It’s only the middle of the month, but November has proven quite challenging for the images of Black women in popular culture and the media. By “challenging”, I mean we’ve taken a full on public flogging, having our chastity, intelligence, desirability and humanity come into question. The assault – which previously would only come twice a year – has come in rapid succession in the last two and a half weeks. I wasn’t going to comment on the whole Akon/Wizkid/self-hatred kerfuffle, but at @QuakuMemphis’ insistence, I am doing so. Poor chap claimed he kept a vigil over M.O.M. all weekend to see what I would say about the matter! I owe him.
The truth is I am really confused. I feel like someone has been bashing my temples in with an iron weight. I don’t know what to think, and I don’t know how or if I’m supposed to carry on, or just accept these punishments as they are and how they come. I’m talking about my confusion as a Black woman; with possession of two breasts and a pair of legs and a backside that has baffled and mesmerized humanity since my ancestors were made to walk the earth. We can’t HELP that we were built this way. Fish have fins, and Black women have big asses. Some things just ARE.
We’ve already discussed Lily Allen and her “Hard Out Here” video. Very few people had anything to say about it, I presume because they disagreed with my view. As I said, every girl on that set had a choice in whether or not she participated in the taping of that satirical “homage to female empowerment”; but no sooner had the words flown off my fingertips, I got wind of a Naked Oprah t-shirt that is apparently for sale.
Yes. You heard me. Naked Oprah. The creator of the shirt and pants ensemble is Peggy Noland, a designer who describes her fashion line as “white trash meets high-class”. Well, what would you expect from someone who describes themselves as “white trash”? It was po’ white trash that was responsible for whipping slaves in the fields as many of them got work as overseers. It was po’ white trash that went on the feed their families with black flesh by endeavoring in the ‘entrepreneurial pursuit’ as bounty hunters to capture runaway slaves. I’m certain if you look far enough into Peggy Noland’s ancestry, you will find a rapist or child molester or two with a penchant for black flesh. Some of this behavior is passed down from one generation to the next. I’d wager that there is a racist devil encoded in Peggy Noland’s genetic DNA, and it manifests with trash “art” like this. I look at this shirt and wonder why she didn’t create a Naked Ann Romney shirt and market that to the masses? (No, really. Someone answer me). The sad part is, she wasn’t even innovative in her depiction of the demeaned black female body.
Unlike the women in Lily Allen’s video, Oprah had no opportunity at all to negotiate how her body was used and presented to the public. The naked Oprah shirt is outright subjugation, no doubt about it. We are all right to be angered over it! Black women’s bodies should be treated with respect! We’re tired of this!
Or are we?
Not more than a week later, Akon made the media rounds for a number of not very positive reasons. First, he intimated that Americans would benefit from a polygamous society because it would reduce bickering between partners. When he was asked to defend or give reason for this view he said:
“If America adopted that [polygamy] culture there would be less domestic disputes. The average guy in the world has a main girl and they got a side chick. And then they got a jumpoff. At the end of the day, as a male we are natural breeders by nature. We can’t even escape it if we wanted to. It’s what we do. Men are put on this earth to breed and the reason why God put multiple women on this earth is for that.”
“When looking at reproduction, there’s always going to be more reproducing than actual reproducers themselves. There’s more to it scientifically, but as humans, women need to take more time to understand men. If they can do that, I think things will work out better for us.”
This is EXACTLY the type of idiotic reasoning and utterance that galvanized and re-ignited the Ku Klux Klan in the South after Reconstruction. Birth of a Nation was predicated on the notion that Black men were marauding, sexually charged savages with no control over their faculties, and that White men needed to quell their existence to protect the virtue of (White) womanhood. Akon, do you see the correlation between what you said and that assertion? Oh Akon, Akon, Akon…
The artist and his protégé, Wizkid, went on to court further controversy this weekend when they had a casting call for models for a video shoot in Accra. When several of my very African/Ghanaian sisters showed up, they were turned away by the casting agent, saying they wanted “half caste” (meaning bi-racial) girls to appear in the shoot. Then he asked the dark skinned girls if they would help him scout light skinned girls for the shoot.
If we reverse engineer that, we end up with a dark skinned girl staring at an orange and black speckled face, her epidermis now wrecked by the poisonous effects of skin bleaching just so she can be in an Akon video. What would be her pay, I wonder?
“Oh! They took us to Frankie’s for mi’k shake… It was very nice.”
First of all, why are we as a people even upset that men like this don’t want dark skinned girls in their music videos? Is this the very best that we can hope for dark skinned girls? That they too would be considered “attractive” enough to have a skeet simulation via a champagne bottle in some guy who thinks promiscuity is the province of men alone? I don’t really care about Wizkid’s thoughts on the whole color matter. He’s a Nigerian, and Nigerians or notoriously colorstruck. There isn’t a Nigerian alive or yet to be born that can debate that fact. Nigerians loathe dark black skin. The good thing for them is that they are essentially a brown race of people, unlike Ghanaians (and Senegalese). We are black. End of discussion.
Akon’s (alleged) exclusive casting of light skinned girls for his Ghana-based video is problematic for several reasons that we’ve discussed previously, and for one that came to me just a few hours ago. It demonstrates that the employees at the Konvict Muzik label are none too bright. Seriously, who comes to BLACK AFRICA to look for light skinned girls to bump and grind with? It makes about as much sense as looking for a salad at a chili cook-off. It also demonstrates that they are lazy, which are two charges Europeans and White America have always levied against our men, i.e. that they are dumb and lazy. If Akon wants light skinned girls in his video, it’s his right as an artist to do so. However as an artist, he has to know what he’s working with. As Peter Jackson has proven, anything is possible with a little bit of CGI and a green screen. If he wanted yellow girls as his objects d’amour, he could have filmed a string of them in Puerto Rico and edited the women into his finished product later. There was no need to come to my beloved Ghana and insult hardworking, beautiful girls with his and his team’s shallow boorishness.
Next, this is problematic for my light skinned sisters. I don’t know how it is in other West African countries, but mixed race girls in Ghana live under the burden of the perception of being promiscuous JUST for virtue of possessing light skinned. In turn, they have to build a stony exterior to combat that perception, thereby appearing unapproachable and aloof. This heightens the mystique around them, while at the same time turning them into villains. None of this is the fault of these women and girls, of course. It is a reaction to the weight of desirability that self-loathing Black men – light and dark skinned alike – have placed on them. I have yet to have an in-depth discussion with my mixed race friends on the subject, but their weary, watered down smiles when a man approaches and singles them out of a gaggle of women of darker color tells me about everything I need to know.
I don’t know much about Akon. I don’t listen to his music unless it happens to be on in a public place and I don’t know how many wives or children he has. But I am well acquainted enough with his ilk to know that if you asked him if he was proud to be a Black African male, he would answer he was very proud… very proud indeed!
Too bad he hates and ashamed of his mother, the only one with the genetic power to provide him with that skin he oils so proudly.
Here’s my question, and please think carefully: SHOULD we but upset that Akon and co rejected dark skinned girls for their video? And if we ARE upset, what are the roots and implications of that angst? Discuss ↓