Journalist and blogger Janelle Harris at The Stir recently posted a letter to rapper and producer Kanye West entitled Kanye West and I Will Never Get Married. Like myself, Janelle is a devoted and longtime fan of Kanye West. And like myself, Janelle decided to write an open letter to Kanye to express her disappointment in his massive backslide.
However, Janelle’s issue with Kanye stems not from his changing musical style or erratic behavior. Janelle calls Kanye to the table for his changing choice of women. As she muses, Janelle touches upon an often-discussed topic in some circles: colorism and the apparent exodus of black men via interracial dating and marriage:
My Dearest Kanye,
Eight years, six albums and several public fiascoes ago, I was introduced to you via “Through the Wire” and I was smitten — with your flow, your word choice, your honesty, your expressiveness…As you turned verses into albums, I really connected with not just your music but with you as a person, like kindred spirits…
So it’s been hard to watch you spiral into a stereotype that bulldogs so many Black men when they ascertain a high level of success: they dump us for the once-forbidden, still-taboo allure of the world of white girls and, if they aren’t quite bold enough to do that, they brandish the good ol’ fashioned colorism card that makes trophies out of light-skinned women. The more racially ambiguous, the better.
The bigger your name — and, can we be honest, your ego — got, the more you started interjecting little quips about race and complexion into your songs… I’m gonna need you not to be sucked into the played out patterns that too many big pimpin’ black men have perpetuated.
I understand that love can come shrouded in any color. Sure as I’m sitting here writing this, some sour commenter blinded by the overarching topic of interracial relationships is going to insist that it’s your right to date whomever you darn well please. And that it is, my dear. You certainly wouldn’t be the last brother to cross that color line and never come back… But the hem of your inner self-conflict is showing, and I think you can be saved.
The other day, my friends and I debated whether you would ever link up with another black woman…I’m wondering if a regular black girl or a chocolatey “Kelly Rowland” could ever be that masterpiece of perfection you like to praise…Look at a picture of your mama and tell me that you don’t find beauty in black women anymore…
I’ll always be a fan, Kanye. But I will be disappointed if you don’t put all that mouth to use to say something that the world needs to hear expressly said about black women: we’re desirable and sexy and art-inspiring, too.
While Janelle’s letter was well-written and honest, her concerns are not new and don’t look to be resolvable anywhere in the near future. As such, I’ve written my own letter in response to Janelle:
First of all, I love your letter. I was excited to have accidentally come across it; it could have been written by me. I relate to much of it — I’m also a diehard fan of Kanye’s and have been surprised at how quickly he changed once he became more well-known. I still have some faith, as you do, that Kanye can return to the old Kanye we once knew and loved.
But as I read past the first few paragraphs of your letter, I became less excited and more confused and a little dismayed. This sounds like something I’ve heard before, too many times before.
For the past few years (or past few decades), some black women have been urging black men to “Come back”. Back from their romances with the light and white women, to the brown-skinned black women who love them. And for the past few years (or past few decades), black men have answered with their words and actions — “No.” Janelle, I have to say that Kanye appears to be saying the same.
Kanye isn’t coming back.
Kanye’s given his response to your pleas with his choice of significant others since his rise to fame. Why are you ignoring it? As you have noted, not only has Kanye not made any attempts to reverse his emerging dating pattern, he’s increased it. No, Kanye is no longer interested in dating anyone with the features of his mother or the majority of black American woman. No, Kanye isn’t coming back.
More importantly, you don’t need him to. Black women do not need black men to validate their beauty — it is clear. They are quite beautiful on their own and others can see that.
You see, you simply can’t guilt or force black men into loving or marrying a “regular black girl”, and trying to do so will only backfire. Who will love someone who needs their constant approval?
And who will believe black men’s proclamations of the beauty of black women when petitions like yours litter the internet, TV, and other media outlets? Every time a Janelle Harris or a Jill Scott exhorts black men to “come back” and love black women, it’s saying that black women need to beg people to love them, because they won’t do so on their own.
If successful black men don’t see the beauty in black women who look like you, then forget about them. Someone does. Focusing your energies on people who, by every account, have shown that they aren’t focused on you, is an exercise in futility. Your time would be better spent on men who show interest in you as you are. Without you having to beg them.
Janelle, I speak from experience. You’re wasting your time worrying about someone who just isn’t interested. I understand where you’re coming from, but you have to loosen those ties — you and similar black women are not bound to black men and we can all see they are not bound to you all. For your happiness, love those who love you.