Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Problem with your Crush on Lupita Nyong'o

By Ana

I apologize for the deliberately misleading headline. There is nothing wrong with your crush on Lupita Nyong'o. In fact, i'd be pretty suspicious if you weren't captivated (or more likely, discreetly aroused) by the 31 year old Kenyan-Mexican* Oscar winner

Beautiful AND likeable? What sorcery doth this daughter of Eve possess?

There is however,  something erm,  notably unique about the way the media has been treating America's latest sweetheart - particularly in comparison to the treatment of her predecessors. (Jennifer Lawrence comes to mind right now.) It's a kind of reverence that seems exclusively reserved for the (*lowers voice*) model minority.

Yes, I said it. And I think we all know what I mean now, when I refer to our collectively hushed tendency to view gifted people of color as rare exotic birds-- as opposed to the human beings they are.

"What are you saying Ana?" (I imagine some of you protesting) "That we shouldn't treat this exceptional woman with the awe and wonder she clearly deserves?" No, not quite, Eunice. I'm   saying Lupita's... not that exceptional.

aaaand cue the gasps of horror. 

I get where your white outrage is coming from. After all, it's not everyday you  (get to) see such a dignified,  beautiful, African goddess.

But this (clearly disturbing) fact is not due to Lupita's singularity, as much as it's a symptom of a white supremacist value system. Cause the funny thing about a racist power structure is that it seldom affords deserving women of color (like Lupita) with such a prominent platform to shine.

You see now? A sophisticated, talented black woman isn't such a rarity. And by treating Lupita as unusually extraordinary (for a dark skinned Kenyan) we're perpetuating the problematic** perception that qualities such as beauty, and grace are badges of whiteness to be selectively parsed out by powerful Caucasian overlords*** to their pigmented trophies of choice.

And for society to (however subconsciously) support that myth, is well, pretty blatantly racist--given that we live in a world that's virtually overflowing with black and brown talent. (at least at the same rate that it produces white talent.)

The real issue at hand is representation: Because if our culture was designed to accommodate a diverse body of  players; we wouldn't be so collectively taken by yet another beautiful actress.

So no, Lupita's not an exquisite gem. She wasn't forged by Hollywood from some colonized cultural void. More importantly, it's not her duty to successfully charm, and delight her many liberal "backers."

Nay, Lady Lupita is simply one of many gifted, beautiful, thoughtful artists of color. And while she merits respect and recognition, she doesn't deserve the kind of patronizing veneration we've all been showing her.

* She was born in Mexico, so... as far as I'm concern we  get to claim her too.
** I know I said i'd stop using the word "problematic." But it just flows so easily from my fingers.
*** The name of my all-female brass band.

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