Matthew Knowles stepped on a landmine for Black folks. In an interview with Ebony Magazine to promote his book Racism from the Eyes of a Child a “ personal reflection on racism in America through a childhood lived through the country’s most separate past.”
During the interview, Knowles was asked about his family’s experiences with colorism to which he replied, “I have a chapter in the book that talks about eroticized rage. I talk about going to therapy and sharing–one day I had a breakthrough–that I used to date mainly White women or very high-complexion Black women that looked White. I actually thought when I met Tina, my former wife, that she was White. Later I found out that she wasn’t, and she was actually very much in-tune with her Blackness.” Knowles also stated that when they first met he thought Tina Knowles, his ex-wife, and mother of Beyonce and Solange, was a white woman. He took his statement about colorism further by stating that he didn’t believe that Beyonce wouldn’t have been as successful if she were a darker skinned woman.
Conversations about colorism for black folks is as old as America itself. A conversation that largely started with house vs. field slaves has carried on for generations. Whether it was A B. Sure being the king of the light skins or Wesley Snipes making dark skin cool again or they myriad of light skin vs. dark skin memes on social media. Colorism was treated to an entire musical number in Spike Lee’s classic film School Daze. It is a struggle within the community that has vacillated between comedy and civil war.
Matthew Knowles statements have resulted in what could be called a significant backlash against him. It is a backlash that at the very least I find disingenuous. After generations of American oppression, slavery and beyond, along with being fed a steady diet of European beauty standards how can one legitimately argue against the idea of colorism?
We lauded The Breakfast Club (again) for their handling of Amara La Negra during an interview where she discussed the very same subject during an on-air interview. We rightfully called out the likes of Charlemagne and DJ Envy as they actively worked to talk over and discredit her experiences in becoming an Afro-Latina entertainer. We related stories of being penalized for having darker skin and for wearing our hair natural. We applauded not only La Negra’s beauty and talent but her willingness to call truth to power in regard to the generally lighter hue of Latin and American female entertainers only to turn around now and shout down someone who is openly admitting to falling into the trap of being a colorist themselves. Why? To paraphrase Rod from The Black Guy Who Tips podcast, at some point it becomes less about what you believe and more about who you like.
Matthew Knowles is far from anyone’s favorite. Between an affair that resulted in a baby and his divorce from Tina Knowles, being fired by Beyonce for stealing money, the money grab where for just $199 he would teach you how to be the next great entertainer he is nothing to aspire to. But doesn’t allow us to move the goal posts on right and wrong. Our faves can’t always be right and our foes can’t always be wrong. It is this mindset that sparked much of the backlash against Mo’Nique and her call to boycott Netflix.
Is Beyonce a generational talent who has earned all the money and accolades she has received in her career? Yes. Did she benefit, at least a little, from the fact that is light skinned? Also yes. It isn’t her fault. There isn’t a light skinned Illuminati pushing her forward. It’s just a matter of historical and verified fact that light-skinned people have certain advantages due to bias. To deny this is to deny everything we cheered about Amara La Negra just a couple of week ago.
I am a light-skinned man helping raise a light-skinned son. I have felt and seen the benefits of being light skinned. I have seen how white and black folks treat my son differently. I have heard the stories of how his mother who is darker, has been mistaken for being the nanny. I have heard the affects and effects of colorism from my family and friends. It exists and it matters. We can’t lose the message because the messenger isn’t perfect. We as black folks know that better than anyone.
You can find more on my thoughts on colorism on spnwrites.com.
What are your thoughts on colorism, Matthew Knowles, and Amara La Negra? Comment below.