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Todrick Hall is Black Enough, But His White Gaze Concerns Me

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Photo Credit: Ramona Rosales for People Magazine

“Let me assure you that there is no such thing as a black racist. There is no such thing. ‘Black racism’ and ‘reverse racism’ are terms that were developed by intellectual white thinktanks in political circles to get you as African young people to feel guilty about discussing what has happened to you as African people in America. So when you start to discuss slavery, or the effects of slavery, or the effects of 500 years of domination, what they do is say, “Oh, you’re a racist.” When you react to the ugly things that they do or say to us, they say, “Oh, you’re a racist.” That is to get you to feel guilty about discussing, or organizing, or taking issue with the condition of African people in this country.” — Sister Souljah “We Are At War”

They say Google is your friend. Well, for the last few hours I’ve been searching for the historical context that would demonstrate that the term mayonnaise, when used sardonically to refer to the dominant racial group, upholds a racially-based hierarchy that leads to systemic inequities. Guess what? It doesn’t exist. Perhaps, mayonnaise is offensive, but racist it certainly is not. And considering that Mr. Hall does not belong to the mayonnaise group, why on Earth is he offended? That shot wasn’t even aimed at him.

Todrick Hall in his latest video titled ‘I’m Not Black Enough’ was filled with everything but a Taylor Swift cover of September (it had her tears though if you listened hard enough). Mr.Hall took 16 minutes out of his very booked schedule to respond to a video I made critiquing his new T.H.U.G. video. He said he wasn’t mad, but I suspect that he was, and I get it (y’all know how the Black V necks be). He claims that people accuse him of being in the sunken place, tap dancing and thinking he’s white. It sounds like he may have some internal conflict about his Black identity, which frankly, we all have to confront at some point because anti-Blackness is pervasive. It is the air we breathe, the TV we see, and the education we get. His feelings are hurt and good, they need to be hurt. Growth comes from pain.

Aside from that, Mr. Hall doesn’t owe me or anyone else an explanation about his brand of blackness, but since he offered one and directed it at me, I’ll take him up on his offer.

Let me give you the problem in a nutshell — Mr. Hall admits that he has been called out for his stereotypical portrayals of Black men and women in his older content, and he says he’s evolved since then; however, the T.H.U.G. video, to me, seems like more of the same.

What you will notice is that Mr. Hall builds his argument the same way the dominant racial group does — you know how they completely miss the point and start running down their list of Black affiliations and oppressions to let you know they, too, know the struggle. *insert side-eye here*

After running down the list of illustrious Black artists that he’s worked with over the past few years, Mr. Hall lets the viewer know that he doesn’t participate in the ‘woke Olympics.’ Evolving and loving your blackness ain’t hardly a competition but I get that he saw someone (who was probably being flamed for being problematic) say that on Twitter and he felt it fit this context.

@Todrick builds his argument the same way the dominant racial group does — you know how they completely miss the point and start running down their list of Black affiliations and oppressions to let you know they, too, know the struggle. Click To Tweet

Statements like “too woke” and “woke Olympics” are counterproductive. Woke is a term many have used to describe their new view of the world and the way in which white supremacy actually rules everything. Personally, I prefer to use the term “more informed,” which doesn’t mean I will ever be completely informed, but I am open to continuing to learn, and that’s what is important. The way he used “woke Olympics” tells me a lot about his view of the world and society.

Shall we begin?

Blackness is not a monolith. We are not homogenous people; we are not all the same.-Jesse Williams

Blackness exists on a spectrum. One can not be too black or not black enough. That itself sounds like a form of Olympics. We all exist.

Todrick, you say that not being Black enough haunts you, but what have you done about it? If many people have made similar points in their videos about your portrayal of black people, what does that say? We’re going to get there, trust me.

Todrick actually opens the video by telling me how I should have framed my critique of him, how I should have reached out to him directly. But then does the same thing.  Hypocritical much? No one gets to tell someone how to protest or how to react. I’m not telling you how you should react either. My video was done to challenge some of your past and present work in the hopes that your future work has more equitable representation for Black people in particular. Call me the Ghost of Past, Present, and Future

Todrick does make one good point in the video — I have not seen his full body of work. That is true.  Because of the history of some of his previous “problematic parodies,” I didn’t think it would be best (I’ll explain more later). However, from what I have seen, I feel comfortable saying that I have not heard him shine a positive light on Black men, which is why the T.H.U.G. video caught my attention, and it was the first video that I came across from his Forbidden visual album.

