On Hip-Hop’s Intersection of Colorism and Misogyny

Andre G

Last week, a casting call for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 4 was posted in which West, who’s previously decreed “we’re one race,” sought “multi-racial women only” for his launch. This comes weeks after Kodak Black was taken to task for his “I don’t want no Black bitch, I’m already Black” lyrics in an unreleased song. And probably moments after young such-and-such spat the 333,333rd utterance of “bad yellow bitch” at his studio session.

To his credit, there were Black women of all shades at his event. Kanye downplayed the notion that he didn’t want Black women there,  and asked Vogue Magazine, “how do you word the idea that you want all variations of Black?” Apparently putting “all variations of Black” was too much like right. Kanye’s poor excuse sounded like face-saving, trying to prevent the incident from being perceived as what it seemed: another example of hip-hop’s obsession with racially ambiguous, lighter skinned women.

Embedded inside hip-hop’s misogynoir is a fetishization of lighter toned women inflicted by 500+ years of psychological conditioning at the hands of white supremacy. Writer Myles Johnson recently surmised on Twitter that Black men are ”constantly told only one type of woman is successful, worth valuing, and desirable” after posting a photo of five Hip-Hop icons, chilling post-VMAs with their light-skinned or non-Black significant others.

Kanye was one of the photoed, as well as Jay Z, who famously gushed “all the wavy light-skinned girls [was] loving me” after he started drug dealing on “December 4th.” Indeed, it seems for the average MC, a reflection of Black men throughout the world, after purchasing a foreign whip and buying some foreign clothes, a foreign (or light-skinned) woman makes the cypher complete. Curiously, amidst the thousands of boasts rappers have made over the years, how many have ever been of the beauty of their own darker skin tones? Perhaps that’s hinting at something.

What’s more troubling is that the intersection of colorism and misogyny dictates that even the women of preference shouldn’t be flattered, as they’re just another exotic object. Kanye West infamously denigrated mult-ethnic women as “mutts.” On “O Lord,” Lil Boosie offered to sacrifice “my home and all my redbones” to god in order get free from jail. Future, Lil Wayne and others brag that they literally can’t communicate with their foreign significant others because of a language barrier.

Many records would have you believe women are simply color-coded breathing machines for male sexual gratification. It’s rare though that artists face serious retribution for their actions and comments, as misogyny is alarmingly normalized in our culture. It’s as if an artist denigrating women as bitches or hoes is a minor, “I wish you wouldn’t smack at the dinner table” level annoyance to our society.

At the Manhattan Yeezy Season casting, a woman demonstrated with, “they want Black features but not Black girls” written on her torso. Kanye is married to Kim Kardashian, a member of a family who’s women have gotten extensive work  done to emulate the voluptuousness of Black women. As “the only KKK to let Black men in,” they did so specifically to attract men of color who desire wide hips, big asses, and full lips–with light-skin adorning the features.

woman-demonstrating

Men operate with a pathetic cognitive dissonance when it comes to their treatment of family vs. women in general. There’s a level of dehumanization and disassociation with women that would make you think every rapper is an immaculate conception, without a mother, sister or any other woman family member to empathize through. Perhaps because men don’t view their family members in a sexual context, we can compartmentalize their hateful perceptions of women–but that’s no excuse.

In today’s information age, where crooked police and other vessels of Black oppression are taken to task on-record, one would think artists could look in the mirror and be more cognizant of their marginalization and disrespect of Black (namely dark-skinned) women. As the recent discussion of colorism in activism shows though, it’s too easy to forget dark-skinned women–especially when it’s possible to put out a bat signal for lighter doppelgangers. One of my favorite (masochistic) pastimes while in a train station is to look at a newsstand and see how light all the faces are. Even people of color are glossed over and made lighter.

Embedded within us all is the social indoctrination of light as all right, and dark skin as a source of derision. Even though many men enjoy the shapely features native to women of African descent, they don’t always with dark-skinned women—as evidenced by hip-hop has been Young Berg’s “dark butts” comment. Some men may chalk their attractions to lighter women up to a simple “preference,” but there’s no such thing as “just preference.” There’s no man who didn’t grow up in this exotic-fetishist environment, which puts everyone’s intentions into question.

Serena Wiliams is dehumanized for her body, yet lighter skin seems to legitimize those same features as attractive to a white patriarchal structure and the men afflicted by it, as evidenced by Kim Kardashian’s body being ogled and even memorialized as a pigheaded trophy piece. One can also go back to the obsession with Jennifer Lopez’ behind, as if she was the only woman with such features. I guess she was the only one who mattered. As plastic surgery, butt implants and other body manipulation becomes more prevalent, it’s as if Black women have no use to Black men taking out their self-hate and colorist issues on them.

This circumstance has disastrous effects on women of color dealing with body image issues. Rapper Lil Kim once revealed, “all my life, men have told me I wasn’t pretty enough,” and that her exes left her for “European looking”  women. It seems she can’t win, feeling shamed for her features and dark skin, yet being the butt of jokes for her gradual change in appearance. Teyana Taylor wowed the world in just four minutes with her performance in West’s “FADE” video, but she’s been toiling in the industry for over six years. Is her skin color one of the reasons she didn’t get a fair shake?  Similar could be asked for Jasmine Sullivan and American Idol winner Fantasia, who noted the media’s preference for “bright-skinned” women “bothered” her.

The entertainment industry is a prominent venue for which the plight of Black women is exhibited, and their male peers sustain the marginalization and erasure with stunts like a “multiracial only” casting call. It has to stop. No one should be fetishized on the basis of their skin or features alone in the first place. But it seems after green, the most important color to rhymers is “red.” Or “yellow.” Or white…you get the point.

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