Pop Culture Wednesday: “African Queen” Editorial Reflections SMDH

I know when I think African Queen I immediately envision a white woman in bronzer and a head wrap.

I know when I think African Queen I immediately envision a white woman in bronzer and a head wrap.

By now most of you are aware of the shyt storm started by Numero magazine’s editorial photo spread labeled “African Queen” where a 16 year old white chick from North Carolina posed in bronze face portraying what I guess someone thinks is a black woman. One wonders if this is the politically correct version of blackface but I digress. Epic failure or is it? I assume part of this tomcoonery stems from the fashion industry’s need to be provocative. The other part of it is just some f*ck shyt. Shout out to Trinidad James for putting that explicit terminology in my linguistic life space, iLive! The thing about this that agitates my colon more than the image itself and its pictorial representation of ongoing prejudice in our “post racial” society is the reaction of those who defend it.

Some defenders have leapt on the fire with irrelevant chants about Africans not all being black, no Charlize Theron. Oh how I do love yuppies with half decent education. But what does that have to do with the price of cotton in Jim Crow America? Nothing! Yeah I know absolutely not a damn thing. Their argument, to be fair, is that contrary to popular belief Africa is not a synonym for Black. I know I know it’s shocking to me as well. There are in fact not only white Africans but some smatterings of other non blacks in Africa as well who are considered African Queens. Unfortunately the inherent problem with this argument from a historic context is that besides Cleopatra, who can arguably be categorized as Greek and in turn became an “African Queen” (I won’t begin to bore you with the jungle feverish pursuits of the Greek because I’d have to talk about the Spanish and Italian and then we’d be here all day and I’d no doubt offend someone), and the Arab dynasties in Northern Africa where queens were named as well, all of the African Queens were black. Unless my history is jaded and it could be because I was also taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America and we all know the “truth” behind that discovery. Word? Word!

This captain save a heaux tactic gets thrown even further down a dark alley because well the editors clearly tried to depict a black woman. As if black women don’t already have enough shyt thrown our way competing in a world where our beauty is always categorized as “exotic” never the standard but to be smacked in the face with the notion that even a white woman is a better black woman at the end of the day. What in the absolute hell? Guess the Maya Hailes, Fatima Saids, and Yasmin Warsames of the world were on holiday. That is some complete and total F*CK SHYT! Just to throw hot grease in the fire it even looks like they attempted to add texture to the model’s hair but let’s not stroll down that path right now. THIS is what makes the whole thing some tomcoonery and so far away from being provocative into the space of blatant disrespect and I hate to say it but slightly racist.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the creativity and free expression of fashion. I know part of being a creative person is to push envelopes, a shock and awe show. But there is also a level of social responsibility and I guess some sensitivity to things outside of one’s self. The editorial doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Maybe they aimed to stir pots, ruffle feathers, and get a good ole race conversation brewing…I find this highly doubtful but hell I’ve been wrong before. Artful provocation is one thing but I find little artful expression in the piece at all. I personally don’t even see an African Queen for realsies or for play play. What is she supposed to be some avant garde African Queen of the future? Granted the “browning of America” is taking place right now so maybe this is a play on that oddball line of thinking. Whatever it is I missed the memo and would like to be on the e-vite list in the future, please and thanks.

Granted Black folks are hyper sensitive when it comes to race. One might say it stems from years of oppression coupled with a world that continues to see/treat Blacks as less than or the other forcing an entire group to think of themselves as a race first rather than a people, me no know. I’d argue the hyper sensitivity is justifiable but I could be accused of harboring bias. More importantly though, some things aren’t racial; but other things are most obviously racial and some folk (if you read folk to say white folk you would be correct) notoriously exist in a world of clear racism denial. It is as if a forever blind spot to what is clearly rude, disrespectfully egregious, and downright wrong about race completely alludes.

For the life of me I don’t get how folk think it’s appropriate to dress in blackface, throw keggers with specified “ethnic” themes and/or adopt and then bastardize culture. How none of this even remotely registers on the WTF scale is mind boggling, which has led me to theorize that folk are unconsciously racially retarded. And I mean retarded by its Merriam Webster definition, slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress. I say that with Christian love and affection, mostly because when I make an off color joke I typically know before I say it that it will offend people. And believe me I offend people every day, hell I’ve probably offended the 10 folk friends I have by writing this post and for that I’m semi sorry but sometimes we must call a spade a spade.

Coming full circle, I’ll never quite get how this editorial made it from conception to reality. How no one along the fashion editing food chain said this goes beyond controversial right into the realm of racist escapes me. Maybe I have a blind spot and am just too racially sensitive, yo no se. As always Lovelies what says you, speak on it in the comments and as always to share is to care and hashish!


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