Let’s review some basic facts: Beyonce is a singular, pop cultural force. Beyonce is stunningly gorgeous. But Beyonce is not without her fair share of race-related scandals.
First she was accused of giving the OK for her pictures to be lightened, making her caramel complexion appear two shades paler than it actually is in real life. That controversy has cropped up on magazine covers she’s been featured on, which can only happen but so often before you have to raise an eyebrow and wonder how many times someone’s skin color can — oops! — accidentally be Photoshopped down a shade or two. And it’s not even like the child is dark in the first place, which really pushes the age-old, but still unspoken belief: “the lighter, the better.”
At the root of her latest dust-up: L'Oreal True Match ads she’s doing that list her as “African American, French, and Native American.” OK Bey. Sigh.
First of all, “French” is not a race. There are about seven major ethnic groups in that country, ranging from North Africans to Indochinese. Ergo, saying you’re “French” is just as generic as saying you’re “American” when you’re talking about a racial or ethnic context. Her dad is black, so I guess he makes up the African-American part. Her mother is Creole, a blend of French, African, Spanish, and Native American heritages. But the word I do believe she was searching for was “white,” which leads me to my second point.
If you shake down the family tree of the majority of black folks in this country, you’ll find some kind of European ancestry because of, you know, that whole African colonization and American slavery thing. You might even find some Native American (though not as much as some of us would like to believe, I’m sure). At the end of all the calculatin’, though, that still makes us African-American. No further explanation necessary because, like Prego, it’s already in there.
And I could shake my head, roll my eyes, and turn the page or the channel, leaving her to her own neon-bright color and racial hang-ups as hers to hash out and deal with whenever she looks in the mirror — if she wasn’t a multimillion album-selling international superstar with legions of fans, particularly young black girls, who look up to her. The one in this household loves Beyonce. So when Bey claims that she’s more than just black, she’s in essence sending the message that being just black isn’t good enough.
Being just black lacks oomph and wow factor. Being just black is boring. Being a quarter-this and a third-that, however, apparently makes a woman just the right blend of exotic and desirable. You see it time and time again when you flip through the pages of a hip-hop magazine or read an interview with a “video model.” So what are girls whose families identify as just plain ol’ black supposed to think when their superstar hero, who looks like them, doesn’t celebrate her blackness?
Honestly, she seems like a nice person. I just think being in the industry for so long has tainted her perceptions of race and beauty. I hate to compare her and her sister but in this case I will, because Solange seems so comfortable with who she is naturally, from hair to skin. But she doesn’t have, nor does she want, the kind of celebrity that the eldest Knowles girl has. It would be nice, though, if one of the biggest stars on the stage wasn’t always vying for the blondest, straightest, longest weave or the lightest skin or the most impressive ethnic makeup. In being happy with who she is, she could help the girls who look up to her do the same.
Have you seen the True Match ads for Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez?
Image via beelover9481/Flickr