My father was an African antique art dealer, so I grew up with a lot of African art around the house. Growing up, the themes in my household were politics and art. My father’s art collection was spread throughout the apartment. He loved it with all of his heart and took a lot of pride in it. There were always Afro-positive images around, as well as many positive representations of all types of black women. Growing up, I felt nothing but positivity about being black and being African. I loved learning and discovering more about Africa and African American history and culture. All this richness gave me a sense of pride and self-esteem, as far as my heritage and blackness was concerned.
After they separated, my mother moved us to Harlem. My high school was predominantly black and other minorities, with very few white students. As a whole, the concept of black female inferiority seldom reared its ugly head. The first time I remember feeling ‘less than’ was when a group of boys in high school made a list of the top ten hottest girls in school. All of the girls were Latina with one exception—a mixed-race girl. The girl whom they picked as number one had white skin, green eyes, and dyed blonde hair, this didn’t go over very well with the black girls in the school but the list was anonymous, so nobody knew who to blame. I didn’t think too much about it, mostly because I wasn’t much of a hot girl in high school and didn’t expect to be on that list in the first place. I had pink box braids, acne, and I was sort of weird. The interesting thing about that list, however, is that it kept manifesting in different forms. I thought of that high school hottest girls list very recently when I saw this year’s Maxim magazine’s 100. This high school list reappears in the media and countless other lists that exclude black women. Through this exclusion, these lists insinuate that black women don’t count when it comes to mainstream desirability or beauty. It's not that beautiful black women don't exist in the world now, anymore than they did in high school. That list was my first glimpse at black female exclusion, yet I remained in my bubble of blackness. Now I want to know why we are being left out of the mix. What makes this acceptable?
It wasn’t until I was about nineteen-years-old that I really started to grasp how much of society viewed black women or, at the very least, where we fell in the hierarchy. The first time was at a retail store where I worked. One night, a couple of us were discussing hitchhikers while closing up. One of the managers adamantly stated that there was no way, under any circumstances, he would pick up a hitchhiker and one of the girls retorted, “What if she was a pretty blonde?” I remember genuinely not understanding how her being ‘blonde’ mattered, anymore than it should if she was a brunette, or a pretty black girl. I even asked her and her response was simply, “You know, a pretty blonde,” as if I didn’t hear what she said. Our manager, however, seemed to get it but I still didn’t. Even stranger to me was that the girl who gave the example was black, like me, and the manager was a black man. I didn’t understand how or why I was supposed to see more value in this hypothetical blonde than in my coworker or myself. Another example worth noting was also during my retail stint. I was helping this young man from Staten Island look for new jeans. He was gathering his denim and I thought I stood to make a good commission until he laid eyes on one of my coworkers. Her name was Sarah. She was a bubbly, blue eyed blonde, and a very pretty girl. He ran up to her and started asking her opinion about the jeans we had already chosen and completely tuned me out. Looking back, I’m surprised I was more bothered by his sudden rudeness than potentially losing a decent sale. The fact he thought it was okay to be rude and ignore me because this pretty blonde appeared sent a clear message.
I became fully immersed in full-blown misogynoir when I started enjoying New York City’s nightlife. Misogynoir is a term created by black feminist Moya Bailey to describe misogyny directed towards black women. My eyes began to really open up after a few of my close male friends started getting into the nightlife club promotion industry. A lot of things became really clear to me, but not as quickly as they should have. I was still very much shrouded in self-pride and very naïve to a lot of the negativity. I watched a few of my very African male friends transform into straight up coons right before my very eyes. One good friend of mine who joined the industry went from having an affinity for Asian girls and Asian culture to exclusively dating nothing but white models. He had to trade in a lot of his friends, tastes, and modified his personality and values to accommodate this new lifestyle. Here I stood, at 5’7 no less, and was considered short. Not once in my life had I ever felt short or been referred to as short until I was around those people in that scene. It was also interesting to hear the kinds of things that my promoter friends told me about the nightlife regulations for a promoter, how much their image mattered, and how race came into play. I saw it as a test of integrity for these boys, because that’s literally what it came down to. It proved to be a test that a lot of them ultimately failed.
