Raven-Symoné on her race and sexuality: Blind, not bold
On Monday, I saw the clip of Raven-Symoné explaining on Oprah’s Where Are They Now that she is neither African-American nor gay and prefers to just be labeled as a human being.
During the one-on-one interview, the former That’s So Raven star explains:
I don’t want to be labeled gay. I want to be labeled a human who loves humans. I’m tired of being labeled…. I’m in an amazing, happy relationship with my partner, a woman.
I’m an American. I’m not an African American. I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know I have roots in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person. We are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins. I connect with each culture.
*insert deep sigh of weariness*
Now look, I like a good bit of nuanced word play as much as the next person but this is just — tedious. I get what she attempted to do, but her execution was piss poor and came off more smug than revolutionary.
Making a bold statement like this — to Oprah — on such an epic platform demands thoroughness. It demands thoughtfulness. And most of all, it has to actually make sense.
But during this interview, I saw none of that.
Rather than walking away thinking, “Wow, Olivia has grown up to be a fierce badass!” I instead muttered to myself “Oh no. I can’t believe she’s this naïve. Thank God she’s going back to college.”
And what pains me most is, this could have been an amazing opportunity for Raven to authentically express her identity. She could have asserted that she is colorFULL; embodying all the richness of this country’s diversity while shouting out her creole Louisiana heritage.
She could have made a statement that her sexuality is fluid and said she was an advocate of the queer community without even having to “label” herself specifically lesbian or bisexual. She could have — at the very least — acknowledged what she represents as a woman of color in an industry that often appropriates black culture while still marginalizing black artists.
Like seriously — there were many (oh so many) beautiful, progressive, historically accurate, non-dismissive ways for Raven Symoné to school Auntie O and the viewing public on what she represents as a human being.
But instead, she chose to say she was colorLESS. Instead, she chose to distance herself from her tribe; quite literally whitewashing the richness of her African-American culture in the hopes of melting into a chorus of “Kumbaya” with all of mankind. Which is why (to me) this interview felt like a trite and lazy attempt to be provocative.
Well played, Raven. You wanted to get tongues wagging, and it worked. But that old, cheap trick of saying something inflammatory — in hopes of sounding deeper than the average bear — is played. Kanye already has that market cornered. And we’re onto you.
Riddle me this: if you’re so colorless, how come white actresses with arguably less talent continuously get parts I’m sure you’d love to play but would never get offered? How exactly does that reality fit into the colorblind, Lisa Frank, rainbow colored landscape you’ve painted for us?
Let’s be clear, love — as much as we (i.e. the black community) cherish your legacy on The Cosby Show, white America has pretty much ignored you after you left that stint on Disney. And they certainly didn’t buy any of your albums.
WE are the reason you’re still relevant. You know, your people; who you no longer want to claim? Yeah. Us. If semantics double-dutch is a luxury you choose to indulge in, then good for you, sis. I now know to look elsewhere for solidarity, and your “Black Girls Rock” invite will probably get lost in the mail this year.
But can we all be honest for a second — if Raven-Symoné took her “colorless” behind to Ferguson, the cops would take one look at her — and this “New Black” post-racial stuff she and Pharrell are peddling would go out the window REAL quick.
I promise you.