Every time a video of note (or even one that is only made ‘relevant’ because of some controversy) is released with a dearth of Black women or non-mixed race Black women, the resulting debate is very predictable. One of the loudest arguments will invariably be “Well, I’m glad there aren’t any Black girls in the video…let the other girls degrade themselves!” But it isn’t that simple.
Like it or lump it, music videos do present a commentary on beauty that will by digested by many impressionable viewers. Young Black girls aren’t watching “Otis” and saying “This must mean that only girls of other races are groupies, that’s cool.” Nor are they watching Trey Songz clips that feature a non-Black woman as a romantic lead and feeling good that a sister was not cast as someone who is being called beautiful and praised romantically.
Degrading images of women still send a bad message to viewers, regardless of the race of the women. And no, the current state of affairs in which mixed and non-Black women get the majority of camera time has NOT enforced some sort of pervasive notion that Nubian princesses are somehow more righteous than other women. You can YouTube the auditions for Plies’ “Goonette” from few years back and debunk that one. The memo is “the desirable women look like this, not like that.”
Also, remember that it isn’t just music videos; advertisments, TV shows and movies more often than display the same ideals when it comes to feminine beauty. Even the ‘good’ Black movies are more likely than not to cast fairer skinned sisters (yes, SISTERS-stop acting like yella women ain’t Black, it doesn’t help anything) as romantic leads, desired women or sweethearts while browner women are mean, loud or second fiddle.
Random Def Jam signee number 480 might not have much say about who gets to be in his video, but major artists do. All it takes is for one of them to say “I want Black girls and not just Creole ones” and it shall be done. Yet another problem- the fellas don’t think or care to take that step.
How many club fliers have you seen with a White or Latina woman’s image plastered on them for parties that will be 99.9 percent Black (I’m looking at you, DC promoters)? These small time guys take their cues from the Jay and Kanyes. They want to emulate that same level of ‘class’ or ‘cool’; it looks like some sort of sign of attainment to them. That’s no good.
I don’t want women of any race to be degraded on camera to sell a rapper’s record and I want people to see images of Black girls (from ‘what she mixed with’ to chocolate skinned) held up for the world to see as ‘the pretty ones’, the ones who are desired and appreciated by the men who look like them. Black women should not determine their beauty or worth based on their value in male gaze, but they shouldn’t be treated like the lowest common denominator when brothers get a chance to show the world what they think a good looking woman looks like. The bigger problem: so many of us still genuinely believe that these ladies are the cream of the crop when it comes to looks. And the videos introduce and reinforce those notions to new viewers each and every day, perpetuating the never ending cycle.