Nice For What? Drake, #metoo, and Black Female Erasure

Degrassi Alum turned Rap superstar Aubrey “Drake” Graham recently joined the contemporary feminist performance with a new video for “Nice For What.” The song, a mash up of Lauryn Hill’s hit “The Ex factor” is a page in the New Orleans bounce sound, but the video is making waves for its atypical visuals— well, partially. The video is inundated with women dancing and dressed in conventional glamor, but these female props are deliberately placed.       

The video stars Issa Rae (Awkward black Girl/ Insecure), Zoe Saldana, her husband and three sons (Drumline/Avatar), Yara Shahidi and Tracee Ellis Ross from Blackish, model Jourdan Dunn, actress Rashida Jones, ballerina Misty Copeland, comedian Tiffany Haddish, Swedish models Victoria and Elizabeth Lejonhjärta, and actress Letitia Wright from Black Panther. The video intertwines these images of black women with white and non-black women, whose names I will purposely exclude from this post to structurally illustrate a message antithetical to the one conveyed in Drake’s video for recently released track “Nice for What.”

Directed by twenty-two year old Canadian director Karena Evans (Drake, God’s Plan), the video is overtly a portrait of “girl” power, an obvious placement of Drake alongside the contemporary woman in the #metoo movement. But while appearing to do “God’s work” or enacting “god’s plan” Drake actualizes a white female supremacy guised as a pushback against white male supremacy.   

Please allow me to state for all those quick to render my assertions  the ramblings of an angry black woman, that my argument is not that these “women” do not deserve to shine. This is not my assertion nor my concern. White and non-black women of color inevitably shine in juxtaposition to black female invisibility. My criticism is that this exclusion is veiled in an appropriative unity that is violently displayed in and as vanity.

This video like all representations of black or “othered” people is inundated by biracial and lighter skinned people—in front of and behind the scenes. This white female supremacy that anchors this display of seemingly progressive work is perhaps best illustrated in the exclusion of the sampled artist Lauryn Hill— an absence that is both appropriate and disturbing.

Hill’s absence is disturbing in that there is virtually no acknowledgement of Lauren Hill, though her voice and the images of the few featured black women is what stands out about the video—as they visually illustrate the antithesis to a presence that continues to be reduced to stereotypes and demeaned for money and laughs. Even if Ms. Hill declined a cameo, a close up of her picture, a snippet from the video for the sampled song, or a close up of the classic album that featured the sampled song, would have sufficed to pay a necessary homage to Lauryn Hill representative of the black female form that illustrates the pre-woman literacy.

Lauryn Hill embodies what black Canadian scholar Katherine McKitterick calls “an absented presence” in her recent text Demonic Grounds. McKitterick defines absented presence as that “place between memory and forgetfulness,” a suspension common for black bodies.Absented presence is perhaps the most relevant phrasing to encompass the black female relation to the woman concept.

Namely, Hill’s exclusion personifies black female omission from the “woman” labeling—an exclusion endured since black female arrival in America—an exclusion that as depicted in the video, paved the way for women like Misty Copeland and Rashida Jones to represent the black female form simultaneously eschewing and exposing continued black female exclusion. Issa Rae physically embodies many of the same traits as Lauryn Hill, and while bearing a processed mind, it is respectable that Rae attained visibility donning a natural hairdo that is strides away from the “socially acceptable” curls of the racially ambiguous. So to see Rae in this video donning longer and straighter locks, appears a deliberate intention to make her look more “woman,”—less Lauryn Hill and more Lauren London. This physical depiction is an embodiment of the drastic whitening and aesthetical dilution demanded of black female bodies that will still be eliminated and overlooked as women regardless. The mix up that dilutes Hill’s soulful vocals, performs a similar function,her rhythm and blues sound mutilated to sound like a chipmunk or pop-esque version of the original performance.

The title of featured song “Nice for what” is also an interesting commentary on the age old perception of women. As girls the female body is playfully conceptualized as “sugar and spice and everything nice—” and as women the givers of live and a token of pleasantry, silent strength and exhibitors of domestic mastery. However, when has a black women ever been considered “nice?” Though the African spirit is seemingly innately forgiving, black women are seldom acknowledged as kind or nice—instead we are deemed “difficult,” “evil,” and “moody.” This also stems back to colorism as the darkness attributed to the “black” label, is not just about hue but temperament. Black women are seen as masterful complainers, bearing a scowl where women bear a smile. This is of course untrue but also an oversimplified perception regarding the reality of the black female experience.

In the limited photographs of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, neither wear a smile. I am sure that if Marie Angelique, a black woman buried in the oblivion induced by Canadian denial of her existence and execution, were photographed she would also bear a facial expression reflective of her life experience, which was not one of ease. Thus, in the event that a black woman is not smiling, this is not because black women are evil, but because the black female body is thrust into an impossible reality yet castigated if she does not plaster a smile on a face that masks 400 years of mistreatment and abuse.    

