An Open Letter To Raven-Symoné

Photo Credit: gabsgomez via Flickr

Photo Credit: gabsgomez via Flickr

Dear Raven-Symoné,

You don’t have to coon like this…

*Side note on my use of the word “coon” since I don’t want to be problematic. In this context I’m using the word to describe a person of color whose sole purpose is to entertain white people. The term has historical connotations. This blog defines the term and it’s history well.

Raven-Symoné is a black woman, hails from Atlanta, GA, the black Mecca of America, grew up on The Cosby Show perhaps the most black centric show in history, and has seemingly normal parents who raised her as a black woman. So why is she saying stupid shit that is damaging to the black community that *used to love and adore her. I say used to because I think a lot of black people are tired of her, but also feel sorry for her. Cooning is honestly sad, and reflective of self hate.

Let’s discuss her first faux-pas. Back in 2014 Raven sat down for a now infamous interview with Black Female Billionaire Oprah Winfrey. At the time, Raven had just publicly come out as a lesbian and Oprah asked her if she wanted to be labeled “gay.” Raven responded, “I want to be labeled a human who loves humans, [and] I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American; I’m not an African-American, I’m an American.” She also said a couple of other things and then another big thing, “I am an American, and that’s a colorless person.”

Yikes. (That was actually Oprah’s initial response/warning, “don’t set the twitter on fire.”) Set “the twitter” on fire she did. Black twitter came for her with vengeance, and rightfully so. I can completely understand being tired and frustrated with the endless labels that come with being out of the “norm” in society. I get it. It’s frustrating when my white friends introduce themselves to people and it’s just that, an introduction. For me, an introduction to someone new is a dive into my racial makeup, “what are you????” they ask as if I’m some alien species. Though I do not identify as queer, I can understand why it would be annoying to have to identify as such. Why can’t we just all be “humans” and transcend the bounds of color, gender, sexuality and whatever other label people want to paste on our foreheads?

Here’s why. WE ARE NOT CHEESE. WE CAN NOT BE MELTED AND BLENDED INTO ONE DELICIOUS POT OF MEGA CHEESE. America is not a melting pot and we do not live in a post racial society. Feeding into the whole “I don’t see color” mentality does not help to end racism at all. If you “don’t see color,” you are privileged. You live in a position where the color of your skin does not define who you are, and you are lucky to be able to live that way. Erasing color erases the unique situations people of color face in life. We are forced to see color because the colors we wear on our skin everyday have certain stigmas attached to them that we can’t seem to shake. Black men have to see color because they cannot walk down the street in a hoodie without being stopped and searched. Black trans women have to see color because they are targeted and murdered at alarming rates for living in their skin. All people of color feel the color of their skin, the slant of their eyes, the kink in their hair, the religious clothing they wear, being judged and scrutinized the second they walk into a room filled with non people of color. Suddenly they are the minority in the room, and whatever it is that makes them the “other” is leading to their subjugation within that room.

Refusing to see color is lazy, and frankly, when people say it they sound like complete condescending asshats. I understand wanting to judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, but it’s not realistic. It’s also kind of rude to assume that people of color don’t want to their skin color to be part of their identity. Not seeing color assumes that there is something wrong with the color that is being erased by that stupid statement. What is wrong with color? Black is beautiful and comes with a rich and proud history that did NOT begin with slavery. Some people may argue, “we are all humans.” Yep, we are, and some of us are black humans, brown humans, tan humans, and despite all the injustices we have faced, we are proud of the skin we are in.

Modern Day Stupidity

Since that incident, Raven has gone on to say some even more ignorant things. She has recently been appointed young-ish token black on The View. A morning talk show that I just can’t grasp my head around. Barbara Walters, you are an icon, why did you bring this trash to my TV? Seriously, what credentials do these people really have to be discussing most of the issues they discuss? But anyway, here we have Raven as a representative of the black community on the view, because people of color don’t have the luxury of denouncing/distancing people from our communities, if they’re black they unfortunately represent all of us no matter what stupidity comes from their mouths. (Example, when brown people engage in violence, all brown people are deemed terrorist, when a white person engages in violence not all white people are deemed violent, the aggressor is a “lone” shooter, mentally ill, etc.) She uses this platform to appeal to white audiences, totally dismissing and antagonizing the audience that she actually represents.

More recently she has said two things that have angered the black community enough for someone to form a petition (https://www.change.org/p/barbara-walters-petition-to-remove-raven-symone-from-the-view) to remove her from the view. The first comment was “I’m not gonna hire you if your name is Watermelondrea.” OH PLEASE, RAVEN- (emphasis on the hyphen) SYMONÉ. Your name is stylized and non-traditional. On this particular episode your hair was dyed bright red and styled into a mohawk, but you wouldn’t hire someone named “Watermelondrea.” Who is to say Watermelondrea isn’t just as qualified as Tim? You know what, let me not even get started with the names because I can talk all day about how society has conditioned us to think Tchaikovsky, Michelangelo, Aristotle are cool names, but Watermelondrea isnt. Basically, what Raven said hurt. It hurt because black people face so much discrimination from people of other races that it hurt to hear the same type of discrimination coming from “one of our own.” Raven did apologize for her words, but honestly the damage was done. Her true feelings were shown.

The second problematic thing Raven said were her comments after the violent arrest of a young black teenage girl in South Carolina. After discussing the video, Raven said,

“My mom always taught me: I was born this color, I’m gonna have to deal with the things that are happening, and you come together and work it out. But when I’m in a situation, I definitely don’t want to cause worse things to happen to me. It sucks sometimes.”

What she failed to do was address the systems at work that allowed a grown ass man to come into a high school, what is supposed to be a safe place for students, and violently arrest a young woman who was not causing physical harm to anybody at the time. Instead she blamed the victim. Saying, “when I’m in a situation, I definitely don’t want to cause worse things to happen to me” in regards to this situation, is no different from blaming a woman for her own rape and saying something along the lines of “she shouldn’t have been drinking or wearing that dress.” Even if the girl did something wrong, at the end of the day she is a child, one that is suffering after the loss of her mother and grandmother and who could use a little empathy, not physical harm.

Raven is ignorant, point blank period. Instead of use this platform she was gifted to uplift people of color, she is using it to cause harm instead. I’ll say it again, when people of color are put on these platforms they are representative of the black community as a whole, and the self-hate that Raven is spewing is not indicative of the black community as a whole. It’s honestly sad. It is clear to me that Raven has not learned how to love and accept herself as a black woman, and I hope that one day something will click and she will be happy in her own skin. Until then, sign that petition to get her kicked off The View. As a matter of fact lets create a petition to get the view and all of the other awful day-time television shows taken off the air forever.

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