Here’s Why It Ain’t Happenin’: An Answer To Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Question About Putting White Folks On Black Magazines

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Jada Pinkett-Smith has been raising lots of good discussions lately, unfortunately this new one is not one of them.

From Jada’s Facebook Page:

Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?

There is a question I want to ask today. I’m asking this question in the spirit of thinking outside of the box in order to open doors to new possibilities. These possibilities may be realistic or unrealistic. I also want to make it clear that there is no finger pointing here. I pose this question with the hope that it opens a discussion about how we can build a community for women based upon us all taking a deeper interest in one another. An interest where skin color, culture, and social class does not create barriers in sharing the commonality of being… women. With love and respect to all parties involved, my question is this…if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers? Should women extend their power to other women simply because they are women? To my women of color, I am clear we must have something of our own, but is it possible to share in the spirit in which we ask our white sisters to share with us? I don’t know the answer and would love to hear your thoughts.”

The snarky side of me is like, well, the way some of these magazines geared towards African Americans are going nowadays, they might as well start putting white women on the cover. However, Essence magazine’s internal politics is neither here nor there. The real question is, what the heck is Pinkett-Smith talking about?

Now I know there are a million and one reasons why we love Mrs. Pinkett-Smith. She’s a funky alternative married black chick with a rock band; who was in a Matrix sequel; and is courageously raising super free-spirited black children. However, I won’t lie and say that after reading her thoughts about integrating black magazines like Essence, I didn’t feel like saying, “Flower child, please go sit down and stop wearing rose-colored sunglasses at night. They are blinding you.” In fact, I’m pretty sure I did say that to myself. Nevertheless, it is Mrs. Pinkett-Smith we are talking about here. And we love her. Besides, she was brave enough to ask a question, which I am certain others have thought about as well. Therefore, I’m going to try my best to answer as thoughtful as possible. Feel free to expand in the comment section below if you feel so inclined.

Let’s address this idea which seems to permeate a lot of our thinking, particularly among the aspirational class. The idea that racism and all of this segregation between the races is just the result of a cause and effect situation. As such, black folks have an obligation to admit and own up to racism against white folks if we are to join hands collectively for a chorus of “We Are the World.” That is the post-racial and reverse racism talk that folks, including some of our own folks, are so fond of nowadays. If only reality was that easy. We could solve a whole host of discrimination and other social injustices in the world if people with darker hue would just stop doing what it is we’re doing to cause all this racism to happen to us.

Truth of the matter is that reverse racism is complete bullcrap. And I’m not so convinced about the concept of a post-racial society either.  I don’t have the column space to go through the history and development of the Western world, so for the sake of time, let’s just say that there have been socio-political constructs, which enabled folks of a lighter hue opportunities to amass power and wealth through the marginalizing and subjugating of people of a darker hue. These strategies have been reinforced through such tools as colonization, slavery, genocide and apartheid, the latter of which enabled the systematic denial of careers, educations, housing, land, resources and other basic wealth building to black people.

Therefore, many of these black publications came about in response to not only a visual need to present a more balanced version of beauty, but out of a response to an economic and professional isolation. These historically black publications gave black folks a voice in shaping what is fashionable and beautiful by way of employing predominately black men and women writers, photographers and decision makers who make up the editorial board. This is important to note as despite the continued breaking of color barriers on the covers and stages of some of the world’s most known media outlets, behind the covers is the shrill reminder that the national rate of black media professionals working in mainstream press rooms still remain below an already dismal five percent, this according to the National Association of Black Journalists. And as we are witnessing what is happening at CNN with journalists of color like Soledad O’Brien and Roland Martin getting pushed out, this situation for black media professionals doesn’t look all that promising in the new year.

In a perfect world there would be no need for Essence, Ebony, Jet or any other publication geared to folks of darker hues only, in this case, African Americans. However, we don’t live in the perfect world; instead we live in a world where all things are not equal. And as this entire society serves as a shrine to the white man and woman image, imagination and value systems, the only counter action is to acknowledge, uphold and in some cases create belief systems of our own. Now are the publications, which have charged themselves with carrying that torch always perfect in how they even represent us? No. And that is an entire new column topic right there. But if a black publication can not even encompass that basic missive of giving voice to a group, who have been continually denied access to historically white publications than it is no less racist. Because the backlash against a system that has oppressed people of color since its inception is not racist, it is justice.

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