“Redbone,”By Erin McKenna.
This is a sculpture inspired by the following lyric from “Every Girl” by rappers Lil’ Wayne and Drake: “I like a long hair thick red bone.” (The song’s title is snipped from the track’s other eloquent lyric, “I wish I could f**k every girl in the world”). The sculpture is part of a satirical series by lauded artist Erin McKenna, meant to critique sexism in Hip Hop (the rest of the stimulating series can be seen here).
I’ll be the first to admit that this series is refreshingly clever, and I first assumed its originator was flexing her knowledge of oppressive eurocentric standards and the oversexualization and disposability of black women in media. But I was wrong. After belatedly discovering this piece was made by a white self-proclaimed feminist, I combed the internet for the purpose behind it.
If you’re interested in reading her
poorly written excuse for athesis, you can go to her website here: ccad.digication.com/emckenna/Paper. But for summarized review, I have posted excerpts of it below, and in order to illustrate why this exhibit is royally racist – and to emulate the critical humor Erin so loves to employ – I’ve edited it to include what she seemingly forgot to say:
“I use humor and popular culture to bring the viewer in for closer examination on both a critique and celebration of the language of hip-hop.
In my videos, I have found hip-hop songs that have had the words extracted so there is only instrumental sound. The imagery in each video is referring to a line in the song that is playing. By taking the words out of the songs […] the song is less powerful without the voice and language. Hmm I hope nobody interprets this as a devaluing and silencing of black voices in art, something white scholars like lil’ ol’ me have been doing for decades. The imagery is exaggerated, showing humor and actions that reference other slang and metaphor, because many white people don’t acknowledge black culture’s existence unless they can caricature and exaggerate it (minstrelsy and poorly written black characters by white writers, anyone?).
Redbone is a sculpture of a large femur bone with long black hair. It references the line, “I like a long haired, thick red bone”. Red bone is slang for
a woman who is African American and Caucasianany light-skinned black person who may or may not identify as mixed with any other race(s) (not just Caucasian, the most important one), often a product of their ancestors having been raped by mine! Whatever, I failed to properly research that, even though I have full access to google on my Macbook Pro. I made the bone large, referencing the size of the body. Cuz black women are “big boneded” lol! […] In slang and the song, “red bones” are supposed to be sexualized. Oops, forgot to mention: the desire for a “redbone” stems from the affinity for light-skinned, long-haired women of color in popular media. This preference exists cuz of decades of covert white supremacy that brainwashed everyone into thinking white women are the most beautiful and sacred of the world’s female population. With my interpretation, I am showing a very non sexual object that is awkward and unusual.
Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s in a middle class suburban neighbor hood, I was exposed to hip-hop. It was ‘bad’ (because those scary black guys made it) and therefore cool to listen to. I remember […] getting our drivers licenses and riding around with our radios blaring the popular hip hop songs of the week. Even then, my friends and I realized the irony of it; the fact that we knew nothing what it was like to be African-American, growing up in a low-income neighborhood or having to deal with violence, gangs and drugs, not to mention institutionalized and social racism.
The general tone of the songs and hip-hop in general creates a feeling of power. It’s all about getting to the top and being the best; or if i must be specific, it’s all about attaining the societal and economic power that is strategically kept out of reach from black Americans by racist institutions, so by “getting to the top,” I mean ascending to the same default middle-class level I was happily raised in. -
which I think a lot of people can relate to because we are all human and strive to be the best(filler BS, bla bla bla). The slang, metaphors, similes and inflection of the voice in hip-hop songs are outstanding and innovative. There are a lot of references, whether it be historical, political or current pop culture, which is often overlooked by white society because black cultural production is rarely considered to hold any intelligent cultural value, and is merely seen as “cool.”
Hip hop artists want to be the “baddest” or the toughest and they show (or talk about, rather) this by showing off their money, alcohol, drugs, but mostly by being in control of women sexually. Some say Hip Hop’s hypermasculinity is based on the model set by white patriarchy, but was exaggerated by black men to overcompensate for America stripping them of both their masculinity and humanity… but naaah!! They are using and showing off women as sex icons as a rung in a ladder to get to the top. Of course, as a white woman, I don’t like this, even though it barely affects me or the popular perception of me; on the rare occasion that white girls are used as sexual decor in hip-hop instead of black girls, society will not regard me as slutty, ghetto, and only worth my lascivious body, as it does black women. But hey I need something to complain about, and it must prioritize me, so I won’t acknowledge those black girls in my project at all!
With this said, I am
celebrating, critiquing andtaking lines from hip hop out of context (see above). Once the viewer realizes what the hip-hop artistblack guys are really saying about women, a critique occurs on pop culture and the treatment of women, and is generalized so that the perspectives of those most affected by this problem, black women, are erased.
This is because I can easily relate to being female and, uh, black cuz one of my best friends’ neighbors is black, aaah love her! Holler, Shenaynay!“
absolutely scathing and wonderful. holy shit.
damn that was a good read.