“Problem,” “God is a Woman,” “Imagine” — we’ve all heard these songs, and we all know the face of the songs: Ariana Grande. Ever since she debuted, with her undoubtable vocal talent and her unforgettable character in the hit show “Victorious,” her rise to fame was inevitable. In 2013, she took the world by storm with her album, “Yours Truly.” She captured our hearts as the little, white girl with the big, black voice. In this piece, I do not wish to “cancel” Grande or stop you from listening to her music. I am simply bringing awareness to her problematic behavior.
In my not so humble opinion, I believe poor Black America gives this country an enormous sum of culture. From Country, Rock to, of course, Hip Hop, these cultural productions have shaped the evolution of American culture. Anti-blackness, however, prevents the creators of them from gaining recognition for their work and profit. America loves the profitability of blackness but not its people. Society puts a white face on our creations. For example, we give the world Jazmine Sullivan, the world gives us Adele (no shade but…).
Where does Ms. Africana Grande fit in all of this mess? Quite well, actually. This year, she came out with “7 rings.” The media focused the controversy on the cadence of her lyrics as cultural appropriation rather than addressing the content of the song. Essentially, Grande’s song pertains to the joys of “flossing” and getting “the bag”— both AAVE (African American Vernacular English) terms. Personally, I am not too concerned with her manufactured blackness; I simply want these celebrities, especially musicians, to care about the people from whom they take and profit. As the saying goes: everybody wants to be black until it’s time to be black.
These celebrities - Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, every Kardashian, etc. - love to indulge in black culture but rarely use their social capital to actually improve the lives of black people. Ariana Grande, as a white woman, has the capability to jump in and out of cultures without any cost to her brand image. The world loves blackness, but in times that warrant a certain level of “respectability,” unfiltered blackness is unable to enter through spheres of white standards. I do not see Ariana Grande parading her weave, sub-Saharan skin and lip gloss on the covers of “Vogue.” Ariana Grande’s reinforcement of anti-blackness exemplifies the ways in which white supremacy is so deeply ingrained in the American culture. The importance of black people should not rest on our commercial value but the fact that we are people.