The smile and conventional “niceness” demanded of black woman is of course not for the black woman, but to ensure the comfort of those who wish to look at but not truly see the black woman. This white supremacist society likes to see the black female smiling, for the same reason that they approve of videos like “Nice for what” where the black female body is alongside those whose privilege she will never mirror—not because black female happiness is even partially considered, but because looking at the smile, just like looking at the black female in glimpses between white and non-black counterparts allows the black female form to remain invisible.

So Drake’s invitation to women in “Nice for What” is to engender an exchange from “nice” to “spice,” also speaking to a privilege that non-black woman have in negotiating identity- a privilege he also enjoys as a man who is silently black, who yo yo’s between mama’s boy, champagne papi, philander, and as seen in the video for God’s Plan, philanthropist. I say this not knock Drake the man, but to confront the reality of how a man of his circumstances functions and why it makes sense that Drake is the platform where this erasure and violence against the black woman and the black collective takes place.

This is not to ignore the reality that even the racially ambiguous and “mixed” blacks are mistreated with regards to the woman label, but to state that in the contemporary climate the biracial black often stands in for the black body, for example, Yara Shahidi who is featured in the referenced video, on Blackish and Grownish. The function of the biracial black is to offer pseudo relief to the black body from obscurity while festering said obscurity with pseudo representation of blackness deliberately selected by whites– master deceivers who employ biracial blacks not because of their beauty, talent or exceptionalism, but to centralize whiteness packaged as progress.

Depictions like the pseudo black/white woman alliance and the images that compose the visual text  seen in the Drake video are reminiscent of a cup of black coffee, lighted and eventually adulterated with milk, cream or a little bit of both. For the black women who consider themselves fans of Drake, or of pop culture in general that is making an aggressive effort to erase the black female body it is imperative to note that though stars illuminate on our dark sky—the sky does not need stars to be a sky, but a star has no place without a sky. I say this to say that we as a collective have power over our narrative our sky and what “stars” illuminate this sky, and this video, although seemingly innocuous, is an exhibition of seized power showcased and misappropriated as entertainment.

Black Power ❤

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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 ❤

 

 

The Woman’s March, A Cinderella Tale

I woke up to the news that Fredo Santana, a rapper of the Chicago Drill scene, passed. News of his untimely death broke in the hours preceding the Woman’s March. Though trending in the early hours of Saturday morning by the time the clock struck twelve noon, news of the deceased black man had folded into oblivion replaced by the hashtags of the Women’s March taking place in various cities across the United States. The scenario,  blacks becoming invisible to ensure the centrality of whiteness, remains a recurring fate blacks experience globally. fredo-santana-hospitalized-liver-kidney-failure-01

Despite the pervasive feminist agenda that haunts the contemporary climate, Santana, a black man, is far more important to me than any Women’s March can ever be—simply because his experience is directly linked to mine and our ancestors. As a being of black female form, on any given day or moment, I have far more in common with a black man than any white or non-black “woman of color.” Though yielding their differences, the black man and black woman endure daily testimonies of displacement and systemic abuse–both subject to  a persistent undervaluing of black people in life and death.

The events of this morning prove an unintentional illustration as to why I, a black “woman,” refused to attend today’s Women’s March. To attend today’s march is to choose gender over race, and because my hue is sun-kissed— this choice is a fatal one. To march for women is similar to a march to the gallows where my collective self is fatally raised like a curtain to the headlining act of white supremacy.

Like most children during their youth, I enjoyed fairly tales. I especially enjoyed Cinderella. In the age-old tale, a poor girl becomes subject to the misfortune of an evil stepmother and wicked step-daughters after her father’s untimely death. She goes from rags to riches when she meets a wealthy prince and lives “happily ever after.” The film is overtly a “feel good” moment for the naive gaze, preparing the innocent for a lifetime of enchantment, ie material and upward mobility—attributes that do nothing to negate the affects of blackness in an anti-black climate. Therefore, Cinderella is foreshadow to those who would grow-up and be women—illustrating the various paths that affect you regardless of money, education, beauty, moral compass, or skill.

cinderella97-divas
To the black female body, the white woman is the evil stepmother, the evil step-sisters easily embodied by other non-black persons of color, that seek to convince the black female form of her inferiority to engender a pseudo superiority. These dynamic, although illustrated in a later version of the fairy tale starring singer Brandy as Cinderella and superstar Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother, fail to resonant with viewers seeking to escape reality with fictive feel good moments that mirror the very detriment of daily life.

The version of Cinderella starring Brandy and the late Whitney Houston, mirrors the current wave of feminism which appears to retell a tale of white female privilege with black faces.

