Why I’m Not Salty About ‘Otis’
Imani Jackson is an award winning journalist and a mass communication senior at Grambling State University. She has been editor-in-chief of The Gramblinite newspaper for two years. Follow her @faithspeaks on Twitter.
I’m a Blackety Black woman who took no offense to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Otis” video.
When “Otis” premiered late last week I laughingly watched it with my brother and mother. We commented on how youthful and exuberant the rappers looked.
My Twitter timeline predictably reflected messages of dissatisfaction from many Black women who felt overlooked by the choice of models in the video.
“Otis” did come on the heels of Tyrese’s “I Gotta Chick” video and the subsequent controversy from said video not including enough women deemed Black enough for comfort.
It is worth noting that when many celebrities, especially Black men, achieve a certain level of status audiences begin to see less and less unquestionably Black women in the picture.
Black women are often vilified, scrutinized and negated in the media. We know this. As women facing the ills of sexism and racism, our struggles are often intensified by colorist encounters and internalized racism.
Yes, the media does play a role in the self-esteem of masses. Yes, we receive mixed messages about beauty ideals and self-worth, but these messages are not limited to Black women.
Many women of other races see people who resemble them in the media, but where skin color is not an issue, weight, hair color and other variables often are. I have heard White people put blondes on pedestals similarly to how many Blacks revere light skinned people.
While it would be awesome if the media worked toward more inclusive pictures of beauty, chances are we already know our terms of engagement.
And it seems that some sistas want to be upset. Complaining about instances where we are not picked negates the times that we are. It is also an energy allocation issue. Time spent in woe cannot be exchanged for hope.
We must decide that we are beautiful and support each other in painting diverse pictures of that beauty.
We must purchase products equally or more when the model is of an unquestionably Black African phenotype. We must not hide in e-cowardice and leave self-hate comments on websites when we see Black women in the media.
We must tell our daughters, sisters, mothers, cousins and friends that they are worthy and treat them as such because society will send enough problematic messages.
Video model selection is a prime example.
Racially ambiguous and non-Black women are disproportionately featured in rap videos.
As a result, image issues are sometimes cultivated within Black women.
I know from experience. I used to do the whole watch 106 & Park, then get insecure spiel.
I wanted to resemble the so-seeming love interests in popular videos. I remember tear-laden conversations with my parents about my physical appearance.
In the grand scheme of things, what really are video models’ significance to us? If we don’t allow them to be safety pins in our ballooning self-esteem, their appearance cannot pose a threat to us.
Society’s struggles with categorizing and providing equal exposure opportunities for women of darker skin are apparent in the fashion industry, telenovelas and Bollywood.
The effects of colonization thrive within many cultures; however, we can counter them with purchasing power and liberated views of self.
When darker women of color grace fashion magazine covers, I am not only more inclined to purchase them, but I also participate in conversations about how the beauty industry must reflect the browning US and globe.
As for “Otis,” I’m so much more intrigued by the happiness on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s faces than I am by the skinny, beige women showcased in a tricked out luxury vehicle for the video.
As an aside: It’s more interesting that they publicly date (and in Jay-Z’s case marry) Black women than showcase them in every video.
To my sistas, more Black women must develop a comfort with who and how we are, so that we don’t leave our self-esteem in the hands or director’s chairs of others.