Azealia Banks: Defends Skin Bleaching
Rapper Azealia Banks is no stranger to headlines and is known to consistently speak her mind. Whether it be an accurate portrayal of her opinions or rash decision making once threatened, her need to "defend" herself has ended in her being suspended from Twitter and becoming social media public enemy #1. Between her confusing public endorsement of Republican nominee Donald Trump and her flip-flop between advocating for the LGBTQ community then quickly turning to homophobic language, Azealia Banks is the quintessential young lady dealing with the prying eyes of 24/7 media coverage. Her behavior leaves too little to the imagination and often turns the otherwise sympathetic watcher to despise rather than adore her.
Recently, Banks has admitted to bleaching her skin. In a video posted to her Instagram, she queries:
“What’s the difference between getting your nose done and changing your skin color?” “What’s the difference between getting a hair weave and changing your skin color? Nobody was upset when I was wearing 30-inch weaves and tearing out my edges...”
To many who have followed her, this is contradictory. Banks has discussed the smudging of Black culture and the racism prevalent in American culture for years. To, now, lighten her skin and be proud of it just doesn't seem in tune with who she has publicized herself to be. Call me an Azealia Banks sympathizer, but what I see is a young woman who has gotten a realistic grasp of what it means to be Black in the United States: it's not a large serving of sweet potato pie (don't debate me, sweet potato is better than pumpkin), but instead it's an arduous journey to understanding that in order to even get a slice, she has to accumulate the ingredients with no grocery list, no money and certainly no oven to bake it in. It's a degradation to the human psyche, and unfortunately, only the strong survive. No one should have to live the reality of what it means to be sincerely oppressed, but a race of people have and the closer one gets to the truth the closer to insanity.
What is most disheartening isn't Banks' decision to bleach her skin but the pressure she must
be feeling to assimilate to European standards of beauty in the first place. Banks has proven to be intelligent and knowledgable on issues of race and racism as is indicated by her interview with the Breakfast Club. Her decision to whiten her skin, to me, seems the result of trauma and stress. Arguing that there isn't a difference between body modification and bleaching one's skin is the crux of Banks' argument--a weak one--one, I don't care to get into (but short answer: long weaves represent hyper-feminity, not whiteness; nose jobs, depending on the reason are the same).
Her double-consciousness is being tweeted and her struggles caricatured. Paul Laurence Dunbar spoke of the mask Black people wear in the United States and we're not all able to wear that mask successfully--and we shouldn't have to. Reactions to stress and oppression are easy to criticize. It's easy to hate the Clarence Thomas's, the Stacy Dash's and, I guess now, the Azealia Banks's because we think our reaction to our Blackness and the oppression that is coupled with it, is better, stronger, more admirable. But sympathizing with those who are struggling with identity, especially in the limelight, those who reject their Blackness because of the reality that it represents is more difficult. I think Azealia Banks needs a hug, a break and a sister circle. Either way, I wish her well.
See photos of Azealia Banks on her Instagram.
Ruth Jean-Marie is a graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it. Follow Ruth on Twitter and on Instagram.