Tyrese Gibson found out calling someone “#MyBlackQueen” doesn’t guarantee a royal reception.
Earlier this week Gibson received a lot of backlash after unveiling his lovely (she’s easy on the eyes) and educated (check her LinkedIn profile) new wife, Samantha Lee aka Samantha Schwalenberg (right).
The couple allegedly got married in a “secret” ceremony on Valentine’s Day. But congratulations to the newlyweds were quickly outshone by the growing hums of the collective “really????” created by Tyrese’s declaration of his wife’s “#MyBlackQueen” status.
Samantha, who is fair-skinned but obviously a woman of color, definitely fits into the ’90s-’00s video lead model box. Long, wavy hair? Check. Racially ambiguous? Check. Size 6. Double check. We all know the drop of Black rule, so no one can challenge that bride Gibson is part of the home team. In fact, the reality is that racism and colorism make her looks equal parts burden and privilege depending on the room she enters.
What is offensive is the manner in which Tyrese attempted to manipulate the masses. What is hilarious—besides the fact that he thinks he needs to have a “secret”wedding—is that he believes a declaration from him makes something so. Most of all, what is sad is that he has either absolutely no insight or awareness of the root of why using #MyBlackQueen was more than a not-so savvy pr move but a brazen insult to major part of his core fan base. Since ignorance is bliss, here are some things to Mr. Gibson—and those who think like him—should consider.
#MyBlackQueen isn’t just a hashtag. Being Black is about more than how you self-identify (or the label your husband gives you)—you can’t Dolezal it in. African-American women, regardless of hue, share an experience that is both unique and individualized, but also universal (pretty complicated but sistas get it). The key unifying component is that at certain points on the journey of life racial, cultural and regional experiences intersect in way that is uniquely “Black woman”. Even more, the term #BlackQueen also denotes an appreciation for the regal manner in which African-American women as a whole have shouldered everything from systemic oppression to the appropriation of Black female beauty sans participation. It pays homage to an experience. It affirms an aesthetic. It’s a celebration of all things African and feminine.
Honesty beats arrogance. The reality is there may have been some flack for marrying a woman who has the stereotypical “exotic” appearance celebrated in Hip-Hop videos over the past decade, but defining a woman by a label one deems more acceptable is even more insulting because it assumes that others will have no opinion other than what you have to say—which we see isn’t true. Another option? Being truthful without trying to dictate and manipulate how others should feel or what they should think. For example, a comment such as “Meet my new wife,” would have been sufficient. Obviously, Tyrese had some apprehension about how his bride would be received, so another option could have been to add: “For those who want to know…she’s Ecuadorian, Jamaican, etc...”. Basically, instead of trying to control and contrive the narrative just share the truth.
Understand that every identity a woman has impacts her. Mainstream societal privilege is very real—and so are the hang-ups that have been passed down to African-Americans. Women—and men— who are darker complexion often face the bias of being seen as “less than” while those who are fairer frequently share stories of being ostracized by other Black folks. That’s not the only issue. Body shape holds privilege. Weight holds privilege. And lets not even go into socio-economics and privilege. The bottom line is this: Making statements about a mixed-race, petite, educated woman being the epitome of #MyBlackQueen may work for a person in obscurity but it holds a lot of weight for any individual with more than 5,000 followers nowadays.
Your choice in mate says a lot. You can absolutely love who you want. And yes, it can be an absolute coincidence that Tyrese, a darker-skinned male chose a fair-skinned woman—but we’d have to temporarily suspend the four-plus centuries of oppression and racism Black people have endured and focus on love to do so. Okay, let’s give it a go…
Everyone has the right to meet and decide to build a life with whomever they choose. Much of attraction is organic. We connect with folks on different levels. And, sometimes, we tend to be attracted to certain qualities, attributes or aesthetics. But—here’s where we get back to keeping it 100%—self-awareness comes in when we can take an honest look at the whys—like why both of the women one chooses to make the ultimate commitment to are on the same side of a brown paper bag. Mates are in many ways a reflection of our standards, beliefs and wants. And that cannot be re-imagined with a PR spin.