Beheading Ms. Badu: The Vulture Article and Undeserved Backlash

Revered Neo-soul singer Erykah Badu made headlines on the fourth Wednesday in 2018 for comments made during an interview with a white Jewish interviewer for Vulture magazine. As per usual, her remarks were taken out of context, Badu placed on a scaffold and be-headed in a social media paradigm that seeks to cast blacks as villains and not victims in the contemporary dialogue about race. 10-erykah-badu.w710.h473.2x

During the interview, David Marchese asks Badu a series of queries that illustrates him as unfamiliar with her catalogue as he is with the context that births her music. Badu, an obviously intelligent person and elevated creative thinker, paints herself as a seasoned optimist which allows her to “see the good in people.” Being the risqué individual that she is, Badu states that she can see the good in Hitler. The interviewer becomes overtly defensive and the following exchange took place:

I saw something good in Hitler.
Come again?


Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.
No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?
Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars
Badu’s daughter with enigmatic rapper Jay Electronica. She also has another daughter, Puma, with the West Coast rapper the D.O.C.
, I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.
I’m perfectly willing to accept that you might be operating on a higher moral plane than I am, but I think going down the route of “Hitler was a child once too” is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction. 
Maybe so. It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes.
But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?
Why can’t I say what I’m saying? Because he did such terrible things?
Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?
You asked me a question. I could’ve chosen not to answer. I don’t walk around thinking about Hitler or Louis Farrakhan. But I understand what you’re saying: “Why would you want to risk fueling hateful thinking?” I have a platform, and I would never want to hurt people. I would never do that. I would never even imagine doing that. I would never even want a group of white men who believe that the Confederate flag is worth saving to feel bad. That’s not how I operate.
I appreciate that. But I really struggle with the idea of how much we’re supposed to make an effort to understand or have empathy for people who have dangerously backwards or hateful thinking. You want to take the moral high ground, but sometimes that also feels the same as ceding territory. 


Hitler, The Great Painter? 

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The most conflicting component of Badu’s interview stems from her optimistic perspective of the late dictator. Specifically, Badu states that Hitler was a great painter, a direct reference to the Hitler paintings that sold for a high price. I agree that Hitler was a great painter–although in a vastly different context. His acts of evil, functioned to paint whites as victims— to paint a portrait of remembrance whereas victims of the African Holocaust are painted in a collective amnesia that depicts them as potential Hitlers in seeking to possess the pride withheld from them for centuries.  Hitler illustrates white evil as ubiquitous and universal, some evils being ethereal–its most sadistic cruelty–cast onto the peoples of African descent–occurring for what seems like an eternity.

It is interesting though that, Marchese is not so much denouncing Hitler and his deeds as he is berating Badu for a praise she never articulated. Though violent, this exchange exposes Marchese as having an obvious chip on his shoulder in his interaction with Badu.

Those of the black collective can certainly relate to encountering a person who believes themselves to be white, who bears negative feelings towards them for no obvious reason. As a woman whose attire is always an homage to the past, and an obvious student of observation and contemplation, Badu possesses a form that threatens the veiled white supremacist. Whites are most comfortable with blacks who are happily ignorant and fearful and/or in awe of white people and white acceptance. Marchese’s exchange with Badu illustrates a white person’s desperate attempt to denounce black intelligence with a fictive bigotry. To mask his own feelings of inaquedacy by trying to paint Badu as he is, small minded, prejudice, and unworthy of his position .

How does it feel to be a problem? 

My main issue with this exchange is the white male privilege that violently belies the black 98a95e52female form as problematic and not the individualism, ethnocentricity and unprofessionalism of the white male interviewer. As beings of black form subjected to centuries of systemic abuse, physical mutilation, and scientific experimentation, many blacks have adopted a form of optimism as a means to cope. If it were not for this optimism, Badu would probably not have been able to stay afloat in the industy, or have a discussion with someone who benefits from the disenfranchisement of her past and present collective. It is also rather ironic that the interviewer berates Badu for her “empathy,” but offers none to a victim of the same system that afforded him his job. The two moments that prove most violent in the delineated exchange are:

A: But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?

This is an issue because it’s a leading question. As a woman nearing fifty, Badu needs no help organizing her ideas and as a black woman, Badu has no obligation to mollify the emotions of a white man. Especially a white man, who instead of empathizing with what America did (and continues to do) to abducted Africans, maintains veiled role in their contemporary crucification for allegations of doing what continues to be done to those of the black collective.

B. Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?

“At a time like now?” When has racism not been pervasive?

This statement illustrates Marchese as  bearing a privileged oblivion to which racism is erykah-badu-e1448850177478-1merely an attribute of the contemporary climate, not a lifetime component in the lives of truly abdicated people.

This is not to say that the Jewish Holocaust was not horrible. It was horrible, and as a being of black form–I know all too well the evils of whites.  But  the African Holocaust never ended and that descendants of those stripped of their name and culture continues to cripple present strides of black advancement. So yes Marchese has historically suffered, but Jewish people, like countless other “ethnic” white factions that have suffered at the hands of white supremacy, are also given an opportunity to practice this very supremacy (which most have actively participated in) onto those issued an inescapable “othering.” Thus, while some may offer sympathy for the once “othered”  despite their rise to oppressor, I decline.  And to the skeptic suggesting that I am making a comparison, I want to clarify that I am not. I am saying that there is no comparison.

I am also stating that despite the implication, and backlash that suggests the opposite, Erykah cannot be racist–as this feat is an impossible one for anyone of African descent. Prejudice is a common attribute nurtured globallyl, but racism is far beyond name calling and hurt feelings–but a label solely extended to those who possess the power to persecute.

Additionally, Marchese’s actions illustrate the following violent passive-aggressive Joe-Budden-Warrant-895x1024.jpgbehaviors:

Separating the black woman from the black man.

In the following, the interviewer references an interview Badu had with a black man and cites sexism in what he considered an insulting caricature the black male allegedly casted of the singer:

I was listening to the interview you did recently with Joe Budden, and he brought up the recurring cartoonish image of you as this sort of quasi-mystical sorceress who’s always playing mind games with rappers.
The Erykah Badu legend
.
Is it frustrating to have that kind of legend follow you around? It seems pretty clearly rooted in a kind of sexism. 
I take advantage of it. It’s a good thing if people think I’m supposed to be some mystical creature that controls people’s minds.

Here, Marcheese attempts to paint himself as some kind of ally, identifying issues plaguing “minorities,” which in his  defensiveness over what he perceived as anti-Semitism he sees himself a part of too. In this instance, he referenced Joe Budden, who, as a member of the black collective shares the same struggle as Badu, as sexist. This performance is one of racism, where the master imbues the Willie Lynch Letter’s directions to separate blacks. To experience sexism is a privilege. Beings of black female form do not get the privilege of experiences sexism, what we experience is a form of racist-sexist oppression where we are masculinized, yet expected to support whites in their persistent persecution of black men.

The efforts of division have also birthed the wrath that engulfs the backlash 141208121102-bill-cosby-super-169.jpgfollowing Badu’s comments regarding actor, comedian, humanitarian,  Bill Cosby. Particularly, when asked about Bill Cosby, Badu does not give the expected polarized response. She was expected to berate Bill Cosby and contribute to the white media’s attempt to sully the legacy of someone who has done so much for black people. Badu says,

“I love Bill Cosby, and I love what he’s done for the world.”

Badu delivers these sentiments in a humanist context, even going as far to say that bearing the same skin as a victim does not dictate her loyalty, a sentiment overlooked by the white media seeking to sacrifice a black woman in a desperate attempt to simultaneously attract more gazes to the article and sympathy for a global oppressor.

B. One black person is expected to speak for other black people.

Your situation is different, but what you were saying a minute ago about how you can’t create new music unless you feel an honest compulsion to do it is making me think about how some of the most important musicians of your generation — people like Lauryn Hill, André 3000, D’Angelo — had long periods where they went silent. Do you think they felt the same way you do?