There was easy money to be made and gorgeous girls on their arms. They were living ‘the life’, but the truth and the dirty little secret found in that world is a high roller club promoter’s success has a lot to do with misogynoir. Their future working for these venues depended, and still does depend, heavily on whether or not they were willing to play the game and essentially sell themselves out. I remember calling one of my promoter friends a coon once, and he asked me what it meant. I explained he was buying into and willfully portraying the stereotype many white people have of people in his profession and he simply agreed. That’s how far in he was. He told me the nightlife didn’t really like black girls. The majority of that time I thought my friends were changing on their own. I didn’t realize they were being instructed, programmed to this new way of thinking. They became obsessed with models and went out of their way to forge friendships with girls they would never have hung out with, and all to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and the lights on. I got along well with everyone and loved going out and having fun, exploring, and dancing with my friends at popular venues but it was always annoying to witness these coons around me and understanding the politcs behind it.
There were people that I’d seen around for years who wouldn’t bother talking to me or saying hello. However, they would eagerly start up a conversation with a friend of mine who they’d never seen before because she appeared whiter and more valuable. There was incessant phoniness everywhere and people switching from hot to cold at the drop of a hat. I saw a lot of black males caught up in the life walking around as if they were superior and too good to be around me because of this ‘status change’. A good friend of mine actually completely stopped speaking to me after he went into the industry because I didn’t fit the mold of his crew. My promoter friends who didn’t try so hard to fit in and took out black girls were less respected and got paid a lot less. White girls are a valuable commodity for black men in club promotion. I even heard one black dude in the scene ask one of my promoter friends, “Why are you always with so many black girls?” Like we were somehow devaluing him when the truth was he valued himself more than they were capable of understanding. He was able to feel comfortable with his homegirls without fear of being judged by this tragically superficial, fake, and overtly racist scene. I saw promoters who only used to roll in with black girls do a complete three sixty and dump their black girl friends and started hanging with a much whiter crowd. It was hard for me to get past the significance that, in 2017, a white man was comfortable telling a black man to not bring too many black girls or to be very wary of the type of black girl into a New York City venue that regularly hosted black celebrities. This was nothing short of disrespect. After that, a man pretty much belongs to the club and has lost himself. He might as well be the bottle of Svedka in the ice bucket, because you are pretty much allowing yourself to be consumed by degenerates. Out of the guys that I know who played the game, a few of them are still in the business. There are some who crashed and burned pretty hard after their fall and others just disappeared. A couple guys even died.
I also find it intriguing that, despite this misogynoir rhetoric, all of these high roller venues cater almost entirely to their black celebrity clientele and rely heavily on them for their image. I always wonder how aware these celebrities are of what’s going on and how these venues manage to pull the wool over their eyes so effectively.
My Black awareness upbringing provided a shield and saved me from being seriously affected by a lot of the anti black girl negativity. However, there are still a lot of us who need saving. Just recently, rapper Kodak Black made some cringe worthy statements about dark skinned black women. It became another reminder of how prevalent this mentality is and how much of a disease it is. It’s a coon mentality that many find acceptable and think it’s a man simply stating his preference. Consider this—this so-called preference has made a lot of dark skinned black girls in America feel undateable and ugly. The irony of all this is I’ve sometimes been made to feel like more of a token to black men than by the white guys I've dated. I’ve had black guys come right out and say, “ I’m not usually attracted to black girls, but I like you.” Unfathomably, to them was a compliment. They really thought I should feel privileged for being on the receiving end of an attraction normally reserved for white girls. Kodak Black was brutally attacked for these comments both in social media and in the papers, television, and newspapers—and let’s not forget the innumerable blogs that weighed in on the subject. He wound up shutting down his Instagram page because of the backlash. The most bizarre thing about it was the juxtaposition of peoples’ anger towards him over his complete lack of understanding why he offended so many people. It’s almost like he, and men like him, are under a trance or in a deep sleep. They are victims of coon control; firmly enslaved in a mind control bubble and floating merrily around in it, oblivious to the damage it’s doing. Everytime I’ve discussed this issue with girlfriends of mine they always erupt in disdain.
Whether or not white America instilled this in black men purposefully is a question for another time, but it’s a huge and pervasive problem for the black community—we need to take back, and rejoice in, our blackness. I think we should all become more like the abolitionists and again take on the task of freeing the slaves rather than persecuting them. I feel a lot of pity for black men and women who share this mentality and simply wish everyone had the opportunity to grow up with the same kinds of enriching, restorative images and affirmations of blackness I did. It is my belief that this made all the difference in how I see and value myself. I firmly believe this is the only and most powerful antidote to coon control there is.