The result is predictably violent—displacing black bodies in the white female work to97-cinderella-3 supremacy does virtually nothing to negate the moral of the tale. My conscious gaze views this Cinderella differently—as this attempt of assimilation—subliminally illustrates ambush. Particularly, Cinderella’s (Brandy) relationship with an Asian prince, symbolizes those “of color” as mirroring the motives of whites, namely their collaborative ambush of black communities throughout the United States, Africa and the West Indies.

The Woman’s March illustrates a similar ambush, in which the black female body— a force reduced to a bridge to which the white woman crosses to the other side of privilege—black female entry obliterated by a white-only sign perhaps even more present in its physical absence. Yes, I am asserting that in 2018 a white only sign hovers over womanhood and each and every “wave” of feminism.

8203b8aebceafde1a4311cb864bfd29d-natural-makeup-for-black-women-dark-skin-black-women-makeup.jpgAlthough ‘wave” preceded “feminism” to mark its reinvention, the only “wave” I have ever seen is the wave of a fair-weather friend.

The black woman is the fair-weather friend of feminism, called on when they a need a chair to rest on, or a cheerleader to stand in the rain and cheer while they dance in victory.

To March for woman is forget that the “women’s college” did not have the black female body in mind in their conception. To march for woman is to forget that all those that march today are not marching for Saartje Baartman, Henrietta Lacks, Ruby McCollum, Recy Taylor, Betty Jean Owens, Fanny Lou Hamer, Tawana Brawley, or any of the black female bodies across the diaspora—they are marching for the Hilary Clinton’s and Melania Trump’s, women that in their worst moment are called or perhaps even treated like b*tches, but will never endure the systemic suffocation of blackness.

To march for “woman” is to render Fredo Santana “another black rapper who died by the same thing he rapped about,” not a black man, someone’s father, son, brother, friend,  nurtured for self-destruction not self-determination. To march for women is to render “Oh, you’re mighty smart for a woman,” in the same light as “Nigger-bitch,” to deem the  Central Park jogger a victim of rape and Tawana Brawley a liar, to remember Elizabeth Smart but forget the abducted black girls in Nigeria, DC, and throughout the diaspora.

fog

I refuse to attend the Woman’s March because I, a being of black female form, am not Cinderella. There is no glass slipper, and no prince coming to whisk me away from evil–only the contemporary white man who wishes to whisk me into a legal slavery and contractual concubine. Cinderella, like feminism, is for little white girls or even non-black women of color who recruit the black female body as a sort of fairy godmother who makes their wishes come true. Cinderella_Brandy

I want to specify that I have no desire to be recognized as “woman,” or be “Cinderella”—as both present a reduction to the prodigious existence of the black female form. The black female form precedes the concept of woman, and thus is only erased in her fictive inclusion.

Furthermore, feminism does not fit me because my skin is black. My troubles are not because I am a woman, but because in the world’s eyes, I am not one.

But to those who gloat in my so-called exclusion I ask:

Why fight to be a “woman” when I am a Queen?

Rest in peace to Fredo Santana, and the countless other black bodies who transitioned in the first weeks of this new year. May you find comfort and inspiration in the arms of our ancestors.

Black Power ❤

Three Issues with the Keke Palmer and Trey Songz Feud

During my college years I was huge fan of R &B crooner Trey Songz. I have shamelessly sang along to his lyrics in Atlantic City, Roseland and Madison Square Garden. My perception of actress Keke Palmer is also favorable. Palmer earned a place in my heart after embodying a positive portrayal of black girls as Akeelah in  Akeelah and The Bee. My sentiments towards Palmer have always been sisterly and I admire her ability to convey confidence and objectivity where many women wear their envy.

Before I start this piece, let me say that I know my perspective will be an unpopular one. I know that because Keke Palmer stands at the intersectionality of race and gender like myself, I am expected to “side” with her. However, as said on numerous posts, I am black first. It is from a position of blackness that I compose my perspective.

A little background…

Early this week, actress Keke Palmer outed singer Trey Songz for placing her in a video without her permission. Palmer’s accusations hit the internet via  video, in which she accused Songz of “taking advantage of her” while under the influence and implementing sexual coercion to harbor her participation in a video for song “Pick Up the Phone.” Although not stated directly, Keke implies that what she experienced was a form of rape, equating this scenario to the coercion many young women face on college campuses. Palmer also criticizes Songz’s request to deal with the situation in private. I agree that this situation should have been handled in private for the following reasons:

I. The presented scenario paints both Palmer and Songz in an unflattering light.

The scene portrayed in Palmer’s footage from the party she willingly attended mirrors the ambiance portrayed in the video for song “Pick Up the Phone”—scantily clad women, marijuana, alcohol and suggestive behavior. Having gone away to college, I am VERY familiar with this kind of atmosphere and the expectations that accompany said ambiance. In fact, my friends and I exited our first college party after the environment proved too suggestive for our liking. This statement does not suggest that women do not reserve the right to drink or attend parties. I do however think that western parties operate under a pretense of male superiority, thus should be regarded with reservation.  Men often treat women who attend these events in a manner vastly different that if encountered at a Panera or a campus library.At parties, male partygoers often blatantly ask disinterested female partygoers “why you are here?” if she proves offended by their sexually aggressive advances. These comments appear genuine in referencing the mindset expected given the environment. Women attend events like these for a mirage of reasons, however female presence in said environment assumes an interest in suggestive behavior and male attention.Furthermore, by attending the party, drinking and socializing, Palmer seems at most compliant and at least unbothered by said ambiance as this environment would unlikely suit a non-drinker or a wallflower.