Badu issues this inappropriate and leading question a masterful responses that portrayals them all as individuals:

I don’t want to speak for those people. I know all of them, and there are individual circumstances for why each of them were quiet in different moments.

This is something most members of the black collective can admit to experiencing. Black people are commonly regarded as a single entity, detached from the thought that black people have a whole range of emotions and perspectives. Thus, the interviewer, although interviewing Erykah Badu, approaches the endeavor as if he is interviewing the every black Neo-soul artist — male and female- suggesting an insulting interchangeability between Badu, Lauryn Hill,  D’Angelo, amongst others. This is anti-black and inevitably racist, an act that exposes the interviewer as bearing the same problematic ideology he attempts to cast onto the black female bodily canvass. Erykah Badu_Photo by Samir Hussein-Samir Hussein-WireImage_Getty 886966038

Needless to stay, although I do not adopt a philosophy of conventional optimism, I support Erykah Badu. . I admire Badu as a student of life, and for being unapologetic in her revelation of self.  I admire that she spoke lovingly of a black man who the white world tried to adorn in a disgust the black collective should reserve for the white male rapist.

This vulture interview and twitter backlash depicts even seemingly progressive movements as rooted in anti blackness—seeking not to call out injustice, but to call blacks words that should be solely cached for those who believe themselves to be white.

Thus,  Badu is most remarkable in presenting in her interview responses to a racist to “call” blacks everything but majestic, with an articulate remix of perhaps her most famous lyric: you can’t use my phone.

Badu’s approach  exposes the lesson of this interview–whites can very well  maintain their negative perception of blacks as the glue to their “esteem,” but not with black bodies as a vehicle or vessel.

Furthermore, while Badu opts to see the good in everyone, I strive to see the best in black People. And black people are incomparably the best–despite the various attempts of those believed to be white, as seen in this interview, to suggest otherwise.

Black Power<3

 

 

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Amara La Negra and the Political Dilemma of Diasporic Blackness in the Americas

As a black woman displaced into the Americas, it was an interesting experience to listen

"VH1 Hip Hop Honors: The 90's Game Changers" Monday, September 18 At 9PM ET/PT
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: Amara La Negra attends VH1 Hip Hop Honors: The 90s Game Changers at Paramount Studios on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for VH1/Viacom)

to Amara La Negra on the breakfast club with Angela Yee, Charlemagne, and DJ Envy. Their conversation illustrates the duality of denial and representation without actual reconciliation.

“I thought you were black until you opened your mouth”

The interview gets off to a provincial start, as DJ Envy, a black man, articulates his initial perception of Amara. He states that he thought she was a black woman until she started speaking, and revealed an obvious Spanish influenced dialect. His admission, while certainly crass, reveals that most perceive black and “latin” as mutually exclusive despite race and ethnicity as always occurring  at the same time.amara-la-negra-2-e1516654081398

 

 

 

This confusion is a deliberate method of colonialism, where the stolen siblings of mother Africa fail to recognize one another due to mythic categories and attributes created by our shared oppressor. Amara, a Miami-born black woman of Dominican ethnicity, like countless of other black bodies displaced throughout the diaspora, share the same African mother as the black bodies displaced the states centuries ago. But as illustrated in the dissonance birthed from Amara’s speech, there is a line of demarcation between what constitutes blackness and what functions as blackness.

“Exotic” Excapism

So while skin complexion is a large component of blackness, it is not the sole identifier. Amara’s dialect shapes how she is perceived, and though on first instinct she takes a place beside Lauryn Hill, Pam Grier, and others perceived as “black,” her dialect births an ambiguity that in a North American setting, allows Amara to fall into attempts implemented by oppressors to divide the race into ethnicities that function as central and displace race as peripheral.  Envy’s admission illustrates how exoticism functions as Afro-Latinas leave the nest and travel beyond the diaspora, as attributes that constituted subjugation their hometown, are symbols of difference, and thus a means to place others in the very base placement they assumed in their native country. Thus, though an overtly black woman who will undoubtedly face similar abjection in the American market as she did in the Latin market,  Amara’s speech, Diasporic displacement, in addition to her heavy investment in nationality namely her proclamation that she is “100% Latina,” function as a privilege or exoticism that fictively places her above those not given the option to choose their placement in America. la-negra-amara-image

Inadvertently, Envy’s initial comment and the comments Charlemagne would go on to make, illustrate America as a source of escapism. Where those displaced in countries where their are more of “us” and less of “them” their features are easily dismissed and demeaned in favor of the lighter skinned and the straighter haired. So while Amara outlines the problems she faced as a black artist in the Latin market, she speaks of the issue Diasporic Africans have, but seldom admit to having, towards blackness. This proves that despite the colonists attempts to convinced the colonized that “it’s different” other places in the diaspora, the plight is very much the same.

Colorism: A Problem of the Past? 

Despite the shared experience of systemic racism, Envy and Charlemagne insist that racism and colorism are matters of the past. Charlemagne evokes the age old argument where a mentally enslaved member of the black collective tosses out one or two examples that appear to challenge ideas of prejudice and racism. This very act, of course, illustrates racism. Naming one or two token black faces that exist in still very white spaces is not progress. Particularly, Charlemagne references Issa Rae and Sza, Issa Rae, who authors a series sullied in black female stereotypes, and SZA who is grammy nominated for what many are calling the “side-chick anthem,” exist in traditionally Angela_Yee_2013
white spaces as tokens of black inferiority—women who sacrificed their bodies to the entertain the oppositional gaze. Their discussion also erases the plight of Normani of Fifth Harmony, a clear standout from the group, that in her solo career will most likely be under-promoted, not due to a lack of talent, but what the world would deem an “overrepresentation of melanin.” Their consistent downplay of colorism and racism is ironically  undermined by the presence of co-host Angela Yee— a light complected woman of Asian and African ancestry who occupies a position largely unattainable for those not deemed exotic.

An Unintentional Activist

Screen-Shot-2018-01-08-at-10.34.33-AMDuring the interview, Amara La Negra is clear to state that she is not seeking to be an activist. Yes, she is vocalizing colorism as a conflict in the Afro-Latin community, but she clearly articulates that her intentions are to be Amara La Negra the artist and not Assata Shakur. The admission is a significant one, because it illustrates the desire of a black and seemingly Afro-centric body to separate itself from the militancy many associate with said image. Hearing Amara articulate herself as activist adjacent prompts me to ask” Why don the style then? As her comments reveal her 4c hair as an attribute of “Amara,” and not intentionally Africana, and certainly not a “black power” initiative.

#metoo, I’m Black

This query evokes the ever-present issue of action and image. One of the reasons why amara-la-negra-uai-720x480Assata Shakur was such a force was because she breathed blackness. Though some are not that transparent. Thus, a “woke” woman with a press, states a similar cognitively dissonant image as Amara, who embodies blackness but whose sole objective is to get the masses to look past it. This makes me wonder if her shift to the American market is an exploitive one. Namely, we are in a “black” moment. By “black moment” I mean that “blackness” is a fad. It is now cool to don natural hair and talk about “black” oppression and disenfranchisement, as long as your actions are to not provoke serious thought. Amara La Negra, though at the beginning of her career, is already performing a similar function. Her looks provoke a conversation that certainly needs to take place. However, her objectives are to foment the discussion as a means to capture the oppositional gaze—to center her peripheral presence, not to centralize blackness, but to be perceived as a white person would.

Do you think she is lighter than you?

Cardi-B-Amara-La-Negra-On-Being-Afro-Latina-800x445Cardi B is a predictable talking point for this conversation. There is a weird part of the interview where DJ Envy asks Amara La Negra to explain Cardi’s success, in her discussion of colorism. This part was interesting as it seems that Envy and Charlemegane saw the two women as interchangeable since both have Dominican roots. Envy stirs the pot by asking Amara if she felt that Cardi was “lighter than her.” To this Amara does not dignify with a response. Now, overtly Amara’s response suggests an obvious answer to Envy’s question. But, given Amara’s deliberate pseudo activism, it is apparent to the conscious gaze that if Amara could be Cardi B, in terms of eschewing dialogues of color and hair texture, and be a  “superstar” before she is black, she would.

