Last week, Raven Symone got owned by Ann Coulter.
A strange occurrence, but it was entirely necessary.
The incident came after a series of remarks that Raven Symone had to say on “The View,” where she is a co-host. The women were discussing a study that showed Americans make racist conclusions based on names. The show played a YouTube video that documented the top 50 ghetto names, which is what prompted Raven to make her bogus statement about not hiring someone with the name “Watermelondrea.”
So when conservative social and political commentator Ann Coulter called her out on her own ignorance, we weren’t the only ones taken by storm, or perhaps applauding when this happened:
But now that she’s been shut down by Ann Coulter and a whole lot of black people on the Internet, we have to take a look at the real issue here. And it’s a lot deeper than Raven Symone not wanting to be black.
There are a couple problems with this story already. The first issue is that the producers of the show didn’t think it would be problematic to preview the very racist video where two non-black teen boys essentially mock black culture by exaggerating non-existent “black” names, like “Fri’Chickenisha” and “Grapedrankisha.”
The second problem is that they introduced the study into the discussion and missed an opportunity to shed some light on the problematic findings, or at least inspire some dialogue. Whoopi Goldberg ended up laughing so hard at the video that she could barely introduce it and Raven Symone referred the two stars of the video as “my boys.”
After the showing of the video, Raven Symone made the following statement:
She immediately laughs off the comment and proceeds to ask, “Is that mean? Is that mean?”
Her immediate need to look around to the panel and seek approval and validation for her statement is very telling. And it highlights the third problem, the biggest problem there is. And it’s got a whole lot of elements and layers to it so let’s try and break it down.
Over the last year, Raven Symone has landed herself in some hot water over some unguarded remarks she made about, well, everything.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the two discussed labels. Raven stated that she didn’t want to be labelled as “gay,” and that she didn’t want to be labelled as an “African-American.” According to her, she is an “American.” And that’s that.
Earlier this year when someone said Michelle Obama looked like she was a cast member for “Planet of the Apes,” Raven concluded that “some people just look like animals.”
Did you catch her saying “Is that…” How much do you want to bet she was going to ask if that was mean again?
And of course, Raven Symone spoke out about why Harriet Tubman shouldn’t be on the $20 bill, though adding that she “understands the history” and is “in that culture.”
The third problem is that people like Raven are under the impression that if they disassociate themselves with black stereotypes, then they will be more favorable in the eyes of a society that favors non-minorities. They’re constantly looking to others to validate their behaviour, like when she asks, “Is that mean? Is that mean?”
The problem is, she’s not asking her black peers if what she said is mean. She’s asking Whoopi Goldberg, who found the video so funny she could barely introduce it properly, and three white women, one who claims she would be a “beautiful King’Kongisha.”
By stripping yourself of your black identity and then looking to non-minorities for acceptance and validation by generating negative stereotypes, you not only perpetuate the stereotypes that, in spite of your best efforts, will still phase you because you’re still black. But you also project a certain demeanor of self-hatred to the rest of the world, validating much of the institutional opposition that has, will be, and is currently in our way.
The other question that comes from this situation is whether Raven Symone is responsible for being an ambassador and a role model.
A few years ago, Rihanna made remarks about not wanting to be responsible for being a role model just because of her fame. She wanted to do what she wanted to do without being ridiculed for how little girls might take it. The key difference between Rihanna and Raven is that Rihanna has never denied her ancestry.
In fact, Rihanna constantly pays homage to her Barbadian heritage. She flaunts her Kadooment costumes on social media every year, recently she brought Lead Pipe and Saddis, two local musicians from her island to New York for her perfume debut, and she has incorporated her heritage into her music. And Raven? She doesn’t even know that Africa is the continent.
So let’s go back to that thing I said about the questionable judgement of the show’s producers.
One thing we need to be asking is why Raven Symone was picked to co-host? There were others in the running for this position, like Mario Cantone. But how peculiar that a few months after her controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey, and a few months after making remarks that justified someone saying the First Lady looks like an ape, she is deemed the lucky replacement of Rosie O’Donnell.
Was it just a smart move on behalf of the show producers? Did they know that by bringing Raven on board they’d be back in the spotlight with good ratings, even if it is in the form of dummy of the week segments?
The bottom line is, being a minority on this program creates a moral conflict. That is, if she has any morals. Raven Symone is working for a show where a person of color is the butt of a lot of the jokes. But she doesn’t know that because she thinks she’s projecting those jokes away from herself and onto her peers. But in the eyes of our society, she is the joke.
Raven was signed on to the show for her outspokenness. But if she spoke out about black issues and social justice as much as she did on how disassociated she is with her people, she would be having to choose between her livelihood and her identity. But given her confusion about that identity, it’s safe to conclude that these are decisions Raven isn’t concerned with anyway.
For a lot of minorities and people of colour who work anywhere from a local store to the Hollywood studios, we struggle with being accepted or being favorable. Rarely is it ever both.
But for people who understand all too well the issues that have plagued us, they know the value of a black voice. Especially when that black voice offers a narrative of truth, a narrative of hope, and a narrative of change. We cannot escape our blackness, it follows us wherever we go. It is with us in the gas station, the classroom, and certainly our workplace where we address millions of Americans. Especially where we address millions of Americans. Even if that address is governed by a group of non-black producers.
And especially when that address is governed by a group of white producers.
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Can I just suggest to the author Stephanie that it’s a little problematic writing about race and then having a culturally-appropriated outfit as your profile picture.?
Heather, you’re absolutely right. I had some issues updating my photo and for the past four years my profile picture captured me at a catering event that required we dress up like that. Thank you so much for the suggestion. The picture has been changed. Stephanie
can I just suggest we stick to the topic at hand…