As a woman who checked out of popular culture after the birth of my second child 7 years ago, I am asking this question sincerely. It was then that I decided that I didn’t want my kids watching anything on TV or hearing anything on the radio that would demean them as little girls and young women. When I got wind that L’il Wayne said he wanted to “F*** every girl in the world”, I assumed my 2 and 3 year old girls were included in that number. I sequestered us even further into the world of PBS Kids and Playhouse Disney.
We have all “suffered” for that decision in a sense. My kids can’t dance and I have become largely ignorant of pop culture trends within the Black community. I only recently found out that ‘kryptonite’ was not just a substance used to weaken Super Man.
This year, I decided to slowly re-integrate myself back into popular culture. One day the children will be gone and I will need to have something relevant and interesting to discuss with my friends beyond homework and pull-ups. To do this, I have turned to Twitter, where people are at liberty to expose incredible intelligent and/or unthinkable ignorance in 140 characters or less. There are days that I regret this decision, given this unstable mix. However, one of the more interesting people I follow is Kola Boof, for whom I will dedicate an entire post professing my love and admiration for in the days ahead.
For those who do not know Kola, she is like molten gold: Beautiful to behold and handle, but will absolutely destroy you if you get her heated to a boil. She has long been a compelling figure among the Black literati and intelligencia, making wild claims about Black womanhood and personhood that often include the term “niggerstock”. Most people on Twitter know her as the woman who had an affair with Djimon Hounsou while he was ‘married’ to Kimora Lee Simmons. That’s the G-rated description of events. The affair was a calculated, intentional act of revenge aimed at destroying Kimora’s picture perfect image.
“Black people” could not allow this. They could not abide the notion that a dark-skinned woman would have the gall to exact her revenge instead of crawling into a corner in defeat.
When news of Kimora and Djimon’s split became public, the attacks against Kola were swift and vicious. They called her all manner of names. Whore of Africa. Baboon Tranny. Ugly and dark-skinned. Dark skinned jump off who thinks she’s Kim Kardashian. Black and ugly with African slave features. Kimora is light skinned and beautiful. You are UGLY. On, and on. The attacks came in by the hundreds. And do you know who 100% of the people saying the most racist, derogatory things about her skin color were? Come and get your prize if you said “Black people”.
I was incensed and ashamed. When I expressed my disgust, I too was attacked by a group self-hating African WOMEN.
Colorism in the Black community is not a new phenomenon. It was one of the main themes of the Harlem Renaissance, in fact. Many of the deans of the Renaissance, like DuBois and Toomer were themselves light skinned Blacks. Toomer was so light in fact that he was eventually able to shed his “Black” identity move to Europe in order to live life as a Caucasian male, or just as “man”…something he was never allowed to do in America. In those days, just as it is today, there was a certain amount of privilege that came with having lighter skin. However, there was also a burden of shame. Having lighter skin was also accompanied with the knowledge that one’s birth/heritage included one or more incidences of rape at some point in the family’s history. Black women were raped –by white men – with impunity, even up to the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Not only was a Black woman not completely “human”, at least in the eyes of the majority, she was little more than a sexual object, neither deserving respect nor protection. Her offspring did not deserve the same protection or respect either. This was cemented in laws that said bi-racial children born to white women would be free, but any children born to Black women were destined for a life of slavery.
I see these as the roots of the “jump off” culture we see around us today, however instead of rape at this hands of entitled White men, Black women are suffering mal-treatment at the hands of their own brothers from their own neighborhoods.
For those who do not know what a jump off is, it’s defined as a woman with whom you have casual sex with. You literally have sex with her and then “jump off”. I only became acquainted with the term when I got a phone call from Douche Bag a few weeks ago. He was sniffling and bemoaning his current (and very tragic) state.
“I’m so sorry, Malaka,” he wailed. “I just wish I hadn’t messed everything up with you.”
“It’s okay, Douche Bag,” I said flatly.
“No it’s not!” he screeched. “It’s okay for you, because your life has gone ahead. You have a family. You’re doing fine. I have nothing!”
He laughed wryly and then continued.
“You know, I always thought I was supposed to end up with some light-skinned chick with big tits and long hair. I thought you were just some jump off. But these light skin chicks can’t f*** with you Malaka Gyekye. These light skinned chicks ain’t got s*** on you.”
“Uh huh. Okay…?”
Now, like I said, I have not been well versed in pop culture terms for some time. Had I known that he had just called me a semen receptacle, I would have farted in his ear and hung up the phone. It was only after reading Kola Boof’s retweets that I was reminded of this conversation and THAT term.
I take a look around me and I see fatherless Black children scattered all around this city and every city I visit. Their brown skin, some ashy, some shining brilliantly, looks just like mine. Are they not worthy of a strong family, simply because their mother’s skin is the color of mahogany or fine ebony?
So I’ll ask again: Besides those who have decided to engage casual sex as a lifestyle – Is there a pervasive attitude that says dark skinned (i.e. anyone darker than Tracee Ellis Ross) women are not worth honor and commitment?
My husband would say no, of course not. But he’s an intelligent man. He married me, didn’t he? I believe this is the view of the self-loathing and mentally inferior, but I’m open to hearing if I’m wrong.