I was really rooting for him, but alas, it’s just more of the same. The video seemed to sexualize black men, and the song is called thug — you know, the term white people in the media use to describe black men when they can’t say, nigger. Honestly, I’m just thankful it wasn’t titled BBC, but that’s neither here or there. Todrick’s rapping and singing about his new found interest in eggplants and melanin is a complete departure from his usual, so you can imagine, I was quite perplexed. Where did this come from? I literally screamed when I heard him use the word “trade”. Since when sis? The first verse sounds like a white woman wrote it, see how he shouted out the queens of problematic white women?

Yo, yo, yo
I used to f*cks with them Ken doll types (mwah)
Them femme doll types
I had to switch up the hims I like (switch)
Get a cap with the brims I like
He got that whip with the rims I like (woo, woo)
Get that good right swipe
Type that the Khloe and Kims all like
Kims all like, yep (yeah, yeah, yeah)

“I used to f*cks with them Ken Doll types.” 

 

 

Back in 2016,  Todrick released a video titled ‘Color’ featuring Jay Armstrong. They both sing to each other throughout the video describing their affection towards another. It is a visually stunning video that shows the great love affair between a white man and a black man, which isn’t groundbreaking, considering the majority of Black same gender loving men we see in media are paired with non-Black men. The problem is in Jay Armstrong’s lyrics in which he says that “I don’t see color.” In the “I’m Not Black Enough” video, Todrick Hall tries to connect this lyric to his obsession with the Wizard of Oz. Okay. But within the context of my critique about his racially insensitive imagery and lyrics, ‘I don’t see color is another way to minimize the experience of Black and Brown people in a world that absolutely does see color and makes it a point to keep “colored” people out of everything but prison.

That makes my skies blue
And whenever we’re through
All I can do is see color
There’s something ’bout us
When we’re together
Whenever you’re there, darling I swear
I don’t see color

“I don’t see color.”

Even though Todrick didn’t utter the words out of his mouth, words mean things, and he is responsible for the lyric by proxy. He responded that he wasn’t the one who sang that exact part but he is one of the writers, and this is your video soooooo…

 

 

Back to the mayonnaise — Todrick seemed to be exceptionally “salty” about my use of mayonnaise which I’ve already said could be construed as offensive, but then Mr. Hall had to take it one additional step and call it reverse racism? Who in 2018 don’t understand that reverse racism ain’t a thing? White people, that’s who.

“…if it was really in our interest to find out the truth about that person we would watch the whole body of work and then make an assessment a judgement but even then we would upload a video that was nice and kind and really trying to get to the bottom of the situations instead of dragging someone over and over and over and ultimately making reverse racism remarks. Whereas if a white person uploaded this exact video replacing all the times that he said “mayonnaise” with something that is offensive towards black people this video would be going viral and people would be upset and saying that that person was racist.”

Black people can never be racist – we never had the tools or power to institutionalize racial oppression.- Sobantu Mzwakali

We also have a sitting president that has used many offensive terms to describe people of color. This is what so many before me have tried to explain in so many ways to Todrick, but yet he insists on not getting it.  He’s too busy listening to respond instead of listening to understand, which is why he’s doing a reaction video instead of reflecting in a quiet place about his creative choices.

Let’s do a quick project — I would like for you to go find “mayonnaise” or “cracker” or any so-called “racist” term that might offend white people on a birth certificate.

Couldn’t find it could you? You know what you can find on some birth certificates, the words “negro” and “colored” which we all agree are actually offensive. My grandmother, only two generations before me, has it on hers. She also shared with me that she was alive when one of her family members was lynched in Mississippi. As a matter of fact, the last word that the nearly 10,000 Black people who were lynched in this country between 1899 and 1960 heard was ‘nigger.’ I advise that you, Todrick Hall, understand the historical context behind racist words and refrain from comparing an offensive word such as mayonnaise with a racist one. The pain ain’t the same, boo.

Todrick also admits that the parodies he’s done in the past were problematic, but he isn’t interested in taking them down. As I’ve already admitted, I have not seen the full body of his work. To be better informed in my future critiques (because you know I ain’t stopping) I’ve decided to take his advice and get to know more of his content. Remember when I said I was going to explain why I wasn’t as interested in watching the full “body of work?” Here’s why.

