The Educated Basic Bitch

I wasn’t going to devote a whole post to the Blackface/skin-bleaching/African roots/Bamboozled/Jiggaboo/Wannabe controversy. I was just going to briefly touch on it during my farewell post. But if everyone else is going to give a mundane and uninformed opinion I might as well give mine.

(sigh)

Since the beginning of time, Beyonce has had 2 mortal Internet enemies:

1. Stans of minimum-wage R&B chicks

2. Educated Basic Bitches

Educated basic bitches are different from the Lil’ Duvall/Urban Dictionary/4 kids+6 baby fathers/only goes to the library to update her Facebook page-type basic bitch. This isn’t for them because they can’t read any damn way. There is another type of basic bitch in our midst. The educated basic bitch. (Yes, you can be educated and still be a basic bitch.)

You may have some educated basic bitches in your family. You may be friends with an educated basic bitch, or perhaps you're one yourself. Either way, I think it’s time they got some shine.

So you read The Bluest Eye in college.

Fabulous.

You have a degree.

Wonderful.

You let your hair go natural.

Beautiful.

You bought all of Erykah Badu's CDs, and understood some them.

Congratulations.

That's the black and white.

What most educated basic bitches fail to grasp is the gray areas in between. You can possess all of the book sense in the world, but if you lack the exposure and life experience to turn it into something useful then you are going through life being perpetually indignant, while aping other people's opinions and outrages, and not forming any unique thoughts of your own.

None of this Beyonce shit is new. There was controversy about her skin in 2008.

And 2005.

And 2003.

We have a problem with her natural skin tone, we have a problem when she tans, we have a problem when she gets chemical peels, and we have a problem when she paints her face.

When will these conversations stop?

Brown skin is not offensive by itself. Black Face and minstrel shows were not offensive simply because performers darkened their skin.

Had Beyonce been painted brown while eating a banana and scratching herself, I think I may have been offended.

If Beyonce had been painted brown while talking like John Coffey, I think I may have been offended.

If Beyonce had been painted brown while eating a chicken-fried watermelon and tap-dancing, perhaps I might have mustered up the energy to give a quarter of a fuck.

The photos of her in brown skin represented a small part of larger pictorial.
She was modeling. Fela Kuti was not the biggest fan of the Europeanization of African women so perhaps that was the homage. I don’t know. What I do know is that she was not depicting Blacks in an outwardly buffonish way. That was the true intent of Black face and minstrel shows. Not to reduce Blacks to a skin tone, but to reduce them to subhuman caricatures.

I’m not saying the pictures shouldn’t offend you, but if the complaints weren’t coming from the same people who have been bashing Beyonce for the past 8 years, I may have taken them a little more seriously. And if the majority of the women complaining did not look like they were understudying the role of Celie in the touring company of The Color Purple, I may have taken their outbursts as actual indignation and not as personal resentment against light-skinned chicks, particularly Beyonce.

My biggest problem with this controversy is not the Beyonce shade, but what it says about our capacity and tolerance as consumers of Black art.

I used to get angry watching some Black TV shows. Not because they were offensive, but because they were bad. I would wonder why the production values were not on par with White shows. I wondered why the writing was not as creative and funny, but watching educated basic bitches get in a tizzy over what was essentially an America’s Top Model challenge, I now understand why we are so far behind.

Our quest to be righteous, moral, upstanding, politically correct Black folks is often at the expense of artistic expression. I remember having a debate with an associate of mine (another educated basic bitch) about Mo’Nique winning an Oscar for “Precious”. She wondered aloud using the same tired argument. “Why do Black people only get rewarded for being offensive?”. In actuality, Kim Basinger won an Oscar for playing a prostitute,Catherine Zeta-Jones won an Oscar for playing a murderer, and I recall no angry White uprising. But in order for my associate to know that, it would require her to be exposed to something other than the opinions of the renowned “Negrologists” she read in college. It seems that as consumers, we are artistically digressing because our reception of art is limited by everything we have not been exposed to.

As I get older, and as I have experienced racist attitudes firsthand I’m learning that “offensive” is not always about image and iconography, it is also attitudes and actions. We want people to take our opinions seriously but most of our anger is based on superficial interpretations of what it means to be “Black”, “real”, or “offensive”.

I understand that as Black people, portrayals of positive images have an added importance, but if everything we do is reduced to “offensive” and “non-offensive” it leaves no room for creativity. Some of the meatiest roles for Black actors in the past 20 years have been playing not-so-nice people. Some of the best albums of the past 20 years have featured not-so-nice language. But if we continue to let under-exposed and misinformed educated basic bitches be our mouthpieces, then we can‘t be mad at 2-dimensional characters, weak plots, and unfunny jokes because our faux indignation tells the powers that be that we are not an open-minded and creative group of people; we instead are a bunch of people looking for their next moral outrage.

I’m not trying to tell people when they should and should not be offended. I just want people to have a mind of their own. Once we start thinking as informed and cultured individuals and not as a glib and self-righteous collective I feel that we may see a change in how we’re represented in the media. And maybe, just maybe, we can stop having the same conversations we’ve been having for the last 100+ years.

So the next time somebody better looking and richer than you does something that annoys you (and they will do something to annoy you) Ask yourself a simple question:

Are you genuinely offended or are you just talking to hear yourself talk because you feel you’re supposed to be offended?


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