African American culture is only seen right when portrayed through white women. When black women embrace it, they are seen as “hood” or “trashy.”
In the works of Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” she talks about intersectionality in three forms; structural, political and representational. She breaks them down in terms of rape and abuse towards black women and women of color. A particular section that raised my attention was the representational intersectionality. Crenshaw presented situations where black women were being oppressed for their sexual representations. In general, Crenshaw presents how black sexuality is despised and white sexuality is favored. As much as black women may be negatively represented in some situations, there have been many black women that are praised for their contribution to society. One particular phrase in the reading by Crenshaw that stood out to me was the following:
“African American contributions that have been accepted by the mainstream culture are eventually absorbed as simply ‘American’ or found to be ‘universal.’ Other modes associated with African American culture that resist absorption remain distinctive and are either neglected or dismissed as ‘deviant.’” — Crenshaw
This relates to “New Photo Series Illustrates How Black Women are Shamed for Features White People Want,” by Clutch. This short article presents a photo series by Daniel Stewart where he focuses on the way white women are praised for attaining black women features. It states, “Black women are so often shamed and penalized for the same physical attributes that are then praise, and made trendy for white women.” Here the connection is made to Crenshaw’s quote above. Society will only accept the trend or feature if it is presented by white women. However, if black women are initiating the trend, it is seen as trashy and wrong.
In another article, “When Black Girls Get Criticized and White Girls Get Celebrated,” by Elizabeth Wellington, she presents the way that mainstream society acknowledges whites and not blacks. For example, “…from cornrows and large booties to acrylic nails, door-knocker earrings, and tribal fabrics — only becomes ‘chic,’ ‘trendy,’ and ‘epic’ when worn by white women. When these same cultural markers are on black women, they are ‘ghetto,’ ‘urban,’ and ‘ratchet’ — meaning, unpretty.” In connection to Crenshaw, Wellington is stating how this lifestyle is only accepted when portrayed through white and not black.
A perfect representation of this is Kylie Jenner. Kylie Jenner is an American “celebrity.” I put quotations around celebrity because I do not see her as a celebrity, however mainstream society seems to think otherwise. Kylie Jenner has pumped up her lips, implanted her butt and embraced the cornrows, or what is now referred to as “boxer braids.” All of these features originated from African American culture that have now been modified to be accepted through American society.
To connect this back Crenshaw, Kylie Jenner repeatedly presents a sexual image of herself yet is praised for doing so. However, when black women do so, they are labeled many insulting titles. Crenshaw related a similar scenario when describing the 2 Live Crew situation. She placed the obscenity prosecution of 2 Live Crew in comparison to Madonna’s actions.
“Madonna has acted out masturbation, portrayed the seduction of a priest, and insinuated group sex on stage, but she has never been prosecuted for obscenity.” — Crenshaw
Overall, there have been many instances where white women have adopted black culture and the mainstream culture has agreed to accept it. What I find wrong is the fact that black women are demoralized for embracing those features, while praise is given to the white women. In the end, the race is for white to become black and black to become white.