Writing an article to accompany this photo set is a task I thought could be accomplished easily. I thought I'd sit here and write about how the most popular female singers of color are all to some extent an emulation of white ideals, and how the ones with a white parent are privileged over the rest. I thought about writing how the industry white washes "ethnic" girls so that they have just enough color to pass as non white, but enough floodlighting to remain non threatening. I find myself, however, out of my depth. There are not enough words to describe the anger I feel when statistics tell me that my demographic is being represented in pop culture - they are not a reflection of me, nor will they ever be. Being shown a single image of what women of color "look like" is insulting and the worst kind of manipulation of reality.
This is tokenism 2.0. Having women of color on top charts isn't going to take away the fact that their selling look is based on whiteness. Do not insult me by expecting me to be satisfied with the representation of BME women in mainstream media when they are purposely made to look nothing like me. I have nothing against hair treatment - except when it stems from wanting to conform to Western norms of beauty, which is most of the time. I have nothing against a female singer of color with blonde hair - except when it's all I see ever and it feeds into a pattern of pop culture white washing, which is most of the time.
Chances are you'll know most of the women in the photo set above. Chances are they are the first individuals that people think of when asked about female singers of color. They help perpetuate the distortion of race. A lot of people aren't even aware of the fact that most of these singer's hair is not actually theirs - just yesterday I was asked what a weave is and was met with shock when I answered that it's what Rihanna and Beyonce have on their heads - "I thought that was their real hair!" - not surprising at all given that most prominent pop culture black women will go through hell and back to make sure you never see what actually grows on their heads. I'm not condemning weaves, I'm condemning an industry which forces the women who part-take in it to alter their image in favor of constructed ideals. I'm calling bullshit to the fact that they are seen and sold as a standard of beauty that us women of color should look up to - yes, these are the women that we are ultimately compared to, leading not only to surreal images being sold to white people, but divisions being perpetuated among the dark races, always privileging the lightest tones.
Until we succeed in removing the racist oppressors from their media manufacturing throne, let's celebrate the talent and the beauty of the dark skin singing women who defy white washing and erasure.