Let’s start with ‘Snow White and the Seven Thugs’ (2014) since we’re in this situation because of a video called T.H.U.G.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most problematic of them all? The video starts with Snow White singing to Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’. Need I say more? She makes her way into the hood and falls asleep in a home with 7 thugs. Ashy, Nappy, Tooty, Fruity, Musty, Crusty and Dopey. Their costumes are hoodies, and the one with the gold chain is Orlando Brown. The evil queen played by Kimberly Cole turns into the witch to get Snow White to eat an apple. Remember how the evil witch looked in the cartoon? Well, Glozell played that character and yes Glozell had her wig and green lipstick on.

The Hungry Games’ (2013) is a parody of  The Hunger Games‘ with Fatniss Everdeen played by a dark skin character with a loud personality — a cross between the Mammy and the Sapphire trope. It’s important to point out the actress’ skin tone because it adds to the stereotype of darker skinned women being heavyset and loud. In this parody, Fatniss gets her name called and she loudly and thankfully says “Gurl I won!” She pushes the white women out her way while wearing a bandanna.  It doesn’t stop there. In one scene, Fatniss and other victors fight over fried chicken from KFC and watermelon. I was at a loss for words. KFC, really? Black people eat Popeye’s. If you’re going to do the stereotype, do it right. 

We all know the negative connotations behind fried chicken and watermelon when it comes to African Americans. Did I mention even though they were fighting for their lives in this parody they still had gold chains? Cleary they won’t be getting into Blake’s in Atlanta with this dress code.

Titaniqua (2015) is a parody of the Titanic movie with a ratchet spin and a dash of gold because every parody of blacks needs gold. A white woman falls in love with a gangster/thug drug dealer? More stereotypical black characters portrayed through the lens of whiteness.

Todrick’s character Jack sits at the table with a gold grill while talking to Rose’s mother and friends. He’s asked what does he do and he replies “I sell that good good.” He’s also an up and coming rapper and has a song called ‘Jiggle That Booty Meat’ which he performs at the dinner table leaving the white people at the table confused.

 

Hocus Broke-Us (2015) features The Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus but they’re black and of course, they’re ratchet. Todrick plays Seyoncé and the witches are looking for “chirren“. Why do the Sanderson Sisters have to be broke? Why do weave and ratchet have to be implied so much?

Beauty and the Beat (2013) A parody of Beauty and the Beast with a white Disney character strolling through the hood while holding an Ebony magazine. 

These videos are still monetized. Which means Todrick Hall is still collecting revenue from them. Maybe this a reason why he isn’t in a hurry to take them down.

Listen, the white gaze is a motherfucker. It’s so easy to create content based on the regular schmegular tropes that already exist about black people. Stereotypes work because they are shortcuts, and content creators don’t have to work as hard to tell the story. And the truth is, I’ve chuckled at some of these parodies; I’m sure we all have. The point is Todrick’s audience is majority white, and it makes a difference. Are they laughing with Todrick Hall or laughing at him? Even that question is tricky because Todrick doesn’t seem to completely understand the breadth of racism. That’s not his fault; I ultimately put the blame on white supremacy and I also admit that I used to be like him, hard-pressed to assimilate by poking fun at racial stereotypes to fit in with the dominant culture. This is why we have to hold him accountable. He has a huge platform.  Audiences see these parodies, and it reinforces stereotypes about African Americans.

What Todrick Hall does not show you in his video is the section of my video where I pay homage to his work ethic and his creativity. I called him a creative genius with mad talent, and I still feel that way. To have created a lane for himself as an openly gay Black man in a very outwardly homophobic industry is something that deserves all the credit.  Can you imagine what he could do if he used his powers for good?

For the record, I have no personal issue with Todrick Hall. Although I directed my video to Todrick Hall, my issue is bigger than him. We all have to be held accountable, especially those who have a voice. I’ve been held accountable and will be held accountable in the future, and I will look back at this very moment and learn from the experience.

With great power comes great responsibility.” A corny quote that Uncle Ben gave Peter Parker in Spiderman but it has so much meaning. Todrick, you have the power, so what is your responsibility?

In case you need any help answering this question, here are some suggestions for what you can do today to be better:

  1. Start by taking down the videos that reinforce stereotypes of African Americans.
  2. Reach out to your critics for constructive feedback if that’s what you want. You can contact me at [email protected]
  3. If you’re truly interested in growing, make time in your busy schedule to have a conversation. No, it will not be backstage. I need your full undivided attention.

 

You have a voice and the platform to amplify it and that’s what makes you dangerous.

