Black people have a funny way of asking to be represented in all of our many shades and hair textures in the mainstream, but then openly shunning those who do penetrate those spaces when their physical appearance doesn’t fit our narrow, post-slavery ideals of beauty.
See in the same week that many of us were up in arms about commenters on MAC’s Instagram page likening the lips of this model to a monkey, we turned around and called a dark-skinned, natural haired woman in an Elite Daily relationship video a gorilla. We did that; not white people, not racist people, us.
Danielle ‘Jazz’ Noel is a pre-med Columbia student and photographer who was asked by her ex-boyfriend Chris to participate in an on-camera experiment in which exes swap phones and essentially relive the demise of their relationship. You would think that would be the scariest part of the less-than-three-minutes video, but it’s actually the commentary on Jazz’s physical appearance that turned out to not be for the faint of heart.
A quick scroll through the comments section of YouTube will show that while white people were focused on the man who boldly stated on camera that sex with his ex was better than with his current partner (yeah that’s a whole other topic), black responses were filled with rude and demeaning criticisms of Jazz’s appearance.
The negativity goes on for days, and while there are a significant number of comments defending Jazz,what can’t be defended is the fact that a dating video turned into a discussion on colorism and an exposé of self-hate grossly perpetuated by black men, though not exclusively so.
See, even if one wants to take out the racial component and argue “if she ugly, she ugly,” (which it should be noted is a pretty weak argument) there is still something innately hateful about a person who’d be so bold as to vocalize that opinion in a pubic medium with no regard for another human being’s feelings. But because of the prevalence of words like “gorilla” and likening the young woman to the dirt under one’s fingernails, the reaction to Jazz’s beauty can’t be separated from her race or her skin tone or her physical features which have all the remnants of our African ancestors who were taught to hate themselves by their oppressors — a lesson which we all greatly bought into and many still adhere to today.
Thankfully, Jazz, too, knows this and had no problem exposing the fact that the people who bashed her physical appearance aren’t just “haters,” they’re self-hating. She said in a piece on Afropunk.com:
Many of those attacking me for being born this way are really dealing with their own inferiority complexes unbeknownst to them, and gain a false sense of superiority by trying to make me feel like less of a person. But whereas, in the past, bullies might have handled the issues with a fight, discussion or something that made both parties reflect on either their actions or reactions; bullies on the internet have face little accountability for their words. With lack of accountability, they’re less likely to reflect on what caused them to be so cruel, which prevents them from ever looking on the inside to get to know themselves and understand their own hurt. Essentially, social media cyberbullying has ushered in a dangerous evolution of self-hate.
I am eternally appreciative for growing up with such a strong family unit that nurtured my proper development and ensured my self-love, despite what anyone had to say. I’m someone who is very comfortable in my skin, and prefer my nose, lips and any other feature that makes me, me. I truly due (sic) pity anyone who feels the need to try to make me feel inferior…
I’m currently a post-bac pre-med student at Columbia University, as… Ironically, the bulk of my research focuses on racism and micro-aggressions that take place in social media comment sections. But, no matter how much I may have researched in the past, nothing prepared me for the reality of what it’s like to be dragged in this manner on social media. In my free time, I work as a photographer (JazzShoots.com) for music festivals and artists. The bulk of my work focuses on the beauty of black people, hip-hop documentation and public health projects.
After I read all of the comments, I thought about one phrase Erykah Badu told me after shooting one of her shows that constantly rings in my head, “Hate for anything stems from a fear of something.” Everyone has their own fears to face, but I propose we add one more statement to the AfroPunk flyer: “No Xenophobia”, and start a new trending topic, #MyBlackIsBeautifulBecause….
How do we look as a people calling for resignations and dragging non people of color when they say derogatory things about our wide noses, our dark skin, and our nappy hair, and then turn around and do the same to one another? The situation here just exposes on a large-scale the non-PC way many of us behave in our day-to-day interactions with those whose beauty has been deemed “unconventional.” And for some reason we tolerate it when it’s within the family, but raise holy hell when the aggressor is white. Shouldn’t we hold ourselves to a higher standard?
Jazz’s point about accountability is crucial: With lack of accountability, these commenters are far less likely to reflect on what caused them to be so cruel, and while it’s kind of us to suggest self-reflection as a combatant for self-hate; perhaps some of these trolls should lose their jobs or be expelled or suspended from school for spewing such hatred the way our white counterparts are handled when they do the same.
Most of us know way better now than to still excuse this type of behavior as a longstanding consequence of slavery. Sure, that’s what it is, but so are discriminatory hiring practices, lending practices, gentrification, police brutality — and yet we fight those things head on to ensure a better future for ourselves. A better future starts with the way we see ourselves and if we continue to tolerate those who see themselves and others like them as sub-human because of their African features, that future looks pretty dim.