Mar 22, 2013 @ 1:55 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 2 Comments
Recently Jada Pinkett-Smith took her facebook page and shared her thoughts on a colorblind post-racial society.
Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture? There is a question I want to ask today.
I’m asking this question in the spirit of thinking outside of the box in order to open doors to new possibilities. These possibilities may be realistic or unrealistic. I also want to make it clear that there is no finger pointing here. I pose this question with the hope that it opens a discussion about how we can build a community for women based upon us all taking a deeper interest in one another. An interest where skin color, culture, and social class does not create barriers in sharing the commonality of being… women. With love and respect to all parties involved, my question is this…if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers?
Jada on the surface appears to be asking a very simple and even noble question. However, I think Jada is missing a serious and critical point. Jada is missing the fact that Black little girls, Asian little girls, Indigenous little girls, and Latina little girls who may grow up to identify as women of color, are told from a very early age that they are not enough! Jada herself has had to defend her own little Black girl from the vile attacks that little colored girls who dare to just be illicit. The majority of the time when WOC do see themselves reflected back to themselves in media, its usually only in the form of stereotypes or when they’re being fetishized within the white gaze. In 2011 ,Psychology Today published a “report” that pretty much reinstated the racist notion that Black women are the least attractive women on the planet. Therefore, unless there is going to be a strong well numbered collective that is going to strategically dismantle patriarchal hetero white supremacy, within our society we can tweet, blog, tumble, write elaborate facebook posts, hope, wish, pray, fast, and twerk till thy kingdom come and nothing will ever be resolved.
Everyone has race, class, and culture the problem isn’t inherently in these categories it’s how these categories are used to belittle, denigrate, and malign people whose race, class, and culture doesn’t make the cut. Race is a social construct and the concept of race is not scientifically rooted in truth. Although race is a social construct, it does have a very real impact on the lives of those who recognize they have race, or are raced by society (think slavery, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and more recently Trayvon Martin). Class is a system of keeping people stratified by income level. Currently, white households hold 20x more wealth than Black households, and 18x more than Latin households. The government built that inequality and still continues to perpetuate it through economic policies. And as far as culture goes, I for one as a first generation Haitian-American have no desire to now or ever give that up in the hopes of some false colorblind society.
Now to address the crux of what Jada said, as a Black woman living in the United States who is an uncomfortable size 10 and wears her hair natural, I had to define beauty for myself and train my eyes to see myself as beautiful. I have been bombarded since I was little colored-girl with the idea and imagery that white is beautiful and everybody else is just fuckable. I grew up metabolizing that porcelain skin and long hair was king! As a little colored-girl I use to take my mothers slip and put on my head and pretend I had long Rapunzel hair. Truth is, I felt more like Rumpelstiltskin. I wasn’t alone. It was little colored-girls like me who inspired the birth of Ebony and Essence magazines. White women have a plethora of magazines that they can grace and showcase their diversity or the lack thereof within white culture. WOC don’t have a bevy of magazine choices that show us on the cover or cater to us. WOC have crumbs. How can WOC be asked to share their crumbs with those binging on privilege?
When Jada Pinkett-Smith speaks of Black magazines that statement needs to be contextualized. Technically speaking, Essence magazine a publication that I’ve read since I was a little girl, and always had a subscription to up until fours year ago, is currently 49% owned by Time, Inc. The bank JP Morgan Chase has a minority ownership in Johnson Publishing company which produces Ebony, Jet, and Black Enterprise. If Chases’s minority ownership is anything like Jay-Z’s minority ownership of the Brooklyn Nets, then they may very well be minority owners in name only. It is 2013 and white models/actresses are still donning Black face and redface as if there is a shortage of beautiful WOC. White racist media is convinced that a white woman can play a more authentic WOC than a WOC!
To answer Jada’s question it’s unrealistic to ask WOC especially Black women to give up their spots on Black magazine covers and give it to a white women. Please keep in mind these white women aren’t asking for it, don’t need it, and probably wouldn’t understand nor appreciate the cultural significance of such an honor.
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