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For The Culture

Why Voting Is Actually Important…

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I’m mad. And not just the regular mad I’ve been since White people elected their president, I am rabid dog angry, fightin’ mad.

I am angry at the number of Black, seemingly well-educated people who are currently posting these philosophical rants about why voting doesn’t matter, how voting is irrelevant, how voting means nothing, how some radical Black movement is going to come by and save us all.

Side note – The last time a gang of Black people were all on the same page to do some radical shit was the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and even then, the wayward negro had to be threatened and cajoled to keep it going. I would love to see a radical movement that brings Black people together across skin color, social, class, gender, and sex lines. I would love to see it, but it’s just not feasible.

Don’t listen to what these intellectuals are telling you online, take your Black ass to vote. Click To Tweet

Yes, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act has significantly reduced the democracy inherent in voting. And yes, those in power have systematically made it much more difficult to vote, especially for people living in low income communities, who often do not have the flexibility to take off work to vote (to learn more about the dismantling of the voter’s rights act, here is a good article), but that doesn’t mean that we have to give up on voting.

Here are six good-ass reasons to vote.

1. Voting is your civic duty.

The first time I voted in a presidential election, the candidates were George W. Bush and Al Gore. For my second presidential election, I had to choose between George (again) and John Kerry. I can tell you that neither of those options gave me wet dreams. I wasn’t that excited to Rock the Vote…but rock the vote I did because, for me, it was important to make my voice heard.

And it sucks because I remember the fervor and passion people had about President Obama’s campaign. People were lined up for hours to vote. Black people, across the country, were fired up in a way that they hadn’t been fired up about voting since Bill Clinton played that saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

Side note: We talked cash shit about Hillary Clinton and that Crime Bill, and as someone who actually lived during that time, I can tell you that most of the Blacks and the Whites were 100% supportive of that Crime Bill. Yes, now we know better, obviously, but I think revisionist history put a stank on Hillary that she didn’t deserve.

A candidate that lights your political fire and gets your panties wet is a rarity, and that’s just real. Voting isn’t usually fun and mostly, you’ll be rolling your eyes as you pull the lever or fill in the bubbles, but it’s like any other chore you have to do – mow the lawn, rake the leaves – you just get it over with.

2. Voting actually does work.

I’d like to pooch on down to Brazil and have a look at their history and current political climate to illustrate my point. First, Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery, is reported to have imported more Africans for enslavement than any other country, and was considered one of the most brutal places to be enslaved (the average life expectancy of a slave was four years). The racism, police brutality, and abject poverty experienced by Blacks in Brazil rivals anything you’ve seen anywhere, including America. The country is currently ruled by President Michel Temer who aside from snatching services from millions of impoverished people, is a blatant advocate of violence as a tactic to suppress social justice movements. The safety of Black life is so precarious in Brazil that most activists have been terrorized into submission and silence.

Who should emerge in the midst of this but Marielle Franco. Marielle Franco, a Brazilian activist turned politician, was an outspoken activist against police brutality and extrajudicial killings, and a staunch supporter of the rights of Black women, and LGBTQIA people. Franco ran for city council and was supported by votes from primarily poor Black women and people living in favelas (these are the poorest of slums). On March 14, 2018, leaving a meeting, she and her driver were murdered by masked gun men – shot down in her car. You know what happened next — 1,237 Black women are now on the ballots for local, state, and federal elected positions in Brazil. These women have been activated to make change. They understand that change begins in the voting booth. They know that’s the place to demonstrate their power. Protests don’t matter because they are ruled by an administration (much like the one in America) that doesn’t give a damn about their little protests and will actually kill you in the street for having the audacity to hold up a sign critiquing the government. Knowing this story, and the story of all those who came before makes it hard for me to understand how people can say voting doesn’t matter. If these Black women, living under the shadow of the murder of their fearless leader can get the courage to not only vote, but to run for office, then I (and you too) can certainly go vote. It is the absolute LEAST we can do. #MarielleResists

3. You do realize there’s more than just presidential candidates on the ballot, right?

After you fill in your bubbles or pull your lever for the President or Senator or House Rep, you have the opportunity to vote for local issues, like allocation of funds for schools, youth programs, or new roads, like sheriffs and judges, like raising the minimum wage which research shows helps everybody. So do you really care about your community or are you just talking about it, because if you actually care, these are the kinds of issues that your vote directly affects, almost immediately?