While this article does not function to critique how anyone has their fun, you probably would not be a library if you did not know how to read, nor would you be in a butcher shop if you did not eat meat.  Location harbors expectations that may or may not be true, but exist nonetheless.

Although the “smoke, drink and party” lifestyle accompanies many celebrities or people in general, this dynamic functions differently for those of African descent. Blacks who drink, smoke and act suggestively as part of their fun, perform in the caricatured imaging that hovers over blackness in our implied hyper sexuality, ignorance and laziness. As a result, black women face virtually no protection in said environments as the protection afforded to their white female counterparts is seldom. Case in reference is the recent Brock Turner case where a young white woman attended a fraternity party and was sexually assaulted. The attack was caught on video, but only earned the assailant three months. Although the judge stated that Brock incurred the sentence because he did not “pose a threat to anyone,” the slap on the wrist unveils the dismissive attitude that accompanies the inebriated female partygoer. As seen in the Vanderbilt case, only if the assailant is black does sexual assault on white female partygoers become a punishable act.

II. There are a number of things that should have bothered Keke and an unapproved cameo is not one of them.

In her video, Keke references being in song “Pick Up the Phone” without batting an eyelash. The lyric that references Keke reads as follows:

“I palm her p*ssy like Keke, like Keke, like Keke.”

This lyric is vulgar play on the singer’s last name “Palmer,” yet its failure to warrant a complaint or even a comment from Keke raises an eyebrow. The sexual coercion Palmer references in her reaction video seems anticipatory given this sexually charged lyric. To not see this comment as problematic makes me wonder why the reported behavior is a problem but this lyric is not. It also seems that inviting Palmer to a party for a video where she is referenced warrants a cameo. The more I look into the facts surrounding these accusations, the more this “feud” seems a staged effort to drive the video views from its current 200,000+ views closer to the million mark. Or, that Palmer’s management deemed her friendships with Songz and other R&B singers like August Alsina as detrimental to her image, and her accusations are just damage control.

3. This fuels the ever-persistent image of the black man as a sexual predator.

In accusing Trey Songz of implementing sexual coercion in her inebriated state, Palmer paints Songz as a stereotypical sexual predator or rapist. Angela Davis speaks to the black male rapist in Women, Race and Class with the following:

The myth of the Black rapist has been methodically conjured up whoever recurrent waves of violence and terror against the Black community have required convincing justifications Davis 173).

In lieu of the violence that murders blacks in both traditional and contemporary settings, painting the black man as a predator justifies any violent act taken to his body. To white America, Trey Songz operates interchangeably with slain teens Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. Thus, painting Songs as a sexual predator validates Martin and Brown’s murders, suggesting eliminating the black male body is essential to maintain safety. Furthermore, in striving to exist under the protection afforded  to white female sexuality, Palmer’s accusations work to foment the traditional cause for rape laws.  Davis outlines the traditional cause for rape laws with the following:

In The United States and other capitalistic countries, rape laws as a rule were framed originally for the protection of men of the upper classes, who daughters might be assaulted.

Davis goes on to say what the media accurately relays to us, “… the rape charge has been indiscriminately  aimed at Black men, the guilty and innocent alike ” (Davis 172). So, Palmer’s accusations paint black males as a figure that the western world needs protection from. Perhaps more problematic, the Palmer/ Songz dynamic demonstrates blacks as commonly placed against one another fueling a lack of unity that ultimately strengthens white supremacy. As long as we deflect enemy status onto one another, the perils of white supremacy remain buried in the subconscious of black understanding.

What Palmer and Songs both seem to overlook is that they, as visible black bodies, take on a role much bigger than themselves. Their actions reflect the black collective, and function to either challenge or acquiesce to images afforded to us by western society. This incident seems a testament to the underserving power of the black celebrity, or those who garner fame and fortune for personfying white perception simultaneously twisting the knife of oppressive imaging onto their respective collective.

