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I'm not mad at Azealia Banks

Driadonna Roland

 // Jul 6, 2016

Cassandra Hannagan // Getty Images

Between going to Twitter jail and endorsing Donald Trump for president, Azealia Banks has found time to lighten her complexion. She's like, I bleach my skin and you wear a weave; girl, what's the difference?

One gathers from her 21-minute Facebook Live video posted Friday (July 1) that she sees actual logic in what she is doing. She considers herself lucky to have enough money to buy the right products because in her words, "It's all about doing it right and getting the right things so you don't look like chalk or whatever."

In Banks' mind, lightening skin is: a) a common thing that all ethnicities do, b) no different than applying acne medication or getting a chemical peel, and c) a natural step in black people's history of assimilating to white culture, just like speaking proper English.

That's the part of black beauty we don't talk about. Black women's beauty is more than "magic" and deeper than being "lit." It is a daily journey through the minefield of misogynoir, the crossfire black women live in where racism and sexism meet. Every black woman in America navigates this terrain in her own way. So if you praise Nicki Minaj, a woman who noticeably manipulated her body to embody certain beauty ideals, and if you praise Solange because you think she rebels against them, then you must also accept Banks for making a decision to conform to them. It's easy to see how she got here.

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"If I weren't rapping I'd be an actress or something, or a chef"

Black beauty is amusing to other people. It was displayed in freak shows in Europe in the 1800s, when white men made money off Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman's large behind.

Black beauty is confusing. When black women wear cornrows, a cultural hairstyle that predates even our arrival in America, they get called "ghetto" or "unprofessional," but when a Kardashian sports them, she gets to rename them the "KKW Signature Braid" and charge white women to learn the style.

Kim Kardashian, Cornrows & Afros

Black beauty is puzzling. Black women get teased for having big lips, but when a white teen injects her lips to appear full, she starts a viral trend, (#KylieJennerChallenge) and commodifies our body parts with a lipstick line, and then rappers sing her praises. As Madeintyo says in his hit "Uber Everywhere," "Shorty bad as hell, yeah, with them Kylie Jenner lips."

As Banks says in the Facebook video, "Blackness in today's age is paradoxical. It's just so many different things." Whether you agree or not, you have to excuse her confusion — she got it honest.

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving could be a contemporary for Banks, in a climate where athletes and entertainers date each other all the time, like his teammate Iman Shumpert and singer Teyana Taylor. But instead, Irving celebrates winning the NBA championship by throwing a literal all-white yacht party, where black women were reportedly not allowed. It is a mindf--k when your brothers, the men who share your brown skin, deem you as unbeautiful and unworthy, while the world tans to look like you, steals your hairstyles, copies your slang, and tries to buy your booty. So forgive Banks if she says f--k it and throws in the towel.

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The Breakfast Club

Banks said that bleaching her skin is "a continuation of the falsification of self that comes with being a black person in America." Maybe one day she'll decide that authenticity is better than falsification. Maybe on that day it'll be too late. But until then, let that girl live because she's finding her way the best she can in this paradoxical world she was given, just like you.

Watch her explain it in her own words below:

Video
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