New Black

“I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American.”… “I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person”.
— Raven-Symoné

“The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The New Black dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.” producer and rapper Pharrell Williams said to Oprah Winfrey in the spring of 2014.

In a critical article on Pitchfork.com, Safy Hallan Farah expands on the effects this statement has. “Pharrell’s remarks floated around ideas about being black—”our issues,” our “pigmentation,” our pesky way of “working against” ourselves. These ideas put the onus of racism on black people. While Pharrell likely believes he was imparting wisdom, rather than being condescending, his words still stunk of the familiar “pull up your pants” stench.”

…”new Blackness sees itself as a psychic departure from (old) blackness with the undersurface argument being that victimhood and survival are two sides of the same coin but one of the sides, victimhood, is embossed with an old white man’s face. New blackness seeks to replace the old white man’s face with the black faces of black entertainers who have magically transcended their blackness through the act of becoming richer than many rich white people.” Entertainers as Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé, who can not be categorized within the stereotypical framework because of their transcendence of blackness. This “new black” is a desire to elevate to the “talented tenth.” According to Hallan Farah, this elevation is feigned, a mentality more than a reality.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey Raven-Symoné (October 2014) states another definition of “New Black”. “I don’t want to be labeled gay.” she says, “I want to be labeled ‘A Human who Loves Humans’. I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American.”… “I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person”.

“They hinge on outmoded capitalistic ideas that uphold whiteness as aspirational. The blackness-affirming pushback from other artists like Azealia Banks and J. Cole is essential in 2015; while the dream of New Blackness—a life where we float free from everyday American racism, wholecloth spiritual re-invention—is a fun dream to entertain, it’s a dream that comes at the expense of Regular Old Blackness.”

Safy Hallan Farah, New Blackness: Pharrell, Kanye and Jay-Z and the Spectre of White Aspiration (2015)