Concluding Thoughts

So what does this all mean? First, please allow me to clarify my contemplation.

I like Amara la Negra. She’s easily one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I 02-amara-la-negra-artist-visit-dec-12-2017-billboard-1548am also  indebted to her part in orchestrating this conversation of diasporic blackness. However, as an Afro-Latina seeking to succeed in the American market—her objective functions to further objectify and oppressed the black woman displaced in America. As an American artists she becomes one of the many abducted Africans marketed as a “black heroine” who checks hispanic and not black— who become an ethnicity and not a race— leaving the black female body cheering for the wrong team.

Admittedly, it is also hard to completely empathize with Amara, because she highlights amara-la-negracolorism as an aspect of racism that remains unextinguished, yet overlooks the racism that garnered her the fame she presently enjoys. Love and Hip Hop succeeds because it foments racist perceptions of black people. Her casting on the series is not due to her sophistication, but an effort to reinforce stereotypes about black people. Her presence of the series functions to market her to a specific demographic where she, like Evelyn Lozada, becomes a representative of a race despite her heavy nationalistic investment. The issue with blacks like Amara, and there are plenty of them, is that racism is individualistic and is only cited when presenting a personal burden. Racism is a collective problem, and anyone who does not see racism as a ubiquitous conflict is not an ally in its abolishment.

On one hand, Amara highlights what happens when a black body seeks to exist beyond color in the spotlight of the oppositional gaze. On the other hand, she illustrates the significance of choice. Namely, that accepting blackness as innately intersectional and all-encompassing disables the separated siblings of the black diaspora from functioning against one another. Namely, in simply declining to celebrate our “drop-offs”–or what functions as nationalism– and denouncing traits that prove reminiscent of our master or conquest, we assume a place alongside one another, and imbue the pro-black initiative necessary to extinguish white attempts to ensure their supremacy remains stagnant. In this same breath, had Amara, like the countless others who become ammo against the African diaspora, make her pro-black ideology clear, she would not be a cast-mate on Love and Hip Hop, and she would not be on the road to main stream stardom.  amara-la-negra-love-hip-hop-miami

The embedded lesson is that the black collective must remain skeptical of white media and who they designate as black heroes and allies, because white media is inherently anti-black.  Namely, in becoming mainstream in American culture, the black body becomes not an agent of African-ness but a weapon used against black people. So when Amara quotes producers instructing her to be “more Beyonce and less Macy Gray” they are demanding the black female body don an stance that “apologies” for her blackness and becomes a solider of white supremacy. Beyonce, although a black woman, does not function as black. As a public figure she has a specific purpose, and that is to implement oppression behind the veil of entertainment. Amara, as a diasporic African with varying functionality, will function to diversify the means of oppression onto the black collective. She, like the black female bodies that came before her, will function to make the black female body feel represented to distract from the “feel” of the rope around their collective necks.

Black Power ❤

 

 

Black is Beautiful… or is it? Examining Black Beauty as a Tool of Systemic Oppression

White men go after pretty black girls.

This is statement that I grudgingly used to believe to be true in comparison to the white women often pursued by black men. The truth is, black women are beautiful period. So whether paired with a white, mexican, asian, latino, or racially ambiguous man, the black woman man is bound to seem superior because her beauty is a fact not an anomaly.

The statement “White men go after pretty black girls” exists and functions on the belief that black is not beautiful. It implies that all black women are not beautiful, but the beautiful few are gorgeous enough to catch the eye of white man. In reality, it is the proximity to whiteness that functions to depict the conventionally unattractive black woman as beautiful.       halle-berry-aubry-nahla-flight-03

In evaluating the ever-present force-feeding of interracial relationships to black women. It is interesting to note the role of aesthetics. This analysis come to me in thinking of Halle Berry, the famous actress praised for her beauty. Despite garnering extensive acclaim for her beauty, Berry seemingly lost esteem after selecting a white mate who would ultimately father her child. Notably, these decisions predate the contemporary fixation of black women in relationships with white men.

Berry’s relationship with Olivier Martinez did occur during this time, but failed to garner the attention of Serena Williams, Tika Sumpter, and Youtube stars Nikki Perkins of Jaime and Nikki, Gabe Flowers of Gabe and Babe TV and Ami McClure, black mother to the biracial McClure Twins. The black woman- white male dynamic dominates much of the modern depictions afforded to black women. This dynamic culminates careers and raises black women from obscurity to the height of fame and fortune. For example, Gabe Flowers went from a regular job to starring in Walmart commercials, Ami McClure went from amateur modeling to the morning news and Nikki Perkins went from a resigned model to the BET red carpet. Commonly, all women are paid to live their life on camera–as black women married to a white men  Commenters on message boards are often rebuked for questioning whether or not these women would garner a second glance if not one half of an interracial relationship.

786fc31354a0f00e40693907c8b15231The answer is of course no. Their visibility and conventional accolades exist because of the general belief that black is not beautiful.

These interracial couples, illustrate that unconventional black beauty can however be beautiful when issues increased proximity to  whiteness. This only works when the black female is not conventionally beautiful i.e. not bearing long hair, a looser curl pattern, fair skin, svelte body, or an extensive education,  because when she is—soliciting a white man betrays the “beauty” of blackness as co-existing with the superiority of whiteness, and thus appears pretentious not proactive in fomenting the myth of black inferiority.

 

The conventionally beautiful black woman, an aberration to those plagued with the 44th NAACP Image Awards - Backstage And Audiencemental illness of white ideology, is viewed as a traitor to blackness in soliciting a white or non black mate. In order to properly engage a black demographic to platform her portrayal of Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal, actress Kerry Washington had to marry a black man and have black children. Revered for her beauty, poise and intelligence, Washington possesses the conventionality that when paired with a white man actually enforces the idea that black is beautiful and therefore deserving the connotation of white superiority as their presumed equal. We do this dynamic as true in Washington’s first relationship before she was revered as a beauty icon, and on Scandal–a fictive series. The relationships between black women and white men function to illustrate white men as “forgiving” the curse of blackness as ugly and overall inferior. Thus, this dynamic does not function when the black woman possesses conventionally superior qualities.

beyonces-even-more-beautiful-in-leaked-unphotoshopped-picturesThe black woman is of course a superior being regardless of how she looks, how much she makes, or any other attribute enforced by the white world. However, the belief of white superiority anchors the popularized black female white man dynamic. This dynamic, to the gaze hypnotized by white supremacy, illustrates the black woman as resurrected from undesirability to an ethereal being who can conquer the world with the beauty granted to her by her by the white male gaze.

david-bowie-wedding-435

Some will contest my argument and point to Iman and David Bowie. But Man, a model imported from Africa is as tokenized in her marriage to Bowie as she was as a model. Iman’s image surfaces to paint black abduction from African to America as positive and their sexual relationships with white men as reflective of black female desire not coercion. Iman’s popularity stems from a distorted appropriation of the term “black is beautiful,” illustrating that black is beautiful when tokenized by the white gaze.

Others will reference senator Kamala Harris as an example of a conventional attractive Senate Supreme Courtblack (ish) women who is married to a white man. To this I say that Harris’ interracial union  performs another function–to deem her blackness approachable and non-threatening. Harris could have never been a Gabe Flowers or Nikki Perkins, simply because her presence functions to illustrate the black female as just as womanly if not more so than a white woman—a factor that is counterproductive to preserving the fictive superiority of white people. Kamala Harris illustrates that black is beautiful when the black body does not derive from a black woman, and must “forsake all others” to uphold her contractual bond to her white husband.

