Kanye West is no stranger to dragging himself into a whirl of controversy, and his name is almost synonymous with the word ‘problematic’. In today’s episode of Oh God, What Did Kanye Do Now, we are discussing his recent tweet that includes a picture that depicts what he is looking for in the casting of Yeezy Season 4. He asks for the models to wear no makeup, and that the only people he is looking for are multiracial women.
Although this may not come across as racist as something like Demna Gsvasalia ‘white models only’ policy, there is still something quite strange in the fact that the women must be multiracial. The fashion industry is known for lacking in models of colour, as most runway shows and editorials are, unfortunately, predominantly white. But even when black men and women are casted, there seems to be a common trend in their appearance: light-skinned with euro-centric features. Although the industry is progressing and increasing the amount of diversity in its platforms, there is still much more representation needed to projected.
Not all individuals who are mixed are light-skinned, of course, but it is likely for them to have more Caucasian, ‘white-passing’ characteristics: hair that is not kinky, lighter eyes, etc. So, what does it mean when Kanye West says he only wishes for “multiracial women”? Is he being racist or just expressing a certain preference? Well, it is quite obvious that this is a subtle way to only ask for women with lighter skin. Although his actions do not directly mirror what the general public would consider as ‘racist’, a much more specific word to define his casting call would be colorism. Colorism describes the discrimination of those with a darker skin tone in the same ethnic group, while those with a lighter complexion are given more privileges and acceptance in general. This parallels the idea behind white supremacy: as white people are rewarded in political, economic and social systems, African-Americans with lighter skin are treated in higher respects than those who are darker.
Those who dismiss the long and eerie history of colorism are ignorant to the truth behind many of the struggles and hardships that black men and women have had to face and continue to do so. Colorism began when slavery still existed: slave-owners typically gave preferential treatment to slaves with fairer complexions. Even after slavery was abolished, colorism was still in full effect. The Brown Paper Bag Test was used by institutions as such: if you are lighter or the same colour as the bag, you were given privileges, but if your complexion was darker, than you were denied them.
It is upsetting that even years after its initial impact colorism still continues to affect those who have darker complexions just as vividly. All skin tones contain so much beauty and radiance, but we need to see more individuals with dark skin in order to defeat and destroy the overall racism that is within our institutions. So, Kanye West, before Yeezy Season 4 is filled with just multiracial and light-skinned people, think about your position as someone who has a large and extensive influence on our culture. Use your voice, and your passion as a fashion designer, to create a more safe and accepting environment for all complexions.
Update: Some reported that many white models were turned away. This is a great twist considering the modeling industry puts great emphasis on white models only. Many will try to cry reverse racism, but it’s not the same thing. You aren’t being oppressed based on your skin color when 90% of the runway is white people. Now white models will see just how it feels to be rejected based on your skin color alone–which is common in the industry. Still at the end, his preference for ‘multiracial’ is disgusting and isolates many black women.
Yooooo Kanye is turning away white girls
— Bri (@brixbbyy) September 4, 2016
So come to find out Kanye was at his casting call telling all the white girls to go home. I’m screaming.
— Eazy E-Naj † (@Enijah_Jacquee) September 4, 2016
Kanye was not playing they were turning white girls away.
— #PineappleExpress (@tbrownmedia) September 4, 2016