An odd thing happened to me recently while I was driving. I was listening to the radio when an ad that I have heard 100 times before struck me as odd. I couldn’t put my figure on it, but the ad really bothered me. Then it clicked. A local “black” radio station was advertising a March “birthday bash” for the singer Teena Marie. This was not just any old party; this was the kickoff celebration for the Today’s Black Woman’s Expo. However, Teena Marie is white. Was the radio station actually suggesting that Today’s Black Woman is really a white woman acting black? In advertising on the website, the expo is billed as a passport to Black America.
Race is a man-made construct, and race is not a biological. Race is a sociopolitical reality created mainly to oppress people of color. The construct of race was developed during the Atlantic slave trade to justify the enslavement and brutalization of the Africans.
Current advances in DNA make it interesting to note that really everyone is of African origin. The first humans from sub-Saharan African were found about 200,000 years ago. Skin color is really just an adaptation of the environment?”mainly climate change, altitudes, etc.?”but race is not an indication of one’s ethnic connection. We have not been around long enough to evolve into separate races.
However, we may not be all of one ethnicity. We are actually a mixture of ethnicities, clans, etc.
However, as a socio-political construct, race and class provide an important lens for how advertising suggests that Today’s Black Woman is in the person of Teena Marie. I say it again, Today’s Black Woman is Teena Marie? There is something wrong with that advertising message. I like Teena Marie; I have listened to her music for years?”so I am not hating on Teena, but there is no reason I need to accept Teena as a substitute for black women. Black women are grand and great as born and raised black. I say it again?”accept no substitutes.
On the sociopolitical tip, what does that mean for the rest of us non-white women? Who else is “Today’s Black Woman?” Better yet, let’s see if we can identify Today’s Black Men. Could Eminem qualify? I mean, he can spit a few rhymes and he is down with the culture.
Co-opting a culture or aspects of culture does not make you a member of that culture?”regardless of how effective and talented one may be at mimicking that culture. The organizers of Today’s Black Woman’s Expo, are offering a caricature of black women. In this way, Teena is being presented as a twisted kind of minstrel show?”white women in white face as black women. Today’s black woman’s minstrel show does not require black face. Most of us are used to being spoon-fed images that slyly suggest that being black is a little too much and way too ghetto. But an imitation of black culture is the bomb!
It is interesting to note that Condi and Colin, two of the most educated black folks around, are almost always mentioned with disdain. Now you may disagree with their politics. I certainly do not support the policies of the current administration. However, it is unclear to me how we can reject folks who have clearly made something of themselves. Condi is the first African-American woman to become secretary of state?”history will remember that.
Yet, we wholeheartedly embrace someone who has done nothing more than sing a few songs and snort more than a few blows with Rick James? Doping and singing gets you an all-access ghetto girl pass but an education from Stanford or Harvard? That gets you a seat in the U.S. Cabinet and disdain from the larger black population.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Do white people give out all access passes?” What would a white folks pass get you? I think we would get things that we think only white people have?”like being able to drive in the suburbs without fear of being stopped, having an excellent school in your neighborhood, and access to wealth-building activities such as buying a house or having excellent credit.
Before you run to the computer to send an e-mail or call the paper, let me tell you I know that some of you are righteous. Your righteous response is that “Teena is cool with me” or “She’s been down long enough to cash in on her ghetto pass” or “I like her music.” Trust me, I have heard all this silliness before. My response is you need to wake up. This is not about your personal taste in music, and it is not about who does or does not have a ghetto pass.
Actually, this is an example that asks the following question: What are we willing to give up to fit in? We have to stop being “sold” to the highest bidder and tackle the issue at hand. My question for you is, “Do you love yourself enough to see that someone is telling you, in every way that they can, that you are not good enough?” You need to get to the place where you can answer yes to this question without any hesitation.
The whole point of the expo was to show corporate America that black women have economic power and that corporations should try to target goods and services that fit the lives of black women. However, with a white entertainer headlining the economic expo, I doubt this will happen. What will happen is corporations will walk away with the idea that we are white women in black skin. The corporation will gladly take our money and our dignity in the process.