Black women like Meagan Good, Gabrielle Union, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce, Angela Basset who are alsoKelly-Rowland revered for their beauty, prove that black is indeed beautiful and therefore must have a black spouse to not challenge ideas of white superiority. While all women of a darker hue compared to their white female counterparts, all women due to their “safe-brown” complexions, and relatively small features are able to appease conventional standards with or without enhancement, which proves dichotomies to their swirling counterparts.

In contrast, singer Janet Jackson, although a beautiful woman, wears her conventional “ugliness” in a face that has been sliced and diced. She is beautiful, but her image functions to discount the inability of beautiful black women to see their own beauty and therefore places her in the same boat as those presumed to lack conventional beauty. She bears the sickness of self-hatred that functions to illustrate fictive white superiority as fact. 160505112440-janet-jackson-2010-super-tease

Yes, the conscious gaze knows that black love is revolutionary, but in a global white supremacist context, black love is a union between two base beings, kissing in the presumed corruption and curse of their blackness.

I can imagine that this post probably comes off superficial if not frivolous, and if I amJane-goodal-habitat honest its perhaps more alarming if it did not. To this I ask you to reacquaint yourself with Jane Goodall, the white woman who garnered fame and fortune for demonstrating that chimpanzees could be tamed. Goodall symbolizes the intentions of whites, or non-blacks in interracial relationships with blacks–to illustrate their ability bring out the beauty in a beast. Let us not forget that it was the chimpanzee’s openness to Goodall’s touch that supposedly showed their ability to be tamed. Had the chimpanzee been praised for its aesthetics and behavior, Goodall’s exploitation would not have been successful. The same can be said of whites (and non-blacks) in their relationship with members of the black diaspora.

To most, art imitates life, and certainly there are number of instances where this is indeed true. However, as targets of systemic racism, it is imperative for blacks to note that life imitates art as a form of control. We are presented with images to which we subconsciously or consciously emulate and use as a fictive measuring stick for our lives.  The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 29 Jan 2017

It is also prevalent to implement what WEB Dubois labeled double consciousness. To assess portrayals of black bodies in popular culture, or white media is an essential form of double consciousness because as Carter B Woodson once said “if you control a man’s thinking you know what he’ll do..” Analyzing black portrayal betrays white thought and can better predict white behavior. Perhaps most importantly, critically contemplating popular culture unveils the extent and strategy of white evil—an attribute that continues to be vastly disputed and overlooked by those most wounded by its wrath.

Take notes and beware my people.

Furthermore, interracial relationships silently re-appropriate the 70s term “black is beautiful.” This re-appropiation does not suggests that black is beautiful. In fact the opposite is true. These relationships illustrate that little to no one truly believes that black is beautiful. The truth is most people didn’t believe the phrase when it first surfaced, a fact relished in those utterly clueless about their origins and therefore inevitably confused about the beauty of their people.

The cure to this issue lies in denouncing individual beauty. By this I mean ignoring the significance of mirrors and knowing the collective beauty of black beauty without a mirror. In assuming a collective beauty, any and every woman of African origin will know her beauty without a mirror and not see personal idiosyncrasies as flaws but as necessary to complete a masterpiece. 2EAoEgP1

In reasserting beauty it is also important that we as black women decide who our beauties are. The commonality between Halle Berry, Beyonce, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington is that they were black beauties designated by the white world and used to lure the black female collective to concert venues, movies, and sitcoms that reek of anti-blackness. By allowing the white world to determine black beauty, beauty becomes a weapon used against black women. These tokens of beauty exists to prove that black beauty is an aberration, an anomaly only countered when the white world opts to recognize black beauty. In implementing black beauty as a universal truth, all black women, not some, are beautiful. Therefore, there are no such thing as “black beauties” as blacks in their entirety are beautiful.

Furthermore, we, the black collective, must refrain from behavior that is unassumingly anti-black. Veiled anti-black terms or phrases yield anti- black behavior that prove counter-productive to the advancement of black people.  So I am asking that we denounce individual beauty, and replace it with an ideology that perceives the black female body as collectively beautiful.

If black is truly beautiful, then let  we as a collective must allow this be to true. This phrase in pro-black form is inclusive for all those who identify as black, not exclusive to blacks who bear conventional traits. There is power in redefining how we use this assimilatory language. No, beauty may not be a kemetian term, but it reflects a shared kemetian trait.

Black is beautiful. Let us not only say it, but believe it.

Black Power.

The Incredible Jessica James: Extracting the “black” from Black Femininity

The Incredible Jessica James debuted to an audience eagerly awaiting its next piece of seemingly antiracist media where an bothered body occupies central placement. To most The Incredible Jessica James is a coming of age narrative where a black female twenty-something finds her way past a breakup an through her struggles as a striving artist. What is most incredible about this film is that it resumes the contemporary colorblind initiative. This contemporary initiative is not to tackle the totality of the black experience, but to move past blackness by ignoring it completely. Moreover, what is most incredible about Jessica James is despite her skin color and natural hair—there is nothing black about her. The word "black" is gracefully omitted from the film—a pattern consistent with contemporary portrayals of black people.  Instead, viewers hear James reference her statuesque height quite a few times throughout the film–suggesting that it is her height not color, is her most defining attribute. jessicawilliamsap

In early portrayals of black femininity, the black female body operated in extremes—she was either unmistakably black, a "mammy-like figure" like Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind, or a racially ambiguous "tragic mulatto or  jezebel" as seem in Dorothy Dandridge's 1954 performance in Carmen. The racially ambiguous woman stirred two pots in her ability to strategically provide blacks a fictive representation, without challenging European aesthetics. bell hooks notes this point in Black Looks:

When black women actresses like Lena Horne appeared in mainstream cinema most white viewers were not aware that they were looking at black females unless the film was specifically coded as being about blacks (119).

Contemporary black leading ladies perform a similar role, except not through aesthetics. Instead, the black female body functions to visibly suggest a diversity her portrayal functions to downplay.

maxresdefaultThis is important for black women to acknowledge prior to celebrating representation seemingly granted in portrayals like The Incredible Jessica James, portrayals strategically implemented to work against the black woman. By this I mean that while actress Jessica Williams is beautiful, witty, and talented, as Jessica James, Williams encourages black women to exist beyond blackness—an act of mentacide that will eventually foment black female oblivion.

Black female oblivion is the ultimate result of anti-blackness, a shared theme of past and present black female representation. The Incredible Jessica James enforces anti blackness with a common pairing to the contemporary black female body—a white man.

The white man rides in like a white night following James’ breakup from Damon, her black ex-boyfriend. 4533The film introduces viewers to protagonist Jessica James after a recent breakup from a man of whom she was with for two years— a decision that haunts her in a series of comical dreams throughout the film. Her ex-boyfriend, a young and handsome black man, appears kind and supportive in the flashbacks of the couple. His portrayal prompts viewers to question why the two parted ways— a query that James seems to serially ask herself throughout the film but answer in the giant steps towards whiteness she takes afterwards.
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Namely, these failed black romances birth two interracial romances as viewers see Damon out on a date with a non-black woman as James also meets up with a non-black date. I am intentionally focusing on the color of characters to illustrate that blackness, while never acknowledged, also does not visibly frequent the film. James, a black woman from Ohio, flees her hometown for a better life. When James does fly back for her sister's baby shower it is blatantly obvious that she does not fit in with the small town environment that nurtured her early years. Her transition from small town to big city  also symbolizes a step away from blackness as James' “better” life in Bushwick is overwhelmingly white. This running away from home, much like her breakup, illustrates black conflict as preceding or offsetting the black body’s journey to whiteness.

