At the top of the new year, Real Colored Girls have taken a moment to reflect on the metaphysics of realness, that is, how realness operates in the world and what, exactly, makes us so real. This year, one of our meditations will be around making distinctions between and within the multiple levels of realness that RCG engages in our pop culture political commentary. We’ve prioritized these levels of reality as: the Realest, the Really Real and the mere Real.
For us, the Realest represents the power structures that control the processes of creation and dissemination of Black women’s images that impact how we are perceived within the human cipher. The goal of our work is to disrupt the systems that construct and reiterate the stereotypes that make it possible for us to be interpreted, for example, as a deadly threat (in the case of Renisha McBride) or infinitely molestable (the alarming rates of sexual violence against Black women come to mind). The Realest is concerned with the ways in which hegemonic* archetypes of Black women exist in the cultural imaginary.
The Really Real is pronounced in, for example, our relationship to the Black communities defense of and/or continued acceptance of R. Kelly, or the way in which mainstream capitalist hip hop’s persistent degradation of Black women in its lyrics, videos and misogynist ethic has become, by now, an accepted cultural phenomenon. The Really Real is so because it is extraordinarily painful on both the material and psychic levels, and we see the daily impact of the degradation of our innocence, sexualities, bodies and self-esteem on both the girls and grown women in our ciphers. Moreover, we believe that there is a direct parallel between the way that black women feel about ourselves and our participation in the political processes that govern our lives.
The Real are those things that exist and impact us but, more often, they happen at a distance. This distance can be practical, physical, virtual, emotional and/or spiritual. Examples of the Real, in terms of pop culture issues impacting Black women, include:
whether or not Saturday Night Live hires a black woman for their show;
when white feminist bloggers like Meghan Murphy start an all-out Twitter war with women of color by belittling our cyber feminist activism and crying foul when we call them out for their bad racial politics; and
the brouhaha around Ani DiFranco’s wholistically wack organization of and subsequent sorry-not-sorry “no-pology” for the white women’s feminist song-writing retreat she scheduled to take place on a slave plantation.
Although these issues are real we find that they reflect race and engage Black women in ways that center whiteness, white narcissism, white denial, white guilt, white pathology and white uses of power. All issues deserving of critique, but not necessarily ones behind which we’ll throw the full weight of our intellectual and creative deconstruction.
Our creative energies are directed toward the ‘reinstatement of Black women to our original archetypes’. This intention is what distinguishes the ‘more real’ from the ‘less real’ for us. We’re not as much interested in bickering with white women or demanding that they or anyone acknowledge our pain, our beauty or our humanity. Our realness is located in subverting the systems that construct the dynamics of privilege that allow anyone to get cray then whine for forgiveness and unity when their shit gets called out. The amount of energy exerted in responding to the racial foolishness of white folk, in particular, is a reminder that we cannot continue to ask “how high” when they say “jump” on some crazy race bullshit – let them do that work. There is a critical mass of white anti-racists who have the capacity to call folk out on their problematic race shit. RCG calls upon Black folk to discontinue operating on the level of the mere ‘Real’ as this takes us away from the ‘Realist’ creative work of visioning new ways of living, being and healing.
From the bad behavior that some in our community be savin’ on, to the Ani debates, to white feminist fuck ups in general and the entire kitchen sink of white folks centering themselves in ways that don’t do anything for anyone: these are not the questions we are asking in 2014.
* Click here to learn more about our use of the term “hegemony.”