So this is an off week for me, so I'm down in Memphis spending some time with everyone and playing with the MRO, as well as catching up on some of my reading. One of the magazines I keep up with every month is Vogue, because the fashion ads give me ideas on what I need to buy on my next trip to the mall. Well, while reading the April issue I came across this ad:
Now before I start and anyone gets mad at me, I'm not coming for Beyoncé. Everyone knows I live for her music (even though I'm not sure how I feel about "Bow Down"), but what exactly is this ad? I understand that L'Oreal is trying to market their products to women (and some drag queens) of every shade and color, but what is the company, and Beyoncé, going for with this? Why is "black" not enough for anyone anymore?
It's sort of a tradition for black folks to claim some "Indian" in their heritage (based on the texture of your hair), but I'm not sure how many of us would claim any of that when truly identifying within a race on a day to day basis. Another simple fact is that most black people, due to slavery, have some white genes running through our veins, whether it be French (like myself), Spanish, English, or even German, but Beyoncé takes it a step further and targets people from France as being a part of her immediate heritage. I have a few issues with this, because being the DSO's "African-American" Fellow has forced me to have that hyphenation in my mouth more often than I'd like, subsequently keeping this concept of what people of color call ourselves in my mind. Over the decades we've gone from being niggers, to coloreds, to Afro-Americans, to black, and most recently, African-American. When looking at these shifts in terminology I can't help but to determine that these identities were codified by people who don't actually belong to our race. In a manner of speaking, the words used to describe us have gone from what white people feel comfortable saying, to what we (black people) feel like we should display to and for our communities. During slavery, that dreaded "N" word was a weapon, and thankfully we've evolved well past that time for the most part, but is the change in terminology still happening? In a couple decades will there be other words for us?
If you go back and look at the laws around Jim Crow, they were very specific on what was considered non-white. By law, if a person was at least 1/7 black, they were to abide by the laws that applied to all non-whites. This means a person that was half and half was considered black, and there are many figures like that who had to step up and fight for the rights of our people, despite their having an immediate biracial background. It seems with this ad, L'Oreal is trying to take a black woman who is obviously a part of our very rich and mixed culture and make her more marketable to more people by associating her with races and cultures that are rather removed from most of us at this point.
If there is another shift, I hope this ad isn't a preview of what's to come. Personally, I can pinpoint many different places on Earth where my ancestors have come from, but "black" has always been what I prefer to be associated as. In my opinion, not only does "black" let you know that there's non-African heritage in me, but that I'm a part of a culture that may be displaced from the "homeland", yet still "at home", no matter where we exist around the globe. People of color throughout history fought hard to be treated at equals, all the way down to the name of our race, and I don't like the idea of throwing it aside and putting it next to small parts of our heritage that don't necessarily play a part in our culture as it exists today. Beyoncé is not seen as one of the world's best Native American artists, and certainly not a French one, so why do we have to justify our lighter complexion or success with a "mixed race" label like in this ad? Are there even skin-based features exclusive to the French, after all? Maybe some of you disagree with my point of view, but seeing Beyoncé being put out there as something other than simply "black" amused me, so I felt that I need to "bouche-off" on the topic, in keeping with my tiny bit of French ancestry that I bundle up in "black". Who knows - maybe I too should embrace this, and ask for my title at the DSO to be changed to "African-American, French, & Native American Fellow". That wouldn't be ridiculous at all. :)
By the way, Andy has started a food blog actually entitled "Amuses-bouches", and everyone should check it out!