Deadline Hollywood Portraits at Sundance Presented by Applegate, Day 2, Park City, Utah, USA - 21 Jan 2017This journey to whiteness is heavily veiled in what the film tries to pass of as chemistry.  James' artistic chemistry with theatre leads her to the big city, and her chemistry with the concept "woman" leads her into the platonic embrace of a white female friends. The film vehemently tries to present James' relationship with Boone as oozing with rebound chemistry. James and Boone though have zero chemistry. They have a good conversation, mainly because James’ honesty will not allow for much else. They become sexually involved shortly after meeting, and their sex scene is cringeworthy and seems to exist solely to provide visible proof of their consummation. Their sexual encounter is hard to watch, hard to hear, and disappointing to the black female gaze who would probably have taken better to a love scene between two gorgeous black people rather than a middle-aged white man and a young black woman. Jessica is the bridge Boone uses to get over his personal trauma—a recent divorce from a thin, blonde woman. By the end of the film, Jessica replaces Boone’s ex-wife as the object of his affection, transforming from an escapist route to a national treasure—-objectified yet symbolic.

The romance between the two, also serves as a platform for Boone to become the film’s white savior figure. After James receives an overseas offer to teach theatre and lead a production of one of her plays, Boone funds the trip through his frequent flyer miles. This ruins what should have been the most touching moment of the play–the black girl magic between James and her black female student.

Netflix-Releases-Teaser-For-Jessica-Williams-The-Incredible-Jessica-JamesThe scenes with James and her students are touching, and function to add dimension to Jessica James the character. Nurturing the young versions of ourselves as they work to find themselves in a world designed for their destruction is something all black women should prioritize. James and her black female student connect in talent and a displaced hurt—their writing a means to iron out the wrinkles in their lives. However, with blackness lying in the film’s background, this connection between two young black females is only on the surface. The portrayal, in omitting blackness, depicts a teacher taking a “troubled” student under their wing—oversimplifying the shared experience between black women to a shared experience between women. Thus, Boone, the white savior, illustrates the white man as a prize who literally and figuratively funds those culminating their journey to an illusive whiteness.

Furthermore, the “incredible” in The Incredible Jessica James, unintentionally functions similarly to the “great” in the The Great Gatsby—providing a satirical feel to a seemingly complimentary term. What is in fact incredible about the film is its mastered technique diminished by underdeveloped critical thought. In an unpublished essay, esteemed scholar W.E.B. Dubois said the following:

Technique without character is chaos and war. Character without technique is labor and want. But when you have human being who know the world and can grasp it; who have their feelings guised by ideals, then using technique as their hands they can get rid of the four great evils of human life. The four evils are ignorance, poverty, diseases and crime. (Dubios 252).

The Incredible Jessica James  succeeds in method displayed in its writing and comedic genius, but lacks character in its anti-blackness. The characters lack the racial depth that paint them in the image of black viewers of a shared experience. Therefore, the film promotes ignorance, moral poverty, and disease in performing the greatest crime cast onto the black diaspora—racism.

Black female portrayal must begin, contain, and evolve pedagogy. We must learn the entirety of our oppression to avoid furthering our systemized state by creating images that tackle the acumen of African identity.

In closing, The Incredible Jessica James is not a bad movie—it’s just not a black movie. It is a sense of escapism for those who fantasize about a apparent utopia where where color is not discussed. This utopia eventually proves a dystopia as it operates with the same racial subtext of slavery and the Jim Crow South. The film proves that racial neutrality is inherently anti-blackness, something the contemporary world presents as evolution.

To evolve is to move past the seduction of colorlessness in a word established on color differences. To evolve is to uncaricature blackness and stand in a truth defined by a collective understanding. To evolve is to see blackness as a glory to be shouted from the mountaintops, not be subjugated to an elephant in the room, series or film. maxresdefault

As the late but great author James Baldwin once said “Nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” The Incredible Jessica James, is another example of art functioning to deflect black focus away from blackness. Any step a black person takes away from blackness is a step towards anti-blackness into the flaming pit of white supremacy.

Let us face the entirety of our blackness without fear, or shame, and create art that is not vouyeristic for whites but a means for blacks to hold a looking glass to the complexities of our existence.

Black Power ❤

Twenty-Five Years A Slave: Identity, Intersectionality, and Cultural Realization

Carol was a physically beautiful girl. She had tanned dark skin, dark eyes, and thick, curly hair. Intrigued by black culture, and even more so by black men, she sought to consummate her sexual curiosity by juxtaposing herself to black women—seemingly hoping to outshine black femininity with a presumed exoticness.

Yet, somehow her invitation to the movies seemed harmless. Admittedly, I probably would not have seen the film if not invited. But antagonized by my white classmates, I was a little more receptive to companionship than I should have been. In the height of my systemized state, I found a false unity in gender with a person of color.

Nothing could have prepared me for the lessons this experience would expose. The performances in the film were surpassed by the dramatic behavior of the audience. The whipping scene prompted a white woman seated several rows in front of me to cry violently in a manner more mawkish than meaningful. In short, her response appeared rehearsed, and an insincere attempt to separate herself from the white slave master, who easily composed the core of her bloodline.

During the scene where the slaves bathed in plain view without modesty, my “friend” whispered “they’re naked, just out like that?” I suppose this scene was educational to anyone without knowledge of slavery. But to a person whose ancestors composed the black bodies cast in the backdrop of this white savior tale—this depiction failed to encapsulate the totality of black objectivity. I recall reading a book as an eighteen-year-old college freshman that described an image more horrifying than any slave film. In the book, a slave master had his young slaves line-up nude and wait to use the restroom. He piled the male youth on top of one another to induce a state of arousal to which he watched in a pedophiliac lust. The slave master’s arousal, although then fixated on the bodies of the black youth, stemmed from his power. To be black is to maintain a similar position to that of the black youth in the novel, to be cast naked, your bodily responses induced to meet a global gaze and serve the desires of others. Seated in that movie theatre that day, I felt exposed, my reactions a means to enhance and validate the experience of a person I thought was my friend.

The rape scene prompted a similar nakedness, despite my frame being encased in a newly purchased corset jacket, probably sewn in a sweatshop by a pre-adolescent child. This scene was encased in silence from the theatre, so I could not ignore my “friend” whisper “he killed her” in a pseudo outrage.

“No,” I thought to myself.

“She will live and give birth to my foremothers and forefathers.”

To Carol, this rape was a scene in a movie included to induce a reaction to which she provided. To anyone within the black collective, this was a scene in our past. Perhaps most poignantly, this horror was a scene in our very conception.

By the end of the film I was hot with rage and ready to go back to my dorm—which I hated. Then the lights came on, and the next few moments would betray the true nature of my invite. My friend looked up at me wiping tears that I did not see. She then said the words that burnt me to my core. Words that highlighted the cultural insensitivity to which blacks are regarded with across the globe

“You don’t seem sad.”

I gave a slow blink to a face I once saw as so beautiful. She was now the most hideous thing I had ever seen. I initially found common ground in the fact that we were both pink on the inside, although now I was not so sure. She seemed hollowed by a hate she tried to pass off as love, by a vengeance she tried to pass off friendship, a sourness she tried to pass off as sweetness, and a competitiveness she tried to pass of as camaraderie. This would prove inescapably true on the way home when on the ride home, Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” came on and she asked me what Beyonce meant by watermelon.

It then became obvious that we were not there to see a performance. I was the performance. To her, an un-enlightened “person of color,” blackness was a production started in slavery and manifested into present day. To her, and many ignorant gazes throughout the globe, blacks were never kings and queens, only concubines and field hands. Films like Twelve Years a Slave function to reduce the African legacy into American slavery.

Carol invited me out as a peek into blackness, granting her what she would eventually imitate to bait a self-hating black male.

To her, a curious and appropriative gaze, sadness was something worn, a tangible state. Missed in her shallow analysis, is that to be black and to fully understand all that lies within your melanin–the beauty, the mental and physical bludgeoning, the historic and contemporary struggle for life and liberation, is to bear an emotion much deeper than sadness.

The revelations present by the time the credits rolled were two-fold. On one hand our friendship ended. On the other hand, this exchange revealed that what we had was never a friendship to begin with. Just as many interracial relationships lack the ability of full cultural comprehension, many inter-racial or inter cultural  friendships  also exist at a superficial level which eventually exposes an impenetrable ignorance or indifference in any attempt to delve beneath the surface.

