Published: Thursday 7th July 2016 9:45PM
Updated: Friday 5th August 2016 9:02PM
She may believe she is more enlightened than the rest of us, but really Azealia Banks is navigating black womanhood just like you.
Is it me or has 2016 been a very interesting year? On one hand Britain left the EU, Jesse Williams gave us the best speech of the year and then on the other, Azealia Banks admits to bleaching her skin. Not only that, Banks compares it to having a nose job and wearing weave. I’m not writing this to attack or judge Banks, but rather to unpack what she has said. I hate to say it, but there are elements of truth to Banks’s rant.
Firstly, we need to unsubscribe from the notion that celebrities don’t live in the same world as us. Just as she is out here speaking about anti-blackness, Banks is subject to the same racist and sexist system that we live in. Banks is human. Social media has been spinning with the fact that she doesn’t ‘practice what she preaches’. But it just isn’t that simple.
Banks is navigating her own black womanhood like the rest of us, she’s just doing it on a bigger stage. She should be allowed to struggle with her identity; she is allowed to be on a journey in accepting her own blackness. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Azealia Banks beyond her song ’212′, but what I do know is that she is a black woman, experiencing this world.
We need to understand that skin bleaching isn’t just a phenomenon in developing countries; it isn’t limited to Africa, Asia or the Caribbean. All throughout history up to today, black women have used several methods to observe western ideals of beauty. Relaxing our hair and skin bleaching were said to help black women achieve a western standard of beauty. Some argue that this is a method for black women to gain confidence in their beauty, I completely disagree. In my opinion, these so called methods: skin bleaching, relaxers and cosmetic surgery are used to achieve safety and security in a racist society. The more I grow, the more real the phrase ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ becomes. In this day and age, the beholder is the world, and let’s be honest: If the western world is dictating what is beautiful, then it makes sense that Azealia can feel the pressure to assimilate.
Internalised racism and sexism is very real, it can be seen all around us. I’m not going to pretend that I agree with Banks. I don’t agree that skin bleaching can be conflated with weaves or relaxers, but I can agree that they are all products of the society that we live in. Banks’ isn’t the only celebrity to come into the limelight for bleaching her skin. Recently, Lil Kim, the rapper stirred the internet due to a series of selfies that shows how ‘white’ she has become.
Sad that people are making fun of Lil Kim but society is the factor that made her hate her skin pic.twitter.com/hUaqtw0dLQ
— morgs (@Yeahmorgs) April 25, 2016
People will go to hell and beyond to disprove this, but colourism is a blatant product of the white supremacist society we live in. We live in a society that teaches us to hate our skin, especially dark skinned women. Black women are also put in a double-bind; we are mocked for our natural hair but chastised for relaxing our hair. Similarly, Banks was ridiculed for her dark skin and now for lightening her skin. I am not advocate for skin lightning but honestly, black women just can’t win.
Moving forward, we have to turn our focus onto the next generation. We need to be the generation to call out this white supremacist society and make it a nicer space for young black girls to navigate. We must raise the next generation to have self-love. Azealia Banks asserted that ‘self-love means nothing’. This is a statement I wholeheartedly disagree with; self-love means everything. If the world doesn’t love us, who will? We are a generation of change makers, self-love has been the driving force of the natural hair movement, it has shone the light on black businesses, it has celebrated black women. There is still much more work to be done. We may be standing in the mud now, but at least we’re building the bridge for those to come after us.