The controversy over whether recording artist Usher’s estranged wife Tameka Foster plagiarized when she wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post is symbolic of the squabbles that plague African-Americans in general.
Foster wrote a blog post called “She’s Pretty for a Dark-Skinned Girl” for Hufpo last week that garnered much attention and praise. Not only did the piece show her to be a down-to-earth and strong-minded black woman, but underscored the hurt she has felt as wife to a multi-generational superstar.
But, according to one woman, it exposed Foster to be something else: A thief.
Days after the work was posted, author Aisha Curry who wrote a book called “Pretty for a Black Girl” claimed that Foster’s piece had stolen whole passages from her work.
Curry, a Fresno-California based author and wife to a professional athlete, described in poetic terms why the work sounded familiar.
“Why did I feel so connected to this article? Suddenly, it came to me. It was my work! It was my work, my voice, but in her words. I was frozen. Tears began rolling down my face as I read line after line after line. I couldn’t believe it,” Curry told Black Voices Buzz.
Now, you would think that Curry would then proceed to show the world what passages in particular her book has that Foster has copied, right?
Wouldn’t we expect to see a line-by-line comparison that at least shows that Foster borrowed the same words, the same style, something, right?
So far, Curry has offered nothing.
“The only difference between her article and my book is she used ‘dark-skinned’ and I used ‘black,'” Curry told BV Buzz.
Is that it?
While the terms “black” and “dark-skinned” are similar, they have an important distinction: One is obviously from a racial standpoint while the other highlights the external differences that African-Americans have among themselves.
Curry seems to tackle the issue from race; Foster’s piece highlighted the stereotypes she has felt as a brown-hued African-American. She writes:
Often dark-skinned women are considered mean, domineering and standoffish and it was these very labels that followed Michelle Obama during the campaign for her husband’s presidency and which she has had to work tirelessly to combat.
I can’t pretend to have read Curry’s book but I’d love for her to post the parts that she said Foster stole. That way the world can make their own judgments and can go about giving her the credit she deserves.
There doesn’t necessarily have to be a right and a wrong here; both of these women are successful in their own right. Why can’t two people with similar thoughts simply coexist?
I know one thing, Foster, because she is married (divorce pending) to a music superstar, has no reach and appeal than Curry. Foster writing about the issue is more powerful and it resonates more. That’s not because Curry isn’t articulate, I’m sure she is, but it boils down to celebrity.
Notice the force of Foster’s admission about her surgery, something that obviously isn’t plagiarized. She writes:
I too have fallen prey, while on vacation in Brazil I decided to undergo tummy liposuction surgery. After having an allergic reaction to the anesthesia, I went into cardiac arrest before the procedure ever began. I nearly lost my life over something as superficial as having a flatter mid-section and trying to adapt to society’s traditional definition of beauty.
That’s all Foster there.
Now I’m not saying that Curry doesn’t feel hurt and that her feelings should be pushed aside, but Foster’s blog has some personal information in there that couldn’t have been lifted from an external source.
Besides, Foster’s work is a blog, while Curry’s is a whole book. Surely Curry’s book is chock full of detailed information and personal experience about this subject while Foster just grazes the surface.
Perhaps this disagreement is simply a misunderstanding between sisters, right? These things happen. Why should the real issue – racial stereotyping and misconceptions of beauty – be poo-poo’d on because of posturing?
I’m not advocating for someone who’s created something from scratch to just walk away from it. If Foster just copied verbatim from Curry then retrofitted a few lines here and there to make it look original then she should be called out on it. But Curry has not presented the proof.
For her part, Foster’s representatives are playing hardball. BV Buzz reportedly contacted them about the accusations and this is what they said: “Tameka has never even heard of the book you referenced nor does she believe you even deserve a response.”
Actually from Curry’s response to BV Buzz one could draw the conclusion that she is more miffed about not getting the much-needed attention than she is from not being credited.
She writes: “The idea that someone could gain notoriety from an issue that I first brought to the forefront is mind-boggling.”
Four hundred years of the black experience in America and Curry really brought this issue to the forefront?
Curry continues: “People were praising [Foster] for tackling an issue that had never been exposed. Hello? I wrote the book on it and started it years ago.”
Surely black women have had similar experiences on this issue. In fact, if you Google either words “pretty for a black woman” or “…dark-skinned woman” you’ll find a plethora of resources, YouTube videos and essays that talk about the issue, many of them written before 2008, 2007 or 2005 even.
The point is, can’t we all share the same experiences? If so then that should bring us together instead of apart.
Perhaps Foster can tell Hufpo to link to Curry’s book under her blog post. Maybe the two can meet at President Obama’s house for a beer (or Michelle can take them both out for some Merlot on the White House’s East Lawn).
Can we all just get along?
[Photo Credits: Robert Ector ]