What am I? The real question should actually be: Who are you to tell me who I am? Sometimes I can’t believe as a millennial in New York City of all places, that I’m still writing about race. But if President Obama has to deal with this on an every day basis, then who am I to complain when I hear the words: “But you’re not a real black girl. You’re not really black.”
Today, Twitter tried to erupt a volcano around Pharrell’s “G I R L” album cover art. And in true Pharrell fashion, he shut it down in the smartest of ways. While he blessed us with a masterful project that actually celebrates the beauty of a woman, never once alluding to race, he was blasted for excluding black women from his cover. Another day, same old story. Pharrell clarified that the girl next to him is indeed black, but then she wasn’t black enough. Didn’t you guys learn anything from the way he handled Grammy Hat-gate? That thing is now a cultural institution. I find this somehow laughable, since Skateboard P’s most searched Google terms have to do with his nationality. Go figure.
It’s sad that school children are taught not to judge a book by its cover, yet adults can’t get past an album cover, that was met with no resistance a week prior. “G I R L” is actually an ode to women. A gorgeously stunning woman with no race, body type or hair length to amplify or demote her worth. No references to “yellow bones” or “exotic” girls or “half Black and insert some fantasy draft nationality” mentions. And frankly, it’s refreshing to listen to an album that doesn’t refer to me as a bitch, a thot, where I’m not shaking my ass or thirst trapping with a body by ass injection. And no one is trying to slip a Molly in my drink. I welcome it. We need more of it.
The conversation becomes personal for me, especially when the girl in question looks an awful lot like me. And it was a reminder… again… that my blackness is less than and certainly not equal to those around me, because of my skin color. And my hair. And the way I speak. And what I listen to. And being constantly reminded that, “She’s only half black.” As though my well rounded opinion based on my nationalities and my extensive education on race don’t matter. That I don’t matter. Yet those who reason away my blackness are the first to say we should stop talking about colorism.
Closed minded opinions are offensive to me, and the people who raised me. In fact, they’re even more offensive to the beloved first African American president, who was actually raised by his white mother and family in Kansas. He admits that he learned about blackness from “Soul Train.” Blackness is not a convenient game based on color and hair texture.
To the girl on the cover standing next to Pharrell: here we go again. But first, hats off to you. You’re the one standing next to Pharrell on an album cover. Not the Twitter army. You’re being reminded yet again, that you’re not quite black, and truth is you’ll never be. And you know that. You’ve had “the talk” with your family when you were a 4 year old just as I did. Feeling like a half person again, you’re reminded every day. We live in a society where words like ambiguous and exotic are thrown around like compliments or ways to lessen our place in the fabric of a history we are proud of. They don’t realize that we take up just as much mass as their African American heritage, rooted in a myriad of races they don’t even know about. We may not be black in their eyes, but let us denounce it for a second, and they’d remind us with a side eye that it only takes “one drop.”
You may be different. You may be Other. But you’re still winning in your cool girl shades and your fierce red lip. You’re standing next to genius, while the others can only witness.