You Don’t See Us, But We See You [UPDATED]

***NOTE: So Pharrell has responded to the ‘controversy,’ stating that one of the women is Black. I am not editing my piece because 1) you will note that I never said she was not Black and 2) I stand by everything I wrote, which was largely about color, not race. Colorism is REAL. And I am SO disgusted at the almost excitement on the part of some of the Black men who want to throw P’s statement (especially the fact that he mentions his Black wife and Black female business partner) in our faces. Because the fact that one of those women is Black changes WHAT? Colorism is real. Light skinned preference is real and I have encountered far too many people who have been HURT by it. And I have read too many statistics that speak to how it impacts employment, education and dating to sit here and act like it doesn’t matter because we have a Black president or whatever fallacy you want to throw in the air to protect yourselves from the truth: if it doesn’t hurt you, you can’t be bothered. I am disgusted and disappointed in a lot of y’all, seriously.

I only saw the album art for Pharell’s new solo record, Girl, today (though it, apparently, dropped last week—-and the Outrage Police have issued a citation on complaining about it now, so laaaate.) And I was pissed.

Maybe “pissed” is too strong a word. I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t surprised. Honestly, I’m more surprised when cats get it right when it comes to representing for sisters.

I spend more time thinking about and consuming media than most people, but I think that anyone with a cursory knowledge of European standards of beauty and colorism could, on some level, understand why a record by a Black man posing with three seemingly not-Black/possible maybe-one-chick-might-could-be-mixed women entitled “GIRL” could be construed as offensive or disappointing. The fact that one brown man chooses (Pharrell is not some Z-list cat who just gets stuck with whatever women the label tells him to use, mmkay?) to be surrounded by three extremely pale women for this one album cover—-you don’t release a record every day, so it’s not like we can say “The last 3 had Black women!”—-is corny. And if you don’t think it speaks to White/light is right, you don’t get it or just don’t care.

When this became A Thing on Twitter, surprise, surprise! Black dudes weren’t trying to hear it. Everyone from the ones who usually don’t go at the sisters, to the resident Ashy Larries who will say the sky is red, the moon rises in the AM or anything that is in contrast to what Black women believe/need/want, felt the need to say “ITS JUST AN ALBUM COVER, BITCHESSSS.”

Honestly, their reaction was more troubling than the cover. I am used to Negroes thinking that White ice is colder, White flesh is sexier and light is right, right, right!—-but the voraciousness with which one could dismiss the frustrations of the women who birthed you, the women who love you, the women who have your back more often than not…I mean, really. It’s like some of you cats delight in it.

Don’t tell me about Mariah Carey having a White dude in a video in 2001, like that someone how is congruent with the number of non-Black women who are routinely paraded around by/cast opposite Black men. And this isn’t a condemnation of interracial love, for those of you who struggle with critical thinking, this is me saying “The beauty standards in this country favor White/light women and this hurts Black women of all creeds and colors to see. Over and over again.”

This brings me back to the number of Black men who were quick to roll their eyes when Saturday Night Live rushed to add a Black woman to their cast after complaints about a lack of diversity swelled. They could not connect to why the absence of a Black woman was frustrating, largely because there are two Black men on the show. And there are a good number of shows/movies, like New GirlPsych, That Awkward Moment, Baby Daddy, the most recent version of 90210, Happy Endings, etc. where Black male characters exist in a world where Black women just…don’t. Black men are not made to feel insecure about their lack of European features in the way that Black women are; in fact, we’ve assigned all these negative ideas to light skinned Black men and made them the subject of ridicule and ribbing.

All that to say…no one threatened to kill Pharrell or boycott his record or steal his Arby’s hat. There is nothing shameful, bitter or wrong about Black women feeling slighted or annoyed by something that could have been so easily avoided by someone saying “We need a little more variety in color here.” And if you are one of those men who just doesn’t get why Black women are ALL UP IN ARMS (because we can’t even have a 140-character reaction to anything without being ALL UP IN ARMS), perhaps you could just shut all the fuck up and actually listen. Because we tend to be quite articulate, and if you actually want to know why something bothers us, we’re usually happy to share.

But…you don’t. You don’t want to know, you want to win a debate or slander or LOL. I know much of this comes from guys who just ain’t seen no [redacted] since they came out of one, but some of you should know better, because Black women make your lives better each and every day.

And as someone who has, does and will exclusively love Black men as romantic partners, and who counts a number of them among my nearest and dearest, I am tired of feeling that (when it comes to a LOT of guys) Black women doing that trust exercise that you do on line, when you lean back to prove how much you trust the person behind you…only to land straight on the ground.