at the disenfranchisement of blacks.
So all those who discount Ms. Dolezal’s fallacies because you believe she is working to uplift the black race, are sadly mistaken. Ms. Dolezal plays into the many white or lighter skinned individuals who feel they should lead their darker counterparts. While the rule of the NAACP leads many to believe that blacks are at the top, this organization was traditionally operated by whites until the acts of black pioneers such as Dubois and later Medgar Evers fatally endured the challenge of intervening and making black interest the focus of the NAACP.  As an NAACP official and professor of African American Studies, Dolezal did what many of her white ancestors have done before her- take it upon themselves to assume positions of leadership over black people determining their best interests and what they should learn about themselves.

III. The Element of Choice: Race v Gender

Perhaps most disturbing, discussions on Ms. Dolezal prompted an unworthy comparison between transracial and transgender. Olympian turned reality star Bruce Jenner recently unveiled his new transgender identity. This unveiling was generally well received and liberated many in terms choosing your gender.    caitlin-jenner-media-strategy

A week later this Dolezal case makes headlines and many feel that the ability of an individual to choose one’s gender should yield the ability of another to choose one’s race. The connection of gender to race is a contemporary practice that is not only personally offensive, but undermining to the dynamics of race. Yes, gender and race are social constructs invented to uphold the fabrication of white male superiority.  However, the establishment and acknowledgement of gender was crafted on the absence of color. Thus if you were black you were generally understood and accepted to be excluded from gender constructs. I would argue that the tradition could of gender still hold true. Thus the ability to transition between race and gender is yet another privilege of whiteness. Blacks who change gender are still black first, disabling them from escaping the burdens of racism.

Thus, to compare the ability of whites to choose gender and race to blacks is inappropriate and unrealistic. While passing did occur on the part of blacks in the past, this was not an option for most people of the black diaspora. The ability to negate skin, facial features and hair type is not feasible to most blacks. However with perms to alter the straight texture of most whites and tanning to present the allusion of an  African heritage, non blacks have a greater opportunity to assume a range of proximity to blackness. This blackness is assumed in a variety of ways, from those who alter their bodies to assume the curve of a black women, to those who emulate our curls, to those who attempt to steal our culture, blacks encompass both the color and culture to which all groups envy and in some degree emulate.

IV. Black Beauty as a Catalyst for White Envy    afrocute

In a twisted way,  the behavior of both Rachel Dolezal and my ex roommate Ashley issue a back-sided compliment to black femininity. Their actions say “ I want to be you, but I lack your strength and tenacity.” While it is tempting for many to categorize the actions of Dolezal and Ashely as a facet of insanity, their actions epitomize the beast of envy bore from the black woman’s beauty. So, while folk like Ms. Dolezal and Ashely are a temperamental challenge, may their actions be all the more reason to hold our heads just a little higher as black women.

In the face of acknowledging black beauty as a catalyst for white envy,  I wish to end by restructuring the initial query of “why would she want to be black?” to “why wouldn’t she?”

No one said being black would be easy, but we sure are beautiful…

* Name changed

Shady Sisterhood: Ten “Friends” Every Black Woman Encounters

1. The friend that tests you and uses the “n” word

Sometimes it is to depict their superiority towards others of their race or ethnicity who use this term to speak of blacks. Sometimes its to capitalize on blacks who feel worthy if elevated from other blacks, so their non black comrade may use this term to refer to other blacks and declare their friend as exceptional. Regardless of the context, the use of this term is inexcusable and completely unnecessary.

I admit that I am still wading the tides of understanding this behavior. There must be some feeling of victory or power in non-blacks who “get away with” using the n word around blacks. If this is in fact the case, this person is willing to compromise the cultural legacy of their “friend” for their own feelings of conquest.

2. The friend that thinks they are “blacker” than you.

This “friend” went to a black history assembly, filled out the paperwork and is now a member of the race. He or she has read Toni Morrison, Langtson Hughes- even declared them their favorite authors. They love Audre Lorde and patronize black artists and movies. They think that their behavior aligns them more with blackness than a black person who is seemingly indifferent to these practices. Little do they know, that conceptualizing blackness as behavior and not culture is of the same prejudice of which they are trying to distance themselves.

3. The friend that assures you that you’re being oversensitive about racial issues.

I went to Sligo, Ireland for a writer’s retreat when I was twenty- two years old. The experience was very eye opening, my presence alerting many eyes towards my black body nearly everyplace I went. My presence was met with open eyes and mouths on numerous occasions, all of which were hushed by my (non black) colleagues anytime I tried to say something about it. There was even an incident where a pre-teen child walked up to me, stood there and stared while my collegeaues and her family looked away.

It does not matter how many books you’ve read, how many shows you’ve seen, whether your boyfriend, kid’s cousin’s mother’s best friend’s daughter is black- if you are not of African descent, you remain outside the black diaspora. There is no such thing as black by association, so you do not assume a position within the black dispora, just as blacks cannot capitalize on your position of privilege. Thus, you’re ability to selectively ignore issues that do not directly impact you, do not transcend to your black friend. If you don’t want to hear about it- that it certainly your right- but choosing not to acknowledge reality doesn’t it make it any less real.

4. The friend that brings up your color.

This is the “Friend” that will comment on their ambitions to go to the beach to get “your color” or “as black as you.”

Whether its meant to be funny or just a thoughtless comment, this remark, acts as a moment of difference to the black person on the receiving end. With this comment and others like it, a black individual is enabled to see themselves through the eyes of their “friend.” It is through comments like this, that it becomes obvious that you are not (insert your name here) to this “friend” of yours, but a black person. Ironically, this friend will often proclaim to “not see color.” I guess they only see color on beach day.

