Kanye West has a choice to make. On the cover of Life of Pablo, amongst the repetitions of the album’s title, there are two pictures. In one: a black family poses happily for a wedding photo. As a result the image is traditional and wholesome, something you might see in your grandparent’s house. The second photograph, however, is vastly different. . The woman does not have a face, just an ass. She is little more than object of Mr. West’s desires. While this observation seems mildly problematic already, there is even more evidence that points to Mr. West’s and the black male population’s over valuation of white and light skinned women. The first image of the family is bathed in neutral colours of whites and browns; the image is nostalgic but in the eyes of the modern consumer it becomes dated, archaic. The second image is bright and lively the woman’s light skin shining the in the sun’s heat and to the modern consumer this image symbolizes success and this woman becomes a status symbol.
Now this is not a judgment of Kanye West, but it is a judgment of the culture of ‘Vanilla Killers’ that his choice of visuals and personal associations feeds into. Kanye West, most recently, has made his disdain for Amber Rose a well-documented fact, even going as far as to say that he needed five showers after being with her. After a hard day of making misogynistic comments about his ex girlfriend Mr. West goes home to his cultural appropriating wife who, like Amber Rose became famous for the sexualisation of her body, but to him she is untouchable. Worthy of the respect he never thought to be give to Amber Rose.
Mr. West’s antics are sadly nothing new, especially to a young black woman in South Africa who has to endure black boys calling black woman animals on an almost weekly basis. Here in South Africa Kanye West has inspired a generation of Vanilla Killers: black boys that exclusively date white girls. Attraction is completely subjective and cannot be criticized but whom these boys choose to date has nothing to do with attraction. This method of natural selection is influenced by indoctrination and misogynoir. Indoctrination in that much like black women have been made to feel unattractive and inferior by white washed mass media. Black boys have learnt that white women, and women that possess European traits, are the epitome of beauty.
Misogynoir is where race and gender are binary factors in the social and cultural disenfranchisement, discrimination and hatred of black women. Think back to Saartjie Baartman, a Khoi woman who, due to her large buttocks, was exhibited as a freak show attraction in 19th century Europe. This is probably the earliest example of the sexualisation and degradation of the black female form. Fast-forward to 2016 and the black woman has graduated from the title of Hottentot Venus, to Ghetto or Welfare Queen. In 2016 the black women is still portrayed as promiscuous, untrustworthy and manipulative.
For decades the black man has been viewed as an animal, a savage. They were killed for having sexual relations with white women because it was automatically assumed that they the only way they could ‘taint’ a white women’s purity was by stealing it from her. This only worked to further the idolizing of white women for their supposed purity and due to our dark skin black women, completely by default, looked dirty to black men. This practice has been long in the making but it seems our generation have picked it up effortlessly and added a new spin. If there is a group that can take the most blame for the degradation of the black female form it is the black man. The black man took the black female form from the abusive slave owners and made black women slaves in their own homes. Replacing whips with bare hands and cutting words.
Listen to any rap song today and you cannot deny that black men view a proximity to whiteness as a status symbol and it influences who they date, marry and choose to love. So thank you Mr. West for making life as a black woman even more of a struggle. Really we appreciate it.
By Amukelani Mnisi