We were not as I believed sisters of a similar struggle. She had her language and the option to enter this country. Black women, do not stand beside other persons of color whom relinquish what we spend lifetimes working to obtain.  Every day is a struggle to get a little bit closer to the place from which our ancestors were torn. So as she willingly spoke English and attempted to compartmentalize my struggle, she objectified me in a way I had experienced all my life, except she pretended to be my friend.

In the film, Solomon is “recovered” by a white man and “returned” to his home. This ending surfaces to appease those who relish in one black obtaining physical freedom in the face of countless others still physically bound to a white male master. In this dynamic, Solomon is the Obama, the athlete, the businessman or mogul taken off the physical plantation and afforded another means to serve whites. He is the exception that whites and other persons of color can reference to prove that blacks don’t “have it so bad.” To Carol, I was the escaped slave who was to report the tellings of my experience. I am not to possess the presumed bitterness as my escape functions to illustrate my counterparts as lazy not systemically diseased and castrated. I am to entertain, and demand nothing more than an ear to listen. To Carol I am an individual, a compartmentalization that uproots the foundation of my collective self and erases the unspoken tales of past and present diasporic Africans. Namely, in objectifying the individual, the collective is lost. Once again blacks become the background in their own narrative, a narrative redacted to highlight “exceptions” at the expense of capturing the true black experience. Black truth then fades into the background, eventually becoming part of the earth, silenced and unseen— succumbing to the collective amnesia desired by the whites who tell our story.

In hindsight, I see that I was solicited as a means to validate someone else’s curiosity. My body was a gateway to illustrate someone else’s humanity—placing me in an identical role to my kinfolk portrayed in the film. There I was twenty-five years old, seemingly standing under an umbrella with my colored sister until I realized I was soaking wet— my body, my burden, my beauty, my beliefs too big for full coverage. Up until that point, I falsely believed in the collective concepts of “woman” and “person of color,” two concepts that did not even see me, let alone identify with my struggles as a black woman. My past experience, mirrors that of countless black women throughout the globe who believe in a sisterhood with those who fail to see the black woman as human let alone a sister.

May my experience be your lesson.

Black Power ❤

The Whines of Whitewomaning: An Encore to Black Art

The Root writer Michael Harriet wrote an article yesterday that provided extensive context on the term whitewomaning. The article defined the term as follows:

Whitewomaning: a term used when a woman of Caucasian descent complains after learning her white privelege key does not open every lock in the universe.

The article implements the term “whitewomaning”  to compartmentalize the outrage following a Diddy tweet extended solely to black women. What did the tweet read you ask:

Shout out to black women just because…

The Tweet itself, proved far less significant than the retaliation. The general response exposed a white need for hyper visibility . Despite continually excluding blacks from nearly everything, including the word woman, any attempt to display black pride or unity never ceases to foment white outrage—an outrage oppressive in both nature and execution.

But before Diddy and his campaign for pseudo black excellence, was the Black Arts movement which followed the assassination of Black Nationalist leader and icon Malcolm X in 1965. The Black Arts period captured a unique period in black culture, in the brazen blackness it demanded. Perhaps the movement is best articulated by the late Amiri Baraka in his poem” Black Art.” In “Black Art” Baraka demanded blacks reset their ideology in order to implement the necessary changes to black life. The poem is vulgar– its word choice contentious and unapolegtically so. The poem acts as a weapon enabled by the confidence, and the nerve blacks need in order to rise from their subordinated place in America.

My instructor read this poem in an African American Lit class at small “women’s” college in Oakland, California. By women I mean “white women,” who put on quite the show during and after the reciting of this poem. What the common gaze would label outrage was actually entitlement, an entitlement prompted by an inability to process an inclusive gaze critical of whites.  Instead these white women were faced with the height of black pride written by black man who rejected his white wife for the black woman and the revolution.  The line that seemed to get under everyone’s white skin, happened to be my favorite. It reads:

Black poems to smear on girdlemama mulatto bitches
whose brains are red jelly stuck
between ‘lizabeth Taylor’s toes. Stinking
whores!

This line is my favorite because it casts aside the beauty standards of white America. It also functions to satiate the need for white visibility simultaneously acknowledging the ever-present white body in the lives of black people. The images however are yanked from their societal placement. Instead of residing above blacks, the poem caricatures whites to reflect the ugly nature of their deeds, symbolism, and motives. This particular image of Elizabeth Taylor, stains the height of European beauty by desecrating her porcelain white skin with the scattered brains of those who aspire to walk in the shoes of a “beautiful” white woman, but instead stick between her toes.

The poem succeeds because it is black art. Black art should upset those who have upset our story for centuries—those who continue to interrupt and abduct our narrative making it about their concerns and fictive oppression. Diddy’s tweet, although brief and unassuming is therefore a piece of black art.

I may not support Diddy’s assertion of materialism as black excellence. Yet, his simple tweet acknowledging the darker and often overlooked body cast along the shores of womanhood, personifies black art. Black art should speak to black people, and black people solely. Black art should not concern itself with who or what grows indignant in our collective glow.  We have been careful for far too long. We have apologized far too frequently. Baraka writes:

Let Black People understand
that they are the lovers and the sons
of warriors Are poems & poets &
All the loveliness here in the world

We want a black poem. And a
Black World.
Let the world be a Black Poem
And Let All Black People Speak This Poem
Silently
Or LOUD

Perhaps a paramount step towards self-determination and a collective esteem is deeming our words, thoughts, behavior, dance, movies, films, books, poetry just because they are ours. So they are in English–but black art will lead us back to our indigenous origins by way of our coerced  language. Never granted our forty acres, a mule, or a space to call our own, we must create a black world with what we have, and what we have is our melanin and each other.

May whitewomaning be the inadvertent encore to black art, signaling not what we have done wrong, but what we have done right.

Moral:  Black Art: It’s not for everyone and it shouldn’t be.

Black Power ❤

What Death Teaches the Living

On July 17, 2014 my father and I found my aunt, his older sister, deceased in her apartment. She had passed days prior to our visit, much to our oblivion.

We drove to My Aunt’s apartment after her nurse called my father and informed him that she missed treatment. My aunt went to dialysis a few times a week to treat her kidney disease. The illness had seized most of her leisure time, she was noticeably darker and withered unhealthily to a thin frame from her once healthy plus-sized figure. She tried hard to be the person she always was— outspoken, unbothered and funny. She never stopped being those things but in hindsight I think she new her fate was approaching. I think most of us get to a point where we know, some sooner then others. Perhaps all members of the human race can feel the hot breath of death at the brink of their transition. However, blacks can anticipate that like their lives, their transition will be unfair, and most likely traumatic to them and those that they love.

My aunt’s death was sudden and violent. I say violent because to die is one thing, but the burden of feeling like she was neglected or alone hangs heavily in my mind.

The last text she sent me read:

Baby I'm home.

If the coroner is right, shortly after this message she transitioned. She was home, but not in her second floor apartment in a Brooklyn complex, but her home in the sky.

I find peace knowing that my late grandmother is reunited with her beloved daughter, her only girl. My peace is disturbed in remembering how itemized my aunt became in her death.

In On Blackness and Being, Dr. Christina Sharpe revisits the Zorgue tragedy where hundreds of Abducted Africans were tossed from a slave ship ship to obtain an insurance allocation. To the European kidnappers, black bodies were merely capital. My aunt's transition evoked a similar reality. Once her body fell over the ship of white supremacy, she became cause for collection.

Death proves a dual blow to those of the black collective forced to deal with personal healing with regard to loss of a loved one, and the collective tragedy of understanding the devalued black body.

The Unsightly black body

Sullied by a posthumous deterioration accelerated in the summer heat, the coroner admonished my father and I with regard to seeing my aunt’s face after death.
“I can show it to you, but it’s very disturbing to look at,” said the coroner. Instead my dad would identify parts of her in a plastic bag via picture at the morgue—where she lay dismembered like her ancestors reduced to limbs and organs in both life and death. Frozen in time—neither of us would see her face again. Instead, the casket, like the chapter in life that included her humor and style, would be closed due to “her condition.”

