Is The Blue Ivy Backlash Really About Beyonce Or Blackness?
I must have retired under a rock after posting the photo of Beyonce holding Blue Ivy yesterday. I browsed the comments section later in the day and saw how nearly everyone remarked how much Blue looks like her daddy, Jay-Z, followed up with admiration for how adorable she is, but elsewhere on the net, folks were having a totally different discussion.
I wouldn’t have known had I not traveled over to Clutch and seen an article by Jessica C. Andrews questioning what the Blue Ivy backlash says about us. Her post subsequently took me over to Colorlines and a discussion on the same topic by Akiba Soloman, and between the two articles I came away with these startling reactions to the 7-month-old’s photo:
Beyoncé really screwed up, having a baby by Jay-Z. His nose and lips are never going to look right on a girl.
“Thats gonna be one ugly n****a baby with big A$$ lips and a dirty A$$ weave.”
Nappy-headed kid. Wish Beyoncé had married a nice-looking man instead of Jay-Z.
I’ll just be real about something for a minute. It’s a rare person that finds Jay-Z attractive outside of his money or status and I don’ think that has much to do with having so-called black features. A lot of people questioned how he could pull someone like Beyonce simply because she’s been painted as the most beautiful woman in the world, and him one of the most unattractive rappers on the scene. I’ve never taken the criticism against his physical appearance as some evidence of anti-black self-hatred, but more something to do with aesthetics; however the way in which people have criticized Blue Ivy because of the traits she shares with Jay-Z call that opinion into question.
Before anyone ever saw Blue Ivy, or even knew Beyonce would have a child one day, there were jokes about what their kid would look like because of Jay-Z’s strong masculine features but what there wasn’t at the time was derogatory comments about their child being a “n***a baby” because she might inherent his large lips, cheeks, and nose, or god-forbid his coarse, “nappy” hair. But that is where we sit today, criticizing a child because she doesn’t fit the same beauty ideal we criticize her mother of falsely living up to on a daily basis. How does that work?
Some commenters on Clutch felt a lot of the backlash is rooted in the general love-hate relationship people maintain with Beyonce. And I agree. On some level everyone is in awe of her success, her work ethic, and all that she has been able to attain but simultaneously we’re tired of having her accomplishments—including possibly her child—thrown in our face; and so, we lash out. But what’s telling here is that the comments aren’t of the usual “who cares,” “why should I care,” IDGAF variety. They are laced with remarks about her hair texture and characteristically black lips that insinuate some level of disappointment that after waiting for five months to get another glimpse of Blue since we first laid eyes on her button nose, soft wispy hair, and tiny lips, we were presented with a so-called nappy-headed baby who would no doubt be so ashamed of her hair texture one day she would have to wear weaves and who could never possibly be attractive because of her wide facial features. That’s just not a diss to Jay-Z or Beyonce’s choice in a father, that speaks volumes about our narrow ideals of beauty and how as much as we bash people whose style choices we think hint they don’t really want to be black, we don’t really want people—possibly ourselves included—to be black either. As Demetria Lucas wrote in her post on Essence:
“If some of us are very honest, we’ll acknowledge that there are only certain “Black” physical features that we as a collective find attractive. Curves? A blessing and curse. Full lips? Eh… depends on how full. Broad nose? On women, not at all. On men? Some get a pass, but not Jay-Z. Kinky hair? Not so much. There’s a reason most Black women “prefer” perms and even a lot of natural girls spend an inordinate amount of time and product trying to reconfigure their coils into curls.”
What’s unfortunate is that the parameters of what’s acceptably black are getting narrower and narrower and the age at which we start criticizing those outside of those boundaries younger and younger. I imagine there’s someone out there joking that Beyoncé should slap a perm on 7-month-old Blue Ivy’s curls to snatch that n***a texture out of it, though she’ll have to wait until she’s at least 16 or so to have that nose problem corrected. What a pity. And even then, the droves will be lined up to assert that she hates herself and her black features so she had them “whitened.” This from the same black people whose comments suggest they would likely do the same if they had the money, but for now they’ll just sit behind a computer screen taunting babies who hopefully won’t have access to this type of foolishness until they’ve come to a point in life where they’ve developed a healthy sense of self-esteem about their blackness in all its variety. No one says you have to think Blue Ivy is an adorable, cute, precious baby doll, but when you suggest that it’s her black features that keep her from attaining those titles, that’s when the problem goes way beyond hatred of Beyonce to hatred of self and possibly your own blackness.
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