5. The friend that advises you on your hair

This is the friend that watched one of her (black) friends, or a youtube tutorial do a wrap or a braid out and feels its appropriate to tell this “secret” to any black woman during any hair conversation.

6. The friend that expects praise for standing up for black issues.

This is the friend that always makes it a point to mention how they held the door for an older black woman, stood up for their black significant other in a non black environment, or some other random act of social justice (sarcasm). The irony of this behavior is that they are actually behaving as they should. Expecting praise for standing up against the wrongdoings of blacks suggests that it is our problem, whereas the mistreatment of blacks is a societal problem.

7. The one that connects you on black vocabulary.

I had a peer tell me that she faced opposition in requesting that the class refer to enslaved Africans as African Americans and not African. When I attempted to inform her of her error, she firmly stood in her position of ignorance, refusing the input from someone whose ancestors were the very topic of discussion.

The term African America marks the assimilation of American blacks whose lineage began in Africa. Thus, Africans who had just been forcibly removed from their continent and displaced in America, were still knowledgeable of their language and culture. To refer to them as African Americans, prematurely strips them of the culture that history would distance them from in each day that would come to pass. Once again, no one from outside the black disapora should tell those within the diaspora how to feel, or how to refer to their own ancestors. To do so asserts an inappropriate sense of importance, disregarding significant cultural detachment.

8. The friend that is only your friend because they want to date black men.

Some non black women feel as though the best way to attract black men is to surround themselves with at least one black woman. This friend believes that her physical closeness to black people will alleviate any ideas of a racism or prejudice that have been attached to her race or ethnic group.

9. The friend that acts as a “Find Other Black People” App

This is the friend that always has a person they’d “ love for you to meet.” This individual that your friend mentions is ALWAYS black, because black people need the help of non black folk to find other black people.

10. The friend that inquires about the “nice” things you have.

This person may not actually be your friend, but is friendly with you. The friendliness is evoked as a means to break down your guard, so that they may inquire about your ability to acquire material goods assumed to be out of your pay grade. I once had a colleague befriend me when I was working retail. I initially really liked her, but soon noticed that all her questions were pertaining to my ability to buy the company clothes and still have money to attend school and have my hair done. The queries of course stem from prejudiced beliefs that blacks are impoverished, and only acquire material goods through dishonesty.

Closing Thoughts

Do these encounters suggest that blacks and non blacks can never truly be friends? Or perhaps that these anxieties are only present in  those who are not truly our friends or allies? Maybe these scenarios suggest that the unwavering ideology of black inferiority is so deeply embedded, that even those who really love us are susceptible to the impact of black politics in America.

Kulture Klash on Keeping Up With the Kardashians

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A recent episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians featured an uncharacteristically socially conscious theme of racism and prejudice in contemporary society. Kim Kardashian who is famous for her highly publicized romances, is newly wed to socially conscious rapper Kanye West and a new mom to the beautiful North West. The episode showcases Kardashian’s inability to ignore the reality of a racist society, as a new mom to a black child.

It is commendable and undoubtedly under Kanye’s influence, the inclusion of such prevalent issues on a show infamous for its often materialistic and shallow content. This episode revealed contemporary anxiety with interracial relationships extending to their offspring. This episode also exposed the presence and prevalence of blackface as a current practice.

Now, the problem with this episode is that it portrays Kim Kardashian as a victim of a racist and prejudice society. While I would certainly argue that racism is harmful to everyone, the very system that fosters such prejudice and racism has made Mrs. West a star. While Kim’s romances have been a source of fascination of the public, her derriere, dark hair and “dark” features have made her a household name. The presence of traditional black features (dark hair, dark eyes and a shapely derriere) make Kim- a white woman, a source of desirability, an anomaly in a race not traditionally associated with these attributes. While black women who posses these features have been historically exploited and ridiculed, Kim is praised for these features as these features are detached from the black body. My mind drifts to Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman, an African woman who possessed the same shapely derriere, dark eyes and hair that made Kim Kardashian famous. Except, rather than the fame, praise and money that these features have provided Kim, Baartman was treated as a freak of nature, her body used to substantiate the difference between black and white women. Like Kardashian, Bartman traveled, but unlike Kardashian she was featured in a circus like showcase in which she wore little to no clothing. She only lived to see twenty-five, but would be dismembered and exploited for centuries after her death. Thus, the episode painting Kardashian as a victim of the same system that has granted her, her empire, is highly problematic and slightly hypocritical. Criticism of the system should not be reserved for part of its execution, as any failure to reject the system as a whole reflects a privilege of selectivity.

The episode ends with Kim creating a post for her blog, referencing a second sight gained through motherhood. She bravely asserts that she previously saw racism as “someone else’s problem.” While this declaration is honest, and without a doubt telling of the approach taken by many non-blacks, it was particularly interesting to hear this from someone who has dated numerous minority men. The idea that members of the majority, or anyone outside the black diaspora can profess their love for someone without properly considering the depth of their struggle or perception in a land built on ideas of their inferiority, is disturbing. Now, the black experience in America is one of no comparison, thus if you were not born with this disposition- no amount of reading or exposure can equate to the totality of experience. However, Kim’s assertion makes me consider ways in which we as blacks enable this kind of relationship. We as blacks need to demand a level of empathy and respect from those who wish for our love, affection and devotion. While an interest in the black individual may seem noble, this detachment works to continue the dismemberment of black bodies. It is not and should not be acceptable to love the features of blackness that are conveniently pleasurable to you, and turn a blind eye to acts of injustice, until they affect you personally. So while the world continues to “keep up” with the Kardashians, perhaps the Kardashians should work on “keeping up” the acknowledgement of the troubled world outside of Calabasas.