Can We Talk About This?: Racism, Creativity, and Blood Orange

By: Nadia D.

Jul 16 2015

Category: Uncategorized

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Devonté Hynes – aka Blood Orange

Blood Orange – “Do You See My Skin Through The Flames?”

British artistic genius Dev Hynes has chosen to use everyone’s favorite medium, the Great Unifier, the ultimate of ultimates, MUSIC to address a social hot topic of the ages — Racism.

Does that scare you? Maybe it should.

There is a voicemail recording before Dev’s personal monologue begins, outlining a personal story relating to the “latent” racism ingrained in our culture. This particular occurrence was even described as having taken place in PARIS, a country we as Americans do not necessarily recognize, maybe, as having such issues. Shocking, no? It caught me a little off-guard!

When Dev’s monologue DOES begin, may I just say his accent is extremely attractive, my heart sinks a little. Here is a well-respected singer, songwriter, composer, producer, pianist, &, &, &… addressing the slave ties of his surname. (Spoiler: O’Haines, the Irish meaning, is “servant.”) This man, this great man, is reducing his being to a surname for the illustrative purpose to shock us, a bit, into seeing how very assimilated this idea of inferiority of the colored man (and woman) really is. Do you see it?

I identify with this in some ways. Many of you will not know this, but I am biracial. Technically, truly, I am half Trinidadian with African, Spanish, (Asian) Indian, and Greek lineage, but I grew up believing I was strictly black and white. I didn’t know the difference, and I quite like keeping my “introductions” uncomplicated and painless. However, in that vein, introducing oneself as biracial is a risk. It can literally be polarizing. Either people with accept you or they won’t.

If you have not experienced the invalidating normalization of having another person tell you, “No, you can’t be half black,” then I can’t expect you to understand fully. Let me tell you, it’s heartbreaking.

“But you look so white!”
“But you have colored eyes!”
“But you’re not REALLY black.”
I’m using my therapy words here: HOW INVALIDATING.
Simply because I do not look black, yet I identify because it truly is a part of my heritage, doesn’t mean that I haven’t, too, experienced opposition. I feel like many biracial or multiethnic, multiracial individuals will also identify with the fact that sometimes you’re simply not accepted because you’re not “enough”. As in, not black enough, not white enough, not Spanish enough, not… whatever.

Listen, the Charleston tragedy (which is the inspiration for Dev’s piece) is, quite simply, a symptom of how toxic this idea that we live in a post-racial society has become. In reality, latent and blatant racism are running rampant thanks to this Internet culture we’ve fostered. Included in that, think about those negative, neutral, and even positive stereotypes you place on certain ethnic groups or races. These. Things. Matter.

Things I admire to the core of this track are: 1) it’s personal and heartfelt, 2) it’s not focusing on fixing the society we’ve perpetuated, and 3) it’s positive. He takes responsibility for himself and himself only.

“Learn to speak.”/”I’m proud of it. I’m gonna reclaim it.”/”Refocus.”

Meditate on it. Please feel free to discuss.

Peace and love, friends. ♥

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