Black Arrogance

To love yourself is courageous. To love your black, feminine self is radical. Despite the constant reminders of how ugly everyone thinks you are, despite being told by your own men that you’re the last option, despite even your supposed fellow “minorities” declaring you ugly and “dirty”[1], you continue to love yourself. Your confidence is so radical it makes others uncomfortable; your black arrogance is powerful.

I distinctly remember when Gayle King told me through the TV that a 2011 Allure survey found that black women were the most confident out of all the races in the U.S. I turned to my grandmother who was nodding her head in approval. I on the other hand tilted my head in confusion. Let me be clear, I wasn’t confused because I didn’t understand, but I was confused because I realized that my family obviously wasn’t the only black family who thought black girls rocked. I mean there’s so many outlets that seem to make a killing off of reminding us that we ain’t white! Just turn on your TV and some hair commercial will remind you that your hair isn’t straight or long enough to use their products. If you want to see your type of hair, better wait for the brown Pantene bottle or a Dark and Lovely commercial (‘cuz how else are we supposed to know its meant for black people unless the bottle is brown?!).

Even when Beyoncé, the apparent Queen of the Black feminists, comes on to remind you that you’re worth fancy make up, she does it as a mixed woman, with some French and Native American heritage (I bet she’s 15% Cherokee). And then she makes a remix to her female empowerment (???) tune “Flawless” with her black-“girl-power”-rapper-friend, Nicki Minaj, who spits “[she wakes up] lookin’ Trinidadian, Japanese and Indian” which implies Ms. Minaj wakes up looking exotic. ‘Cuz I mean, who wants to wake up looking just black, amirite? As Janelle Harris laments, “being just black lacks oomph and wow factor. Being just black is boring.”

And don’t let me confuse you, it isn’t just American artists on American TVs that hammer home how being an average looking black woman sucks. Evelyn Glenn’s “Consuming Whiteness: Segmented Markets and Global Capital in the Skin-Whitening Trade,” in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matter talks about the huge global market for bleaching creams. From Africa to Asia to the Americas, the lightening-brightening creams are a hot commodity. This is especially true in the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, which is unfortunately one area that Glenn neglected to mention.

With huge reggae artist Vybz Kartel making songs calling himself “Mr. Bleach Chin”

bleaching has become less about skin color in Jamaica and more about a fashion statement. Despite this claim that its only for fashion, many critics still believe it is an expression of colonial oppression and a desire to look white. But like the Dominican women in Black Behind the Ears admit, the desire is to like a mixed, Indio, or “brownin” gyal. Nicki didn’t say she was lookin “Trinidadian, Japanese and White”, and there’s an obvious reason for that.

This consistent ego check black women face everyday is shared by black men. Though it may not be about beauty, black men are constantly bombarded with images and talks about how dangerous and lazy and unworthy they are. But then you got a guy like Kanye West who has the audacity to call himself God. Let’s face it, there’s a lot to not like about Kanye, but the first thing most people mention is that he’s “too cocky.” Black celebrities and political figures always have to be careful not to seem conceited. Mohammed Ali, James Brown, and now West have all some how not only dared to be arrogant but to make it a part of their persona. Their black arrogance became as important as their talent and here’s the reason why: like the black women who were surveyed, despite all of our disadvantages and abuse at the hands of media we still dare to love ourselves loudly and unapologetically and that in itself is revolutionary. So, instead of all of these articles describing the lengths people (particularly black people) go to, to rid themselves of their blackness, I think its time we start reading up on these cocky black folk.

–M. DREW

[1] Ginetta E.B. Candelario, 2007, ‘Black Women Are Confusing, but the Hair Lets You know”: Perceiving the Boundaries of Domincanidad,” Black Behind the Ears: Domincan Racial Identity from Museums to Beauty Shops, Durham: Duke University Press, 229.

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