From Michelle to Melania: Femininity, Race and White Supremacy

The morning after the 2008 election, I had an American Literature class with a white professor at a historically black university. This professor would prove drastically inferior to the brilliant black minds to which my education would acquaint me. He also proved consistently discouraging, seizing every opportunity to belittle the writing of a small class filled entirely with young black women. The morning following the election he spent a large portion of our fifty minute class condescendingly addressing the Obamas, treating a black family occupying the White House as many regarded the 2005 blackout. The most resonant of his comments some nine years later were the comments he made regarding Michelle Obama–namely the facial expression he wore when he called her victory dress ugly. Although he spoke of her dress, it was obvious that he regarded the black female body that was then the First Lady with a similar disgust. His comments cemented my perception of him as inherently racist, and fomented my understanding that the western world nurtures all whites to bear this predisposed racist mindset. This inherent racism became obvious in discussing black male Barack Obama but perhaps proved most transparent in discussing First Lady Michelle Obama.

The comments rendered by my former professor, mirrored the comments that would follow Michelle Obama throughout her time as First Lady, comments that would prove dichotomous to conversations surrounding current First Lady Melania Trump. Incidentally, the comments generated by both political figures unveils race and gender perceptions as stagnant.

Criticism surrounding the Obamas as a couple,  frequently accused the Obama’s of using tax money to attend vacations. These accusations disregard the reality that Obamas were hardly broke before occupying the oval office. Much of the western psyche appears contingent on blacks circumscribed to an existence that is either dumb, ugly and poor. These contingencies plagued Michelle Obama’s First Lady status, bludgeoning her image with comments that functioned to reduce her to an angry black female undeserving of the First Lady title.

Michelle faced constant criticism for her racially assertive Princeton thesis entitled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” Many referenced this thesis as evidence that Michelle Obama “hated this county,” was “racist.” Despite centuries of turmoil, the blacks in America remain consistently pressured to embody a grateful stance toward a country that continues to oppress them. Those who operate with any kind of historical cognizance are commonly killed, or incarcerated labeled a “criminal” if male and and “angry” if black and female. The western media constantly painted Michelle Obama as an angry black woman in her failure to adopt a pageant smile for each and every public appearance. In reality, claims of an attitude and ungratefulness veil the true catalyst for Michelle Obama’s criticism. While campaigning for Hilary Clinton would consummate the shuking and jiving expected of her, Obama’s behavior would still prove deficient to the praise white America expected her to sing with every word and facial expression.

Although centuries separated from physical slavery. the western world renders a series of impositions onto the black body that mirror the demands faced by their ancestors. Perhaps the most prominent of these demands is a demand for blacks to occupy a pride-less state. This lack of pride allows themichelle-obama-arms-workout.jpg black body to become a vessel for white ideologies. In place of self-esteem, pride-less bodies displace esteem onto their oppressors. What is perhaps most disturbing is that Michelle is not Angela Davis, Assata Shakur or Winnie Mandela, and white society still strives to break her stride. This illustrates that whether fractionally or undeniably present, black pride poses a threat to white supremacy–as black shame is necessary to foment white pride.

moape.jpgMany comments corresponding to an article or photo of Michelle Obama referred the  former first lady as Moonchelle, aligning her aesthetics to that of an ape. The ridicule Michelle Obama faced for her looks operates out of necessity. White ridicule on black aesthetics occurs almost predictably, implemented by whites to assert their own beauty. Tanning salons to darken colorless skin, lip and butt injections to add definition to thin features, and hair extensions to veil see-through locks, unveil the depth of white insecurity. Yet the western world functions to convince the black body their aesthetically traits are cringe-worthy not covetable. The frequent juxtaposition between Michelle Obama and Melania Trump functions similarly, for it is Michelle’s “ugliness” that provides a platform for current first lady, Melania Trump’s beauty.

Melania Trump, the third wife of President Donald Trump, succeeds Michelle Obama in the role of first lady. A native of Slovenia, Melania had a successful modeling career prior to marrying Trump — a man twenty-four years her senior. Her modeling photos have since surfaced and reveal that our now first lady posed nude and for a paycheck.  This fact  proves rigid western standards optional when posed to those of the majority. Singer Janet Jackson was blacklisted from numerous award shows following a wardrobe malfunction that revealed her breast to the word during the 2004 Super Bowl.  Nudity also disqualified Vanessa Williams from the Miss America title in 1983.  Yet Melania Trump melaniatrump_010616douglasfriedman.jpgholds a much more prestigious and influential position and her naked body remains a click away from anyone with Internet access. This double standard illustrates nudity as a smokescreen. The western world simply did not want to award Williams this honor, so they searched and searched until they discovered a past act or statement that suggested it was William’s unworthiness not racism that warranted the retracted honor. Michelle Obama’s media portrayal functioned similarly, as her implied “ungratefulness” suggested that it is not racism that foments her criticism but her behavior.

While Michelle Obama faced criticism for her appearance, Melania Trump garners consistent praise for her looks. Although easily attributed to preference, celebration surrounding a surgically altered face illustrates a western preference for any face as long as it’s white. Melania’s looks also garner praise possibly due to her lack of professional accomplishments that prove germane given her new setting. While Michelle Obama proved an anomaly as one of the few first ladies to bear a professional degree, Melania blends in to the trophy status preferred by our white supremacist society.

