Baiting Black Men: Exotic Friends and Ethnic Social Circles4/21/2013
I grew up all over the world. My father, a military aeronautical engineer and my mother, a cosmetologist, traveled from continent to contin...
I grew up all over the world. My father, a military aeronautical engineer and my mother, a cosmetologist, traveled from continent to continent, country to country, whenever the Air Force called. Born on Beale, Air Force Base—a small community near Sacramento—my sister and I soon found our toddler selves in New Jersey. Then Japan, England, and North Carolina. We traveled back and forth to the Maryland and Washington D.C. area for family visits, and traveled leisurely to Belgium and France. As a track & field athlete at Lakenheath High School, in England, I competed in Germany, Italy, and Spain.
As a girl, my two best friends were White and biracial. When I became a preteen, in Japan, I got close to a Hawaiian girl with a distinctive Filipina appearance and a Black Puerto Rican girl. For the most part, my choices in friends were simply representative of my environment. They lived across the street, or we had lots of classes together, or we just enjoyed compatible conversation. By my late teens, I’d accumulated plenty friends from varying national, ethnic, and racial backgrounds.
It wasn’t until I moved to the United States at age 15 that I was confronted with the concept of friends having a deeper, more emblematic meaning than, well—plain ole’ feminine companionship. As I aged, listened to music, and had conversations with Black men and women, I realized this theme, that Black people—women especially—with non-Black friends, were ideally superior or more attractive, intelligent, or worldly than those with less homogeneity in their social circles.
This theme is perhaps most vocalized in hip-hop, where various other ‘isms also find comfy homes. Along with mentions of friends also comes explicit identification of those friends’ races or ethnicities. In Ludacris’ ‘My Chick Bad’ remix, featuring Diamond, Eve, and Trina, Diamond raps, “Roll with bad bitches and they all look Brazilian”, presumably referencing the women she chooses to surround herself with. While ‘Brazilian’ is an ethnicity that a range of races self-identify with, Diamond assumingly refers to an “exotic” aesthetic that’s distinguishable from “Black”.
One wonders what compels Diamond to brag about having a social circle full of non-Black women. It’s safe to infer this behavior as covert baiting behavior. Analyzing the lyric for what it presents in plain daylight, either Diamond throws out a reference to her friends as way to reel in Black men who aren’t romantically receptive to the Black woman’s aesthetic, or she associates non-Blackness with success, stability, desirability, or beauty.
Nicki Minaj commits similar offenses. In Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ featuring Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj, Nicki raps, “Pull up in that monsta’, automobile gangsta, wit’ a bad bitch that came from Sri Lanka”. Then, on ‘I’m the Best’, from her debut album Pink Friday, Nicki also raps about new adventures made possible with money. She rhymes:
Might run up in Disney
Out in L.A. with Lindsay
A casual, less critical examination might write these lyrics off as attempts for young Black women artists to align with stardom and wealth at best, but historical trends in aesthetics and conversations on the blogosphere suggest otherwise. Reactions to my disclosure of having a fair-skinned Puerto-Rican best-friend are even more telling.
Then, in ‘Let’s Get Away’, TI raps about Brazilian women and their Black friends, “I'm chilling' with Brazilian women, heavy accents. They black friends translatin', got 'em all ass naked, ass chasing”.
T.I. mentions Black women’s translations for their exotic friends as if the newly open communication avenue is sexual opportunity for himself and his posse, confirming my previous suspicions that some of these friendships (or, lyrics about them) are in place to lure Black men into our scope—for attention or to feel just a smidgen of the desirability that these exotic women get to feel.
It seems that self-hatred and ethnic rejection has begun permeating perceptions of friendly relationships. If Black women can somehow break into non-Black social circles or attract non-Black friends, they’ve allegedly managed to move beyond typical, boring Blackness, into worldly, colorful diversity. Kind of like how, when some White people stumble upon Black friends, they view the relationship as a ticket into exclusive spaces where cultural language is used amongst friends.
Except, beauty and desirability aren’t exclusive spaces relegated to non-Black people, so logic that says non-Black friends are the only way to be perceived as such, is actually self-hatred projected into relationships.
Notice, non-Black women will never encounter similar issues, or at least not anytime soon. Sameness in White women’s friendly spheres is never indicative of unworldliness or other stereotypes. And White women surely aren’t mentioning their non-White friends to attract White men with Jungle Fever.
Black men also don’t suffer from these kinds of afflictions. Their friends, whether Black, White, Latino, or Asian, don’t represent their levels of attractiveness or economic class.
This trend presents a visible threat to friendships between Black women—especially more impressionable younger Black women. If our bonds with each other seemingly devalue our individual selves as beautiful, intelligent women, acts of love and camaraderie between become risky. This love and support between Black women friends is a thread that has forged a massive work of stability of resilience. Distancing ourselves from one another for increased romantic appeal represents an even more serious issue—or maybe it’s only mentioned in rap songs for sensational purposes. Either way, sisterhood is under attack. I have a feeling it’s strong enough to survive even the most virulent acts of aggression, though.
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Asia Brown is a culture critic, writer, and author. Her 2nd novel, White Girl Hair, debuts on July 6th. She is currently attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies, specializing in rhetoric, media studies, and popular culture. Follow her daily musings on Twitter: @AsiaBrown