It’s 2018, yet, we live in a time where BLACK promoters, Black Comics and predominantly Black audiences, are still facilitating ‘Jamaica versus Africa’ comedy shows. But that’s okay, it’s just ‘bants’.
Where Black people still make judgements about one another based on their skin tone, their ass to waist ratio, the legitimacy of one’s ‘Black card’ for being clued up on popular culture and how ‘good’ ones hair is (subject to the level of concentrate of non-Black DNA).
A time when Ghanian v Nigerian Jollof is still a thing. Where people are often ridiculed for having strong accents from ‘back home’ and where we still mock African names we can’t pronounce.
According to unearthed, historic Tweets, Somali-Swedish Broadcast Presenter, Model and Brand Ambassador, Maya Jama (who also happens to be longtime girlfriend of Ghanian Grime and Hip-Hop Artist, Stormzy), made some disgusting, prejudiced, ableist and colourist remarks, circa 2012.
She was called out and she took to Twitter to apologise. Her apology was weak. It stunk of ‘If I appease everyone, I should be okay’. No! ALL Lives Do NOT Matter here – come again darling!
And come again she did. Jama offered an additional apology, stating that she knows she “could definitely have worded it a lot better.” She expressed regret at her actions and for further offending people.
In addition to scathing public opinion, there is also the factor of her partners Mother, Sisters and other relatives; holding such vile views, will no doubt not do her any favours, but somehow, I doubt they will be vilifying her to the extent that the public are.
Jama and Stormzy’s generation (she’s 23, he’s 24) seem obsessed with complexion; he speaks of ‘lighties’ often in his music, as do many of their peers. Lightskinned women are often applauded, lauded and put on a pedestal, whereas darkskinned Black women are usually reduced to body-parts, sexual references or mentioned as an after-thought
“Here for the lightskin girl with the big bumper, and the black bredrin with the breasts.” – Stormzy, Skengman 4 lyrics
So, this holier than thou rhetoric; this dragging of a then teenager (16 or 17 at the time of the Tweets being published), who said some truly fucked-up things, this call for her to be the scapegoat for every one of us dark-skinned women who are smeared on a daily basis for our melanin-rich complexion, is tragic and excessive!
I, like many, am sick to the back-teeth, of anti-dark-skinned Black women comments, memes and so-called jokes. They’re abhorrent, they’re cruel and, they hurt. Irrespective of age, profession and social standing, they still cut to the bone. Being a dark skinned Black woman is a constant, daily struggle. We’re bottom of the rung in a society that disses us at the drop of a hat.
However, this outrage seems a little off-kilter to me.
I’m reading comments and seeing social-media posts vilifying Jama on a level that has shocked and saddened me. Much of it, is in the guise of outrage, yet when read minus emotion, is actually coming from a deep-seated place of anti-lightskinism (not a real word, obvs).
I get it; over the years, we’ve been the butt of SO many sick and spiteful ‘jokes’ and comments, that this feels like sweet justice. We want someone to pay for all of that hurt. We want someone to suffer for all of our inflicted pain.
“Who does she think she is?!” Is a frequently lambasted question being bandied about, but I don’t think anyone asking it, has taken a moment to consider that maybe, just maybe, she’s still trying to work that out.
Was Maya Jama wrong for making those comments and posting those Tweets? Yes, unequivocally, but, can we all stop being hypocrites for a minute, orrrr, nah?!
When you were 17 years old and coming up, tell me you honestly never dissed an African class mate at college or school for the way they spoke, the food they ate or the clothes they wore. Tell me you never laughed at or mispronounced an African name. Tell me you honestly never dissed Somali’s or referred to them as some other race or sub-group of people that you didn’t consider to be Black.
Many of us are guilty of these things. Many of us have since grown-up, learned better so we could do better, studied our heritage and history, built friendships with people outside of our usual ‘just-like-me’ circles and understand that White Supremacy played a huge part in our everyday, cavalier relationship with self-hate.
We have progressed. We have grown. We are wiser, more educated and less ignorant. We wear African print garms and eat food from one another’s cultures. It’s cool; we’re diverse now. We blend now. We rate our own now, and we claim more than just the country or island we were familiar with whilst growing up.
The beauty is, we had space and time to do that; to adjust, to learn and to fix-up, without the incessant, savage nature of social-media flogging us with our previous, misjudged or spiteful words.
Following Jama’s double-apology, is she genuinely sorry? I don’t know. Will she learn from this episode? I strenuously hope so!
Unfortunately for Jama, her recently coveted BBC Radio One role and numerous brand endorsements, including her latest campaign around diversity, with cosmetic giant, Maybelline, now look to be in jeopardy.
Personally, I don’t think she should lose her job(s) or endorsements, rather, I think this is a great opportunity for Jama (and others), to re-educate themselves around colourism, pride in ones identity and heritage, but also, to consider that a life in the public eye means just that. Privacy is a thing of the past; the internet never forgets; a digital footprint lasts for life, not a London Fashion Week season.
Yes, Jama should be held accountable for her comments and Tweets, but the real question here is, what does accountability look like, in this scenario specifically, and what should be sacrificed to obtain it?
My friend wrote this. Good read.