Photo by Applause2.0 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
First of all, I know Jesse’s picture is possibly, maybe just a little, TOO damn big!
But don’t act like y’all don’t appreciate this close up…
Now moving on…
Can we have anything for our Got-Damn selves?! (And yes, I used “Got” because I shall not dare use my Lord’s name in vain. At least not for this nonsense!)
For those who are lost, Jesse Williams, a brilliant and beautiful actor from one of my favorite TV series Grey’s Anatomy, made an acceptance speech at the 2016 BET Awards. This speech not only covered the usual “I want to thank my folks, my family and the Father (oh my-Tee),” but it called out the injustices occurring and reoccurring to people of color across this “free” country.
Williams took his platform and praised civil rights activists and attorneys. Preached that black people, our people WAKE UP and look past the brands, the money and the systems “protecting us,” “defining us,” or better yet, defiling us. And spoke the names of those whose black lives are now diminished to a hashtag (and yes I say diminished, because I am sure these people would have chosen life over a meaningful yet fleeting social media trend – even if it is assisting a movement – especially if they were given a choice).
Williams basically took to the stage and protested for 5 minutes. And I ain’t mad. But some people are mad. Non-mutha-f***ing-factors are mad (I try not to curse when I can help it, forgive me).
People with social media platforms, change.org accounts and well-known webisodes are mad. And why? Because we can’t have shit to ourselves (I said IF I can help it, forgive me). I won’t disclose said mad people nor their platforms, because:
1. You probably already know who these fools are.
2. I don’t want to call attention to these fools nor increase their viewership.
So you all are just going to have to trust me when I say they are real, and plain foolish.
But there is one instance, I can no longer ignore. The day after this impeccable speech was given, I almost fell into “Igno-Rant” with a mere owner of a Facebook profile page (aka social media stooge). Just to set the scene:
A friend of mine posts, on her Facebook page, a meme quoting Jessie Williams, “Trying us on like costumes” followed by a compilation of Kardashian photos in which the famous sisters are sporting cornrows, gold chains, Hip Hop garb etc. A couple of people, myself included commented on the post in ways one might expect; snaps, yaaasss, truth, etc.
But one girl proceeded to tell my friend and I that the “[The braids] look good. I see nothing wrong with it. It’s Fashion. [Kardashians] have actually contributed to the African American community more than a lot of African Americans [she] knows.” Furthermore, we “should be ashamed of all the ignorant judgement being passed.”
Now I literally did not have the energy to respond to this young woman for a few reasons:
1. This fool missed the whole point of the meme – cultural appropriation.
2. This fool said the Kardashians have done more for African Americans…
3. …than MOST of the African Americans she knows.
4. She then continued to include my friend and I in the list of African Americans she knows who have not contributed as much as the Kardashians. (Btw this fool is not MY friend on Facebook – never met her before in life. And yes, I have Facebook friends I’ve actually met first. That is a rule of thumb for me.)
This here, my friends, is a motherf***ing trap made to ignite an Igno-Rant. I avoided this trap and simply responded that “I had not enough energy in my right thumb to respond.” Followed by a Mona Lisa stank face:
Now I was proud of myself for not falling into this trap. But I was also bothered by the fact that this fool was proud of herself too. SO I have to say my piece here, to get it off my SPIRIT (spits on computer screen with this last affirmation).
1. I did the research. Kim Kardashian alone has contributed to over 20 charities that I know of. Of the 20, Clara Lionel Foundation, Diamond Empowerment Fund, Make It Right, Soles4Souls, and We Advance, are a few charities for which I will consider contributions to the African American/black community simply because New Orleans (Hurricane Katrina), Haiti and Africa are the few areas to which these charities directly cater to. Oh, and it is also proper to include the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation since 70 percent of global new HIV infections have been found in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to 2014 stats from aids.gov. I do not intend to lessen the contributions made by Kim Kardashian. In fact, I did the research, and I am as thankful for her contributions as I am for the contributions of all celebrities in this regard. Shoot, she even went to Africa.
HOWEVER, this does not negate the fact that a celebrity making an initiatory trip to Africa or giving “celeb change” to a handful of charities, is equivalent to a “fuggle” passing actual change to a homeless person on the street. Or me giving the “Wendy’s Wanderers” a 4 for $4. Or us fuggles serving food at a homeless shelter, etc. Even if the celebrity actually cares, it is their rites of passage – and bonus points for whoever creates the charity being catered to. The currency exchange alone shows the monthly equivalence. Example:
Celeb Change $50,000 = “Fuggle Funds” $50
2. Fool you don’t know me! So don’t presume that I haven’t contributed to mine own community. I have been side by side with protesters demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. I have signed petitions, spread the news of the #BlackLivesMatter movements, and actually used my platforms to help further the cause of social equity in this country, equality in this country and justice in this country.
Furthermore, I have experienced this country, as a black woman, being belittled and insulted for my skin as well as my gender. I have grown in this country from a Newark native to an American activists. And I will fight for my people like no check or “celeb change” would dare do.
Contributions to the African American community involve more than donating to an established charity – designed to cater to a specific demographic – who happen to meet the criteria.
Contributions to this African American community means standing with the rest of us, and speaking up in defense of all black people being suffocated by an unjust legal system. And in some unfortunate cases, physically suffocated under the weight of the City’s Finest.
3. The Kardashian’s do not qualify as contributors of our community for having carnal knowledge of some of our men. Now, involvement in our issues may, in fact, qualify.
4. Numbers 1 and 2 had nothing to do with the meme that initiated this Igno-Rant! But I have to set the record straight anyway, so here goes the true significance of that meme:
Cultural Appropriation. Cultural. Appropriation. Not “Fashion.” This, I believe, is what Jesse Williams was referring to with his statement, “We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold! — ghettoizing and demeaning our creations and stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
The African American community, myself included, have been negatively judged for our “look,” our natural hair and even our attire. We have been categorized as hostile and ghetto because of the music we listen to and/or create. We have been victimized and killed due to a mixture of all these things plus the secret ingredient, our skin.
And then to turn around and have the very members of the accused demographic try on our clothes, flaunt our “natural” hairstyles, and blast our music all to be praised and congratulated for their edginess, style and raw taste in melody – is a giant b**** slap in the faces of those stereotyped for these same attributes on a daily basis! Do not sample or praise our culture just to ignore us when it counts. If you want to try us on, you got to get the handbag of bullshit that comes with it! Its a f***ing matching set! Cannot have one without the other. And if you prefer not to pay the price, than get the hell out of our black ass boutique, because this is what we are selling. This is all we have.
Don’t steal our popular pieces, pump yourselves full of our features, and leave our people in your wake.
Though we may be tempting, there’s no exempting, you’re not ready for what this skin has at stake.
Be a real contributor, an ally, a coadjutor – hold our hands and see what we have to face.
We plan to go the distance, and receipts show in this instance, you’re better offer running your own race.