reggie-bush-essence-coverAs many of you know by now, Reggie Bush is front and center of Essence Magazine next month, which just so happens to be their very first “Black Men, Love & Relationships” issue. So why, the outraged are asking, would Essence spotlight a Black man who has allegedly, time and again, proven that he prefers love & relationships with non-Black women? Is this a move to spark a little controversy for the sake of sales, or are there more Black women than we thought, who love themselves some Reggie? Either way, why is this an issue that polarizes so many women in our community?

Was Essence in the wrong for featuring Reggie Bush on the cover of its upcoming issue? According to a poll on Black Voices, 40% said yes – which means the majority of those who chose to vote think there was nothing inappropriate about the ripped running back gracing the cover. It is this split that speaks to the love/hate sentiments sistas seem to have for the true reason for notoriety, his long-term relationship with celebutante Kim Kardashian. On the one hand you’ve got women who genuinely dig Kim, sex tape and all – there are those who could care less about the glitzy reality star – and on the other end of the spectrum appears to be those with an intense aversion for the self proclaimed entrepreneur, from everything to her pornographic beginnings to her romantic ties to one of 10 of the sexiest men we’ve ever seen.

In other words, there is no consensus about Kim Kardashian and her reputation among Black women which makes any African American publication a target for major criticism when covering anything remotely related to her. Case in point, Clutch’s interview with Kardashian in May 2009.  Much like the fiery debates seen on Essence.com, our readers expressed their opinions on the celeb including: Whether her Armenian heritage makes it “ok” for her to date Reggie (the ‘is she a woman of color?’ debate); Having a big booty does not make her “down”; Criticism of her lack of talent – with defenders of the Kardashian name interspersed throughout.

The common theme of grievances with Kim K. reflects the cruel spirit of inequality as experienced by most Black women in America: Kim Kardashian is the White girl who Black men adore, despite her perceived shortcomings and scandalous history. Countless pop site comments on Kardashian reveal that many believe she has exploited Black women to get where she is and has done so by benefiting from deeds that would’ve rendered a sista’s career DOA (maybe with the exception of Karrine Steffans). Having said that, it’s no wonder some Black women have an issue with Mr. Kardashian.

Back to Reggie

The byline for the upcoming issue reads:

“Reggie Bush. Idris Elba. Lance Gross. LL Cool J. Need we say more? ESSENCE’s first “Black Men, Love and Relationships” issue features its top 10 countdown of the sexiest men in sports, music and Hollywood. Then ESSENCE senior editor Jeannine Amber, channeling her inner bad girl, spins ten naughty tales starring some of our favorite men to curl up with–if only in our minds!”

So to the aforementioned question, why choose Reggie as the cover man, as opposed to Lance Gross or Sir Idris? Despite his penchant for White gals, Reggie is quite a good looking fella who many women of all backgrounds would like to cuddle up with – if only in their minds. But women aren’t quite as visual as our testosterone-laden counterparts. A lot of us need a little more than just good looks to get our juices flowing, so naturally it’s a bit of a challenge for some to get excited about a Black guy with a reputation for preferring the company of non-Black women. However, there are those of us who are unaffected by his partiality and openly welcome an opportunity to gaze at shots of his rippled manliness.

Bush’s good looks may be undeniable, but his exposure to pop culture has come not by way of his performance as running back for the New Orleans Saints, but his relationship with Kim Kardashian. Their bond also highlights the massive number or Black entertainers and athletes who seem to exclusively date and marry non-Black women – bringing up the issue of self-hate and the marginalization of Black Women.

Reg, Essence & The Well-being of Black Women

According to women across the Net, Essence’s choice in cover imagery is cause for confusion, and discussion, but there is danger in invalidating opinions on either side of the debate, and the hazard increases when the frustration Black women feel becomes directed towards one another. Let’s face facts. There will always be a handful of brothas out there whose mental inadequacies prevent them from finding beauty within their own culture, so the question we must ask ourselves is: What is the best possible way to deal with that fact? It appears as though Essence chose to ignore it, how about you?

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