Some conspiracy theories are real.
When planes flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, it was the result of an actual conspiracy—whether it was an inside job or a plan composed by nine hijackers. Either Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin or white people’s “racial resentment” conspired to elect a president with the intellectual capacity and skin color of an undercooked pan of macaroni and cheese.
And it is becoming increasingly apparent that the multibillion-dollar entertainment industry has conspired to turn America’s most lucrative form of music into a stereotyped, anti-black caricature of itself. It has nothing to do with the free market, supply or demand. It is not for profit or popularity...
It is malice.
But this is not hip-hop’s fault. It is not even the fault of the music industry.
It is America’s fault.
On Wednesday, the popular hip-hop outlet Vlad TV released an interview with GloKKNine, the 17-year-old Orlando, Fla., rapper whose self-released singles have been racking up millions of listens on streaming platforms and YouTube.
“I ain’t gon’ lie, I know I’m ugly” GloKKnine explains in the interview. “What he say? ‘I’m Already Black, I don’t need no black bitch’” the rapper continues, quoting lyrics by Kodak Black. He goes on to explain:
GlocKKNine: If I’m fucking with you, I’m black as fuck, right? I’m black as shit ... So I know, if I fuck with a black bitch, we gon have a black-ass baby. I ain’t with that.
Vlad: This is an interesting thing ... So if you have a baby, you don’t want your baby to be the same complexion as you?
Vlad: Why not?
GloKKNine: This is a dark-ass shade. This bitch ... Hell nah. I can’t ...I can’t have...
The rapper explains that his mother’s complexion is “caramel mocha,” but describes his father as darker than he is, explaining that his skin color is a “once-in-a lifetime thing.” Yet, when reality star Amara La Negra’s comments about colorism in the Latinx community, Mr. KKKNine says it “sounds like some clown shit.”
The black backlash against the emcee was harsh, immediate and familiar:
GloKKNine’s comments were anti-black. They were anti-black woman. They were misogynistic and despicable. But watching the teenager’s remarks did not make me angry. They made me sad.
And I’m sure there will be some who say: “If a white person has said that, you’d be writing a different story,” which is true. But he is not white. He’s not even an adult. He is 17 years old. And, although it is obvious that the youngster is filled with colorism and hate for dark-skinned women, the reason for this is abundantly clear:
GloKKNine hates himself.
It is obvious that he has been instilled with the same self-hatred prevalent in a society that reminds dark-skinned people every day of the distastefulness of their skin color.
I should know. I have been GloKKNine. I was lucky enough to be raised by a woman who taught me to love my color, to treasure women blessed with an overabundance of melanin and, more importantly, any woman crazy enough (or alternately, dumb enough) to love me back.
But as someone who was once called “the black one,” to distinguish him from all the other Michaels, I am keenly aware that America has always conspired against people whose skin tone is darker than a paper bag. That is not a theory, that is a fact.
In spite of the Black Twitter-inspired, dark-skinned versus light-skinned memes, America doesn’t have a social media account. Long before GloKKnine signed up for a Twitter account and wrote his first lyrics, America had constructed a colorist narrative based on the different shades of black skin.
But the up-and-coming rapper is simply a product of a genre that is more likely to refer to a black woman as a “bitch” or a “hoe.” GloKKNine is just keeping it real in an art form that, like him, was born and raised in America. And if there’s one thing we know about this country that birthed hip hop, it is this:
America hates dark skin.
Remember how Time magazine deliberately blackened O.J. Simpson’s mugshot to make him look more menacing? Take a look at one of the top 10 lists for most beautiful black actresses. Or a picture of the first black president.
A 2006 study shows that darker-skinned black job applicants are less likely to be hired. A 2017 study reveals that people view darker-skinned men as more “ignorant” and lighter-skinned men as more “educated. A separate study (pdf) shows that darker men are viewed as larger and more threatening than similar-sized men of lighter skin tones.
“We found that men with darker skin and more stereotypically black facial features tended to be most likely to elicit biased size perceptions, even though they were actually no larger than men with lighter skin and less stereotypical facial features,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. John Paul Wilson. “Thus, the size bias doesn’t rely just on a white versus black group boundary. It also varies within black men according to their facial features.”
And, yes, this affects the lives of black women, too. Dark-skinned women are 15 percent less likely to be married, according to researchers at The New School. A Villanova University study showed that lighter-skinned women received shorter prison sentences.
Given these facts and this country’s history of colorism that dates back to slavery, the antebellum South and segregation, it is understandable that many took offense to GloKKNine’s statements. But, as Black Twitter might say:
Imagine growing up in a country that makes you love violence and hate yourself so much and then boom ... You name yourself GloKKNine and unapologetically state that you couldn’t “fuck with a black bitch” who gave birth to a child who looked like your father. Who looked like you.
So, yes, GloKKNine hates black skin. Yes, he hates black women. And yes, he hates himself. And none of this is to say that anyone should excuse his comments. But it is possible to criticize his comments while condemning the country that fomented them, the society that perpetuates them and the art that celebrates them.
Because this is hip-hop. And more importantly...
This is America.