Prior to the service, we’d call the morgue just before they shipped her off to potter’s field. I suppose the condition of a decomposing sickly body had signaled to the officials that she was unloved and destined to perish in a shared whole in the ground like the abducted Africans tossed into what is now the African burial grounds.

Packing Up a Life Lived

While the physical burial grounds of the deceased are a source of despondency, so is the residence of the deceased abandoned in their departure. Notably, one of the most heartbreaking and tedious components of death is clearing out the belongings of the deceased from their place of residence. During this process, an unemployed neighbor of my aunts who did not attend the funeral, informed my father and I that she and my aunt had discussed her obtaining her fridge.

While my father struggled to accept that his sister was gone, this woman saw my aunt as a means to get something for virtually nothing. While we knew they lived in a similar complex, we had no idea whether this woman was even an acquaintance of my aunt, let alone a friend. I remember watching in horror and rage as she dug through the garbage can to examine the items tossed from aunt’s apartment.  This moment sank my stomach in a disgust unfamiliar to me before this incident. This comment and behavior, while to most an ignorant yet innocuous act of an opportunist, symbolizes a black female who will eventually succumb to a similar posthumous objectification, itemize another black woman as an act of oppressive hypnosis.

This oppressive hypnosis distorts our collective ability to identify with one another outside of survival. Thus, white supremacy renders blacks into an animalistic state casting blacks as vultures that latch onto the flesh of our deceased to nurture a systemic deprivation.

A Financial Burden

With regard to deprivation, it is imperative to note that the black body becomes an object of contention when seen to deprive the western world of its destiny, or simply put: money. .

To tie up all loose financial ends, I called the credit union to close my aunt's account. In her sudden death the account was inactive–the proper funds not allocated to cover monthly fees. The representative yelled at me that it was my responsibility to pay my aunt's deficit.

There was no discussion of options given my aunt's transition. No condolences. Just a callous demand by a genetically melanated individual embarrassingly dedicated to itemizing the black body to obtain underserving funds for his master.

Similarly, when my grandfather passed, the hospice called my mother repeatedly to “identify the body.” My grandfather no longer had a name or purpose, as the employees of he hospice were most interested in casting my grandfather overboard an illusive ship. To us my grandfather was a man, father, husband, grandfather. To the western gaze, my grandfather was merely taking up space.

The cavalier disregard afforded to the black body is a systemic truth which bears a testament to our inhumane status in American culture. Black desire to transition into personhood is a consistent struggle. Aspiring to live in a world that cannot seemingly wait to cast the black body overboard dead or alive, is a consistent battle for those afforded the stagnancy of systemic oppression.

The Morgue

One of the most troubling moments of the whole ordeal was the scent of the morgue to which my father and I visited to identify my Aunt's body. The morgue stunk of death and decay, proving that cyclical disenfranchisement, while possessing many looks, bore a singular smell of rotten flesh. In life, this scent is often veiled by perfumes, or the aroma of wealth and material gluttony. In death, the cyclical imbalance and disregard extended to black bodies bears an unmasked, and pervasive scent. The scent —vulgar and pungent—sears through the nostrils and embeds itself into the brain. If there were any doubt that your loved one was not to return to the place they held in your life, the scent reminded you of what had become of them.

But to the black body, this decay starts long before death, and far before birth. The black body began its decaying process in its voyage over the Trans-Atlantic, a decaying process that continued in the fields and houses of the plantation, in the Jim Crow South, during integrative efforts and throughout the contemporary colorblind initiatives. The black body decays in the poisonous food placed in our communities, in the vile pollution ingrained into our minds via school, television, and popular culture. To be black is to be in a constant state of deterioration, a state reversed solely in becoming awakened by a spiritual consciousness. Without this consciousness we remain coerced passengers on a ship whose ultimate destination is our destruction.

In Closing

It was a ship that carried us over to the stolen terrain of North America, and still holds us captive. A spiritual consciousness allows the black Diaspora to steer this ship out of oblivion, assimilation, and self- destruction into a collective determination to which our drowned ancestors from the Zorgue and those worked, burned and beaten to death, hold hands with descendants mentally scarred by their demise and upraised to our rightful place as kings and queens.

In remembering my aunt and her departure from this world, I remember all the nameless bodies of the black diaspora handed a similar fate. But whether cast off a ship, scattered into the earth’s flesh, or placed into the ground, the dead are hardly gone. While we may not be able to walk alongside the ancestors, elders, and peers who have left us, they are the ground we walk on and the wind that nestles behind our ears letting us know they are resting in a power we still have time to cultivate in life.

Black Power. ❤

 

 

R. Kelly: Sexual Predator or Scapegoat?

I anticipate that this post will be unpopular. I acknowledge the contention that my assertions will certainly prompt and welcome the scathing comments in the section below. With that being said, I still very must feel that my perspective is worthy of articulation and exposure to those that care to listen.

Singer and R&B legend R.Kelly made headlines this week for allegedly assembling a sex cult consisting of underaged girls. These allegations bear a disturbing connection to R. Kelly’s previous trouble with the law, portraying Kelly as a an OJ-like figure–a haughty  recidivist who finagled through the loopholes of the American legal system.

I feel obliged to state that I have no respect for R. Kelly as a man. I do however, respect his talent. I perceive the ‘Pied Piper’ as an enslaved black who used America’s need to hyper sexualize the black man as a means to foment his career. While Kelly defiantly made family friendly songs like “Step in The Name of Love” and inspirational songs like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “The World’s Greatest” most of Kelly’s hits are sexualized slow jams to which I’m sure proved background music to the conception of many post millennials. His sexualized image fueled a career spanning over two decades with a plethora of adoring black female fans. parents-claim-r-kelly-cult-leader-read-2017-1be55b97-e8ac-483b-9dbd-720458c69aec

These fans remained loyal to Kelly even after a video surfaced of the singer issuing a golden shower to a then-fifteen year old girl. The charges were eventually dropped and buried in the past of a musician who was still able to maintain his mogul stature despite dramatic changes in the music industry.

While my argument is not to pardon R. Kelly from blame, it is that he is not the primary cause of the hyper-sexualized black female body that faces violation without consequence. R. Kelly was relieved of any legal responsibility in previous allegations of sexually violating a black female teen simply because the black female body bears no significance to the Western world outside of monetary gain. Consider how quickly the western world kills and incarcerates the black body.  The reason why Kelly was not susceptible to these consequences is not because of his riches, but because his “crimes” served an integral purpose in maintaining white supremacy. Moreover, the world was and is more interested in portraying Kelly and his victim as sexual beasts than to upholding the integrity of those they do not see as a human let alone bearing the presumed innocence of femininity or childhood.

To the western gaze, the hyper sexuality of the young black female body violently seduces Kelly. To this same gaze, Kelly is a sexualized being unable to resist the callings of his bestial urges. Together, these caricatured images of black sexuality function assemble the historical narrative of blacks as primitive and underdeveloped beings worthy of the death and incarceration that befalls them.

rkellyKelly, a melanated individual who believes his conventional success consummates his transition to whiteness, feels as entitled to young bodies as the white man did and does to young black females. Kelly, is a symbol of what happens when a morally impoverished black youth offsets a journey to acquire physical wealth and not a collective consciousness. As members of an oppressed collective, it is essential that we proceed with consciousness. To proceed without it, is to inevitably mirror our oppressors in thought and action.

There is also a large possibility that this ordeal is entirely fictional, and yet another means to lynch a black man by the rope of hyper sexuality. But the verity of these accusations does little to supersede its societal function. The scenario depicts how the black man and women are commonly pitted against one another and how the black male is villanized for implementing what he was nurtured to idolize—white male ideology.

The teachings of white supremacy are second nature to anyone not possessing a conscious gaze. I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, a few years back and was mortified at what Pecola’s father does to her on the kitchen floor. I resented Morrison for years, holding her in contempt for depicting the black man as indifferently robbing his child of her innocence.