4. I know you know this, but Black people died for this right to vote, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Listen, I know it’s been said to death but I feel compelled to say it again — Black people died, literally died, for the right to vote. During Reconstruction when Black people were trying to figure out how to survive in a country where they had nothing and no rights to get anything, one of the first demands was the right to vote because they recognized that their power was in their collective vote. Their collective vote was probably one of the only things they had during that time of deep, overt racism, aggression, and subjugation. Their collective vote was the only way they had to demonstrate their humanity. And if you don’t have some reverence in your heart for that, well, that’s a damn shame.

5. If the Supremacists and Republicans are working so hard to suppress your vote, it must be powerful.

Bruce Carter, who founded Black Men for Bernie, was seduced into the Trump campaign and paid good money by Trump and ‘dem to convince Black people to vote for Trump or not vote at all. According to Charles Blow’s op-ed, Russian interference in the 2016 election included direct attacks at the “woke” black vote. And it didn’t help that several prominent voices in the Black community – Colin Kaepernick, Mark Lamont Hill, Killer Mike, Michelle Alexander, J. Cole – were either dead set against Hillary Clinton or publicly denounced the act of voting. During one of Trump’s rallies, he is reported to have said in reference to the huge reduction in Black voters, “They didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out. And that was a big — so thank you to the African-American community.”

Side note – I think we can all agree by now that Hillary Clinton, 1994 Crime Bill transgressions and all, would have been a far better leader than who White people elected. I think we can also agree that Black men who either didn’t vote or decided to vote third party like stupid ass Marc Lamont Hill, let misogyny outweigh their good sense.

Have you noticed that the same rhetoric used by supremacists to deter Black voters aligns with the rhetoric of the “I’m Black and too woke to vote” crew? If your argument against voting aligns with the arguments of Russian bots, you need to sit down and re-think your entire life because it went very, very wrong somewhere.

6. For now, with this current administration, voting is the most radical thing you can do.

They don’t want you to vote – their policies, their rhetoric, their rejection of your political needs proves that. That makes voting that much more important. Have you noticed that the fervor of the Black Liberation Movement has died down since Trump has been in office? By no fault of their own, their movement doesn’t matter in the same way it did with President Obama in office because these current dummies in office don’t care, at all, they aren’t even pretending to care. However, your local politicians who need your votes to stay in office, they actually might care a little, and the way the world is going, that sliver of possibility is enough for me.

 

Don’t listen to what these intellectuals are telling you online, take your Black ass to vote.

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Lena Waithe and Halle Berry Join BET for Boomerang Sequel

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Beloved screenwriter, Lena Waithe, will be joining Halle Berry in the BET 10 episode comedy series of Boomerang. The network wants to be clear in saying that this is a sequel and not an adaptation or reboot. Waithe will be co-writing the pilot with Insecure’s showrunner, Ben Corey Jones. The series is set to follow the children of Jacqueline Boyer and Marcus and Angela Graham as they try to create their own legacy away from their parent’s shadow.

Waithe commented on the goal of the project and said,

“This is less of a reboot and more of a continuation of the original story. There’s no point in trying to remake a classic. It can’t be done. So, we want to create something fresh that speaks to a new generation. We hope people will come to the show with an open mind and ready to embrace the new world we’ve created!”

Oscar-winning actress, Halle Berry, is also excited for the upcoming series saying,

“I’m thrilled to team up with Lena on this project as she is without a doubt a leading voice of her generation and a trailblazer in her own right. I’m truly excited to be a part of bringing this iconic and beloved film to the small screen.”

Boomerang is going to be one of the first projects announced for BET since former president, Debra Lee, left the company. The new president, Scott Mills, is equally enthusiastic for the collaboration of Berry and Waithe and says, “Partnering an icon such as Halle with a disruptor like Lena is a perfect blend for the creation of a project that tells a classic tale in a relevant voice.”

What do you guys think? Are you excited for the sequel or should they just leave it a movie? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Diversity JUMPED out: Savage x Fenty Fashion Show Gave us all the Inclusion we Needed

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Last night Savage x Fenty by Rihanna ended New York Fashion Week with a bang! The lingerie brand had an array of women from different skin tones to body types. Rih wanted to show the world that ANYONE can wear Savage x Fenty and feel sexy. There were even pregnant models featured in the show. Yes, pregnant. Get into the models and event down below:

 

Rihanna is taking the fashion industry by storm. Let’s hope other fashion brands can follow suit.

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