In contemplating current discussion surrounding women’s rights under the Trump administration, the white house dynamic unveils feminism as existing to serve women like Melanie Trump. Currently trending is the The #freeMelania hashtag, a reactionary measure implemented following a photograph where Melania supposedly appears “terrified.” To occupy myself with feminist concerns such as this one, is to overlook that black females still fight for the “freedoms” extended to Melania. Melania-a woman who willingly journeyed to America and accrued more liberties after getting her green card than black females have received in centuries, is not a figure worthy of sympathy from anyone—especially not the black female. Brains earned the black female body a place in the white house. Whether looking up at a camera or at Donald, the current first lady earned the same title on back. Furthermore, the Michelle Obama and Melanie trump dichotomy illustrates that to earn visibility in the western world the black female body must posses a degree of greatness, whereas the white female body simply has to be white.

So while the feminist community concerns themselves with “freeing” Melania, as a womanist, I deem freeing the back female body from western influences like feminism far more relevant.

Gone Girl Versus Bye Felicia: Examining The Inequity of Blackness

Almost five years ago, I, along with countless others around the world, read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. The thriller seemed the perfect summer read, well-equipped with multiple perspectives and gritty drama. gone-girl1

Gone Girl renders the perspectives of Amy and Nick Dunne, a married couple who have hit a rough patch in their union. Amy Dunne is a young, unconventionally beautiful trust fund baby whose parents afford her a privileged upbringing by way of a book series conceived in her honor. Exasperated by her spouse’s infidelity and mediocre ambitions, Amy stages her own disappearance which prompts a national search. Nick Dunne, an average guy with average ambitions, finds love with Amy– a woman who knows a different perspective to privilege then afforded by his modest upbringing. Emasculated by Amy’s economic comfort and his personal shortcomings, Nick emotionally checks out of his marriage and elicits an affair with one of his students. Inevitably surfacing as the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, Nick becomes the victim of white female wrath.

As a young blonde white woman—Amy possesses a conventional beauty and thereby embodies western treasure. A conventionally beautiful, wealthy white female Amy implements her privilege by attacking the white men who fall in love with who they believe she is. Her past is decorated in staged rapes and stalking, painting her as a desirable being that warrants animalistic male tendencies. Gone Girl captures Amy in her lifetime performance— framing her husband for her “disappearance/murder.”

In actuality what author Gillian Flynn does with protagonist “Amazing Amy” is a craft a mockery of abduction and crime. Gone Girl veils abduction and criminality with a comedic string of events orchestrated by an over-privileged white woman determined not only to prove her worth to her cheating husband, but to the world.

natalee_holloway_yearbook_photoGone Girl’s Amazing Amy mirrors real-life “gone girls” Natalie Holloway and Elizabeth Smart. While Elizabeth Smart mirrors the lost and found dynamic that frequents western suspense-thrillers, Holloway, America’s golden girl smartpersonifies every parents worst nightmare, a child that goes on a class trip but never returns.

Following her disappearance, Holloway became a household name— her face, a national treasure burned into the minds of all Americans. Much like the fictive Amy Dunne, Holloway was young, conventionally beautiful and wealthy. Taken together they epitomize the tragedy American imbues in its inability to protect its most treasured asset.

barnesConversely, Phylicia Barnes, a sixteen- year-old black youth went missing a few years later to a vastly underwhelmed public. Barnes graduated high school a semester early and was on the fast track to college when she also went on a trip in which she would never return. Four months after her disappearance, her nude and unrecognizable body was found in the Baltimore river. Her discovery met the ears of many who never even knew she was missing. Like Holloway, Barnes was beautiful and bright. But unlike Holloway, Barnes was black. Barnes did not receive national coverage and she did not endure the celebrity status afforded to Holloway. Barnes endured a dual tragedy, one in her untimely murder and a second in epitomizing the disregard afforded to black bodies throughout the western world. To her family Barnes is a fallen angel but to the western world she is a faceless woman of color the world is better without.

This dynamic hits close to home for me as one of my little cousins has been missing for over three weeks. His mother created a flyer, simply because the community precinct failed to do so. As a family, we wait daily for updates, updates that are few and far between because a young black male just simply does not warrant the search efforts of the police or soldiers of white supremacy. Thus, to see a woman fabricate a story that receives much more attention than real loss is a cruel mockery of an unbalanced system.

To whites, blacks only matter when money is involved. The most worthy blacks accompany the title celebrity, their value determined by how much capital they afford whites. These blacks, if missing garner national attention because they are under contract. History conveys a similar dynamic. Traditionally, when black bodies went missing whites searched endlessly to ensure their property was returned to them. Back when black bodies proved profitable, their loss proved valuable to white supremacy. The contemporary world imposes white supremacy on the western mind in simply rendering any black body not in direct correspondence to western economics worthless. No black person could fabricate their disappearance to the same reaction afforded to Gone Girl‘s Amazing Amy. Even in truth, justice for blacks is seldom.

