Is Beyoncé Knowles' bleached blonde hair and light skin reason enough to accuse the singer of racial treason? Yes, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who just penned a piece in the Daily Mail about how Beyoncé is betraying black and Asian (meaning South Asian) women with her exterior.
One black friend of mine…saw the picture of U.S. singer Beyoncé at a pre-Grammy awards party," Alibhai-Brown writes. "Her complexion and limbs were translucently pallid, her locks long, straight and blonde. … Beyoncé's tone seems miraculously to be changing from dusky to peachy.
Doesn't this sound a little too familiar? Michael Jackson, anyone? And while the late King of Pop's skin tone really did lighten from dark brown to white—a transformation he said was due to a skin disorder—it's unclear whether Beyoncé's complexion has unnaturally lightened over the years. The before and after shots of Beyoncé that accompany the editorial show Jay-Z's main squeeze looking tan in one image and downright ghostly in another. But pictures aren't enough to make the call that Beyoncé is among the celebrities "trying to make themselves look white," as Alibhai-Brown suggests. The lighting, time of year, and makeup Beyoncé was wearing when both photos were taken could've made her skin look lighter or darker depending on these factors. As a woman of color, I can attest to this. My skin looks any number of shades in photos depending on the circumstances.
Alibhai-Brown, however, isn't interested in considering all of the reasons why Beyoncé's skin looks lighter. Instead, she chooses to spend her editorial claiming Beyoncé's light skin and hair are giving children low self-esteem. She mentions how her friend's daughter promptly announced that she wanted lighter, straighter hair after seeing the "after" pic of Beyoncé. Yes, this is all Beyoncé's fault and not the fact that the teenage girl lives in a village where "everyone else is white." Are we really supposed to believe that being raised in an all-white town never affected her but that the color of Beyoncé's hair led to the girl having an identity crisis? But it's not just Beyoncé Alibhai-Brown targets in her piece. It's Bollywood films starring actresses with light skin and eyes. These entertainers alone are ruining our children!
Look, I'm certainly not suggesting that popular culture has no impact on children. It obviously has a huge impact on children and adults alike. But it's irresponsible to suggest that a pop singer like Beyoncé is more at fault for children of color hating their dark skin than, say, British colonialism or parents who've criticized their kids' complexions. While Alibhai-Brown broaches these subjects, she devotes much more time Beyoncé-bashing than squarely placing blame where it belongs—cultural imperialism, white supremacy, and generations of internalized racism.
I'm not a Beyoncé fan. I much prefer her husband's music to hers. That said, I still think it's a bit much to accuse the singer of racial treason based on one photograph and whatever color her extensions happen to be this week.