Lil Kim shouldnt be blamed for her new, whiter, look | Patience Zalanga

Misogynoir, colourism and anti-blackness invade our lives every day. When I saw how Lil Kim had changed, I could only empathise

Amid all the black girl love emanating from Beyoncs brilliant video album Lemonade, Black Twitter blew up on Sunday in response to rapper Lil Kim revealing a new look on Instagram. After what looks like extensive cosmetic surgery to her facial features, lighter skin, and a straight blonde weave, she barely resembles the only woman to ever outrap Biggie on a track. The notorious K.I.M. looks white. There were mixed reactions from black social media users; some people made jokes and memes, some were simply mystified, and many reacted with pity. White social media was largely silent. I found myself oddly defensive of Lil Kims decision to alter her appearance. While not exactly endorsing her look, I could certainly understand it.

When I first saw the images of Lil Kim, I tweeted some thoughts I had about the role that misogynoir (the intersection of anti-woman and anti-blackness) plays in the way we black women and girls view ourselves. I was specifically addressing my own experiences with intraracial misogyny (black mens sexism toward black women) and colourism (the preference for lighter skin) in the black community in trying to comprehend how someone could so drastically alter her appearance. But that discussion, like the discussions around Lemonade, is a discussion for black people. Instead, Im interested in discussing the real roots of misogynoir, colourism, and anti-blackness. Im interested in discussing white supremacy and the monolithic European beauty standard.

You see, we live in a world where white is the default and black is the exception, the other. This holds true from television shows to beauty supply stores (when is the last time you saw a sign announcing White Beauty Supply?). The concept of impossible beauty standards for women is well documented, and it is especially true for black women and girls. We consume images that emphasise the Eurocentric beauty standard, which then notifies us about how our bodies are expected to engage in society.

Lil' kim
Lil Kim took drastic measures to alter her appearance and this isnt something to laugh or joke about. Photograph: Admedia/Sipa/Rex

Black girls are inundated with the message that they do not meet these standards of beauty from birth. Just ask any black young child what skin tone is best, and youll see how early anti-blackness is internalised. This is not a new phenomenon nor is it shocking to me. Every morning when I wake up, I am reminded that my body is not my own, that as a black woman, my body is a commodity. My agency in accepting and loving my black body is limited by the way society views that as acceptable. Can I wear my hair natural to that job interview? Will others find my round nose and full lips as beautiful as I have learned to? And every morning, it is a conscious decision to actively resist the temptation to believe that my dark skin makes me less beautiful or less desirable. But doing this every day is not always the easiest thing to do, especially when self-hate is compounded by internalised racism. There is no way to accurately describe how exhausting this process can be. So when I saw pictures of Lil Kims transformation, I could only empathise with her.

It would be unfair and unreasonable to put the onus of her transformation solely on her. To assume she had agency is to blatantly disregard the societal pressures of Eurocentric beauty standards and the intraracial colourism that happens within the black community. Lil Kims transformation provides a glimpse of the damaging effects it has on black women. She took drastic measures to alter her appearance, and this is by no means something to laugh or joke about. In a society that renders black womens bodies as commodities for white consumption, we black folks must critically assess our participation in misogynoir, as well as to ask why the acceptance that white beauty is the standard perpetuates.

Our goal should not be to shame Lil Kim, or to express concern for her mental health. Its far too late for that. Neither should white people be remotely confused by Lil Kims transformation. It is precisely the ever-present, pervasive message that white beauty is supreme, it is the institutionalised racism in white media and white institutions that directly lead to this. If watching the Black Girl Magic that permeates Beyoncs Lemonade was a beautiful example of how far we have come, then seeing the new-look Lil Kim is a reminder of just how far we have to go. This is the duality I experience every day as a black woman constantly searching for validation of my humanity and blackness.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/27/lil-kim-whiter-look-misogynoir-colourism-anti-blackness

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