Gone Girl in book and cinematic form overlook the privilege in simply being “gone.” The phrasing accompanies an endless plight to discover the missing person. The western world does not afford the black body the privilege of being gone, as perfunctory effort awaits the black body that goes missing. Thus, Gone Girl’s fictive depiction illustrates the label “gone” as a privilege exclusively reserved for whites. While white women are “gone girls” black female bodies endure the frivolous dismissal embedded in the popular phrasing- “Bye Felicia.”

What is deserving of a formal dismissal is a system that deems the black body forgettable and utterly replaceable. While I reference my cousin directly, the cavalier disregard that hovers over his missing status mirrors the treatment that awaits any black body lost or missing. Interestingly, it is discussions like these that reveal black rights as human rights. Blacks are not fighting to maintain a form of superiority over others. For centuries, we have endured the impossibly difficult quest to be treated as humans. Somehow this quest becomes magnified in discussions of disappearance and tragedy, despite its presence in everyday life.

Furthermore, there is no need to retrain officers, there is a need to repeal the entire system. Blacks need a system where their lives, education, children and safety matter and their lost bodies garner concern not cavalier disregard. This is something consistently denied by the western world, and therefore is something we must take. In closing I’ll leave with you with the words of the late and great Dr. King:

“No one can do this for us, we must do this for ourselves.”

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Women’s March, A Black Female Perspective….

Following Trump’s inauguration a series of Women’s Marches occurred throughout North America. The protests erupted to preserve the female liberties seemingly threatened by a “conservative” president who boasted of sexually assaulting women. As a female, I empathize and even support the initiatives that foment this March. However, although a woman, I know that I am inevitably black first. Thus, I can’t help but feel that by supporting the women’s march is to support the very means of my oppression.

On my a tri-weekly journey to a previous job, I recall seeing a number of protestors outside of Planned Parenthood at the wee hours of the morning seeking to shame female patrons. One protestor stood out from the others—an elderly white man surely north of seventy-five. He stood hunched over, holding an oaktag with a message written in ballpoint pen. I did not bother to read the poster, but judging by the stoic expression on his face, he was there to cast the stones of white male privilege onto the female body. Standing at the intersectionality of race and gender, the black woman knows this gaze all to well. While the literal gaze casts itself onto the black female body countless places throughout North America, the figurative gaze consumes black femininity in its entirety. The women’s march solely speaks to the “woman” component of this gaze, eliminating the most defining characteristic of black female identity.

Reproductive rights in general proves controversial to  the black female trajectory. A quick glance at history reveals that the black female endured sheer deprivation in terms of reproductive rights—her body used as means for mayoral economic franchisement. White women too encompassed an existence that also regarded them as property, however their fair skin warranted privileges denied to the black female body. These exclusive liberties afforded to white women illustrate the concept of “woman” as a privilege solely applicable to non-male whites. Consider the phrasing “black” woman. The label “Black woman” illustrates that black female intersectionality separates black females from the term’s initial meaning. For any “woman” of another marginalized faction, their race or ethnicity always precedes the term woman—proving their genitals deem them female but their race and ethnicity is first and foremost. Femininity is also a privilege extended exclusively to non-male whites. This exclusivity persists as the black female body only earns femininity when adopting western aesthetics and behavior.

Given the exclusivity of the term “woman,” I find it quite disturbing that white women ( and other oppressed groups) call on the black women for support in their times of distress, yet alienate the black female body when their children, brothers and fathers lay slain on the streets or untagged in the morgue. How many white women “said her name” after Sandra Bland was murdered? How many white women were overtly outraged after the Trayvon Martin verdict was rendered?

To take a trip down memory lane, how many white female feminists supported Tawana Brawley in her 1988 trial? If autonomy over the female body is right every woman deserves- why was their no feminist congregation when this young, black girl was sexually assaulted by a number of white men? The answer is simple.  Issues that engage both blackness and femininity become “black” issues instantaneously. This fact reveals that feminism is simply not built to encompass intersectional identities and thereby is not equipped to extinguish black female disenfranchisement.

It seems that former President Barack Obama’s victory disgruntled feminists, who supported this victory as long as it was a symbol of the feminist victory to follow.  It seems feminists felt that history would repeat itself. Namely, black male voting privilege preceded white female voting liberties.  Thus, feminists deemed Clinton’s victory inevitable following Obama’s 2008 victory. Dr. Angela Davis expressed a similar sentiment in the following excerpt from her book Women, Race and Class,

“The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro; and as long as he was lowest in the scale of being, we were willing to press his claims, but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is sIowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see ‘Sambo’ walk into the kingdom first.” (Davis 70)

Now that it seems that the black collective has something that the white female collective does not, the bells of white privilege right loudly under the veil of feminism.