It took me several strides into consciousness to realize that the father was a man systemized and nurtured to become an animal, a subjugate human who performs the dirty work of his master in his oppressed state. This is not an excuse, as his actions are detestable and hard to read, yet even more difficult to process as a factual fate rendered to so many blacks throughout the diaspora silent in the shame of their systemic violation.

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Kelly symbolically stands in the same image of this fictional black man who encompasses the factual narrative of so many other black males castrated by earthly demons who program the black body to inflict white evil onto their own people.

Kelly’s actions function to lure black women from blackness into the arms of feminism–yet example of society's dedication to turning racist issues into sexist issues to further the cyclical disenfranchisement of blacks by hurling our struggle into oblivion. A second offense by a black praised for his prodigious talent, serves another blow to our collective identity alongside similar allegations afforded to other black greats like the late Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Kobe Bryant, amongst others. These allegations function to fuel white esteem and denigrate black collective worth in staining the black psyche with portraits of themselves that seemingly lack a moral compass.

So, to those quick to compartmentalize a black man as a sexual villain— I would like to redirect your attention to the words of the late and great Malcolm X:

“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

To what contempt will you hold a system that upholds the systemic soiling of black female bodies?

To reiterate I am in no way excusing Kelly, but evoking a sense of nationalism to assert that we as a collective have been wronged by a system that lures us to incessantly blame ourselves but seldom confront the the true villain and sole benefactor of global racism.

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In closing, the power of blackness lies largely in realizing if and when we are being played. So while we may not be playing chess, our systemized state as blacks bears a close resemblance to a king being used to seize the most powerful piece of the game–his queen.

Black Power. ❤

When the Bough Is Black: A“When The Bough Breaks” Review

Black Hollywood Veterans Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut appeal to the black audience  lost in the abundant white faces that continue to dominate the big screen. Thus, despite the familiar plot, reminiscent of Fatal Attraction or Obsessed, the film becomes attractive in the still aberrant presence embodied by black actors. Unfortunately, the presumed “black” actors, betray a melanated presence that conveniently presents physical diversity despite portraying a privilege and hue antithetical to their own. The whiteness of the physically black cast surfaces in assigning Hall and Chestnut Anglo names. Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut become John and Laura Taylor, and their surrogate Jaz Sinclair becomes Anna Walsh. Thus, while it is certainly pleasing to see a black couple love one another, this love exists in the face of acquired whiteness that makes their hue a suggestion rather than a defining attribute. Through illustrating whiteness through black bodies, When the Bough Breaks embodies racial subtleties that strategically shifts culture and cultural accountability.

Laura Taylor, the skilled and conventionally successful culinary professional presumably has everything. She has beauty, style, an equally alluring residence, and an admiring husband. However, despite their love for one another, John and Laura cannot conceive a child. It is though her implemented barren state, that Laura Taylor, the black woman, swaps places with her European counterpart. This is not to suggest that black women do not struggle with fertility, but it is to state that it is not a moment issue plaguing our personhood. In fact, this portrayal counters the consistent portrayal of black women as hyper-fertile, an image that perpetuates black women as bearing multiple children even launching the 2011 Soho billboard that asserted the black female womb as the most dangerous place for a black child. More significantly, this perpetuation, when viewed allegorically, depicts Africa as barren and childless, a truth inconsistent with a history that conceals the repeated rape and seizure of people and natural resources from the fruitful land on earth–Affica. Thus, the black woman gains central placement at the expense of sacrificing her frutitful history to one that mirrors one of her oppressor. As a barren woman whose last chance for motherhood lies in a crazed woman, Taylor sacrifices her conjugal sanctity for her child. By the end of the film, it is Laura who shoots the fatal bullet into the body that birthed her legacy. In casting the fatal shot, Laura literally chops the tree that bears her fruit. Here, the black body does what Scandal viewers subconsciously absorb on Thursdays, a black body that exudes behavior historically aligned with whites. Scandal’s Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), is easily the most fascinating character on the series who simultaneously elicit hate and awe . Pope, as “Command” epitomizes power, as no system or individual seems capable to deplete his dominance. Pope breaks men down only to build them up in his image, or discards those unable to live up to his standards. By depicting a black man as powerful, but evil and perniciously dominating, racism takes on an equality as real as the characters themselves.

Similarly, When the Bough Breaks portrays blackness both physically and allegorically to illustrate  a similar reversal. Westerns raped Africa of her natural resources and children to birth the productivity of a stolen land. After providing the blood, sweat and tears necessary to nurture what we now consider America, blacks were emotionally and socially tossed aside to fend for themselves in a sea of disenfranchisement. Anna Walsh allegorically represents this marginalized presence, seemingly driven mad by the demands of a society that seems rooted in her exploitation. Conversely, John and Laura Taylor embody a systemic favorability that permits them to use and discard those lacking resources. In allegorically representing blackness, When the Bough Breaks employs black bodies as tools to discount racism in suggesting that blacks are as equally susceptible to racist positioning as whites. This suggestion implores viewers to conceptualize as individual not systemic. Ironically, in nurturing this belief, films like When the Bough Breaks and shows like Scandal cultivate the necessary unconsciousness for systemic racism to operate. Thus, what seems like another great time at the movies, permits black audiences to participate and foster their continued oppression in a country that thwarts enlightenment with entertainment.

#TeacherBae and Sexuality as a Smokescreen to #BlackGirlMagic

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This week, Patrice Brown made headlines after pictures of her in a tailored, knee-length pastel pink dress went viral. The picture offset a series of conversations about professional attire, and the sexualized black female body. However, Brown’s popularity has little to do with her attire. Rather, Brown’s popularity betrays an anxiety surrounding black women in professional and non-stereotypical spaces.

I feel compelled to state that in conversations surrounding this subject, I was initially quite ambivalent. It wasn’t until I found myself rambling through my sentiments that I realized the smokescreen that enveloped my thought process.  With the few details that surfaced regarded her professional work, Brown exudes the same pride in her profession that she does in her appearance. This depiction, although commonly portrayed as disparate, conveys a resonate image that epitomizes a high sense of purpose and esteem. Yet, the intricacies surrounding her professionalism barely wash ashore in a society fixated on depicting the black female body as dichotomous to any identity that poses a question to what cultural critic bell hooks references as racist-sexist oppression.

It is racist-sexist oppression that prompts both blacks and whites to police black women for petty “offenses” to veil the true discomfort that lies in a black female striving to color outside the lines of welfare mother, sexualized performer, or wannabe white girl. Thus, it is immaterial whether or not Brown’s outfit is inappropriate, just like it is not relevant that First Lady Michelle Obama does not don a pageant smile at every moment or that Tennis giant Serena Williams is not a flat-chested, slim-hipped white woman. Rather these observations betray the contemporary world as uncomfortable with confident black females as experts in their fields.

By operating in the circumscribed identity prescribed for us by western society. black females perform in the fantasy outlined by western imagination. Thus stereotypes and stereotypical behavior prove that blacks are just as imagined in the minds of their oppressors. Nevertheless, blacks continually endure a caustic response in exuding stereotypical traits by those whose imagination crafted said image. Similarly, Brown’s popularity is partially due to her beauty, but mostly due to the subconscious belief that black female bodies are incongruous to professionalism, class and modesty.  A white teacher who wore a similar outfit would most likely yield two responses. In scenario A, the image does not prove viral, as a white woman incongruous to conventional standards is inconceivable to most, or at least not conceivable to the point of being more than a funny meme. In scenario B, the white teacher endures a celebrated image similar to Kim Kardashian, a curvy white woman who humanizes white femininity in possessing traditionally black traits.  Thus, Patrice Brown’s acquired visibility, proves that even in a society overly concerned with dissolving overt racism, black women remain excluded from the luxury of being human.

Oh, and Patrice if you’re reading this–You look beautiful. Thanks for giving the world a little #blackgirlmagic.