Please Excuse My Blackness
Recently, I had a Facebook passersby (white person) comment to me, “Why are most of your models black? There are some pretty white girls that are big too. Just asking!” Now before I dive into this question, I will say first that I am black and biracial woman. My parents (white mom, black dad) are still married to this day and I was raised by both of them. I can honestly say that I do identify with black culture; this is common amongst biracial individuals living in the United States. It’s what I am most comfortable with, because regardless of my mixed heritage I will always be a woman of color and I experience life as such. With that being said, because I am biracial and I have lived with two different cultures in my household, I do think that I have perspective on both. I do recognize that all black people do not think the same and all white people don’t think the same, but I can recognize cultural similarities within each group. I also know that even though I consider myself a black woman, my experiences can still be different from a person that grew up with two black parents. I say all this to say, that I have nothing against any race, I try to judge people on their individual characteristics as opposed to stereotypes.
Now, I get a lot of comments, especially on Facebook and I read a lot of them too. I’m used to getting a variety of comments and such, but this one, I must say, I just couldn’t shake. There was also a commenter (white person) that came along in support the previous commenter and said,
“Great perspective. We all are ONE. Individuals, but sharing so much similarity. I LOVE your style, beautiful. After all, we are each gorgeous in our own right. Stay free!”
Me: This isn’t a page of models. It’s associated with my blog at www.garnerstyle.blogspot.com. Most of the images are me and I’m black. I share images of other blogger’s styles that I like. I don’t see color…I see style.
Now I’ve been thinking about these comments for a few weeks. They got under my skin for several reasons. The first being is that on any give occasion I do my usual rounds at the drugstore check out to pick up fashion magazine and there can be six different magazines with six different white faces on the cover. Now I wonder if any of these commenters went over to the Facebook pages of Vogue, Glamour, and/or Elle and commented on the similarity of their models. Did they ask why are there so few people of color on your pages? Why is diversity, in this case, only important when it comes to diversifying in the interest of a white person?
The second reason I was bothered with these comments is that I truly believe that the plus size movement has been built by the grassroots efforts of women of color. The majority of U.S. plus size bloggers are African American and Latina and two major movements in the plus size community, Full Figured Fashion Week and Plus Model Magazine, were both founded by women of color. Culturally, women of color are taught that nothing is wrong with being bigger/curvier, so it was almost natural that women of color spearheaded this movement. Now if you look at the major plus size online retailers, most of the plus size models that have the major contracts from major agencies and that you see from site to site are white. Now did either of these commenters ask any of these plus size retailers why are there so few plus size models of color on their websites?
My third reason for discontent was that the comments only talked about color, not style. One thing I pride myself on is that I share great plus size fashion and other types of fashionable imagery. I take pride in the imagery that I share. A lot of the fashion photos are my own, but when I do share another person’s photo it is because I am truly impressed. I’ve shared style on people that happen to be white, black, Asian, etc., because they looked awesome…nothing more, nothing less.
Finally, the thing that stuck with me the most is the phrase said, “sharing so much similarity.” Hmmmm. Now I could go a couple of ways with this. My first thought is to scream, “All black people don’t look alike.” That’s always the default, right? My second issue with these words is that there is an assumption that there isn’t diversity among black people. I know that some people may not take the time to know and understand that, but there is. Hell, there is diversity in me. On the rare occasion that I get to throw down my white card, the race that you want to be represented is technically 50% there. It may not look how you think it should look, but it’s there. In the same breath, diversity doesn’t always have to be chalked up to a skin color. For me, because my site is based on plus size fashion diversity, more than skin color diversity I share different body types from other bloggers, so that my readers can have a body type to relate to and to aid in dressing their own.
Believe me, I do understand where they coming from as both a black woman and a plus size woman. It’s important to see your images portrayed in media. While those two ladies wanted to see themselves on my little space on Facebook, I think their own prerogative didn’t allow them to think about what they were saying and maybe the insensitivity of their comments to me as a black fat woman who rarely sees her own imagery except on the Facebook page she calls home. This brings me to the t-shirt that I am wearing in the photo. The photo has Andre Leon Talley on the front. There are so many fashion icons that I love that are white, but their images are always in the forefront and easily accessible. It’s nothing for me to go to the local IKEA and get a picture of Audrey or Marilyn, but I have to search the earth to find imagery of Andre, Grace Jones, or Iman. I was so excited to purchase my tee shirt from Shopcandy and I commend Fashion Bomb Daily founder for making these available. Now I’m free to rock Andre or Audrey. In the end, it’s all about having choices. So to those two commenters, I say feel free to take what you need from my blog, but you should also research bloggers that you feel that represent you racially, because you will always have the choice to find your imagery in abundance. Me, on the other hand, I will have to take the images that I am rationed or create my own.