Feminism functions to afford white women the same liberties as white men. The main component of these liberties is racism—deeming black female participation in any feminist activity injurious. Thus, to participate in a woman’s march as a black woman is to   march along to the stagnant beat of white supremacy. For the black woman is a queen, but to the western world she will never truly be  a woman.

The Fault in Feminism: Why Every Black Woman is a Womanist

Perhaps it wasn’t until I stared into the brown and black faces that looked into mine and attempted to teach them feminism, that I truly realized the error in its ways. Feminism emerges as a combative force against sexism, a weapon for women against a male dominated society. My issue with feminism lies in its fallacy of being all-encompassing. Feminism fallaciously operates on the belief that its goal is equality of all women. This presumption is entirely false, as feminism operates under the traditional definition of womanhood that was exclusive to white women.

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With her foot in both gender and race, the run of the black woman faces an impossibility of definition by either faction. While race asserts the most dominant of affiliations, blackness has been constructed in a way that is largely masculine. Thus, the qualities that define femininity exclude black woman, as her ability to be “feminine” has been restricted due to the demands of her blackness. Like Barbie and baby dolls that had to be altered and made available in darker hues- feminism is representative of yet another aspect of society that has yet to be tailored to include those outside whiteness.

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Feminism seemingly arose a means to assert feminine capability over male chauvinism. Traditional definitions of what it means to be a woman, confine women to their virtue, piety and submissiveness. As the binary opposite of masculinity, women were confined to vanity, and immune from the burdens of strength. Black women were traditionally excluded from access to vanity, as their worth was solely based on their ability to produce, not to be pretty.

The intentions of feminism are evident in the selectivity of feminist As white women continue to be the face of sexual assault, and the face of abduction-their bodily integrity continue to be the sole interest of feminists. The purpose of feminism seems less motivated to combat sexism, as it is in maintaining the traditional ideologies of femininity.

Feminism operates under the premise that white female bodies are the only bodies worthy of integrity. Until white women are alleviated as the sole victims of sexual assault, mental illness and bodily integrity: feminism will continue to exclude the raced woman.

Where were feminists when the billboard that read “ The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb” was plastered on the side of a Soho billboard? Those eleven words exhibited the slain unterus of African American women all over New York city, only to be silently snubbed by feminists who most likely labeled said occurrence as a “race” issue.

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A similar dynamic is seen in the recent nude photograph scandal, in which intimate photos of female celebrities where stolen and placed into cyberspace. Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton received nationwide coverage, painting each women as victims of privacy evasion. While I certainly agree that what happened to Lawrence and Upton does categorize them as victims and is an invasion of privacy, I find it more unsettling that singer turned actress Jill Scott was left out of the equation. As a full figured black women, Jill Scott’s exclusion speaks volumes. Her exclusion implies that her bodily integrity is less significant than Lawrence and Upton.

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The exclusion of Miss Scott from the assertion of bodily, correlates to a difference in how black and white bodies are defined. Both traditional and contemporary white bodies are regarded with a sense of superiority, as they are generally presumed to be chaste and therefore more beautiful. White women are generally believed to be the victims of sexual assault or sexual coercion, as a means to maintain the depiction of white bodies as unsullied. White women as sexual victims began as a means to dismiss interracial attraction, as white female attraction to black men threatened the conjugal sanity of white males. The contemporary white women as a sexual victim, is often used to veil white female promiscuity, and eliminate the possibility of sexual assertion by the white female.

Unlike white women, black women were and are conceptualized to be sexual aggressors. Despite being the victims of sexual violence at the hands of white males, black women were believed to induce such acts through their hypersexuality. The conceptualizing of the black woman as hypersexual is an unwavering depiction foundational in establishing the black woman as the antithesis and binary opposite of white women. The reality of black women as the binary opposite of white women, making it impossible for the interests of both groups to be defined by the same label or faction.

Due to the unique duality of race and gender, black women are innately womanists. Womanism* is perhaps the sole concept that captures the inability of the black woman to be completely defined by her gender or race. Womanism encompasses the dynamics of race and gender, and speaks were feminism is silent. Womanism is highly underdiscussed, as feminism is falsely placed in the hands of black women as a tool in battling white male supremacy, much like the white barbie doll was placed in the hands of young black children as an inadvertent initiation into their adolescence. Just as black girls do not have to play with white dolls, the encouragement of black female inclusion isn’t fostered through complacency, it is fostered through the courage in defining the uniqueness of our existence. Thus, black women do not have to entertain ideologies that exclude them. Be black, be female, be heard- be a womanist.

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*Scholar and writer Alice Walker is credited as the creator of the term “womanism” as a means to encompass the dynamic of the raced woman.