Controversial and provocative Egyptian-Sudanese-American Bestselling Author, Kola Boof has a bone to pick with America. Her open letter on the "bi-racial" portrayal of Harriet Tubman in film Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has sparked much debate across the globe. Kola sheds light on white America's subliminal, yet overt perception of true blackness and what it means to properly represent "black history."
*KOLA BOOF WRITES*
Dear America, Tim Burton & Timur Bekmambetov,
The depiction of Harriet Tubman as biracial in a new Hollywood film ranks as the most hurtful denunciation of Blackness yet. In a nation that claims itself 'multi-cultural' and that everyone is part of a rainbow humanity-why are we constantly bombarded with the erasure of Authentically Black images? Why does Harriet Tubman, a dark Black woman whose grandmother identified her as an Ashanti from Ghana, West Africa have to look European in order for Westerners to acknowledge, celebrate and value her?
Why specifically are academics and critical thinkers, Black and White alike, unable to see the blatant Colorism in music videos, magazines and countless films that seek to portray Africa as a continent peopled by light skinned Biracial women? How is it that intelligent people claiming there's only one race-the 'human race'-consistently paint the darkest people as motherless invisible un-people? How do they fail to see the blatant visual distortion as millions of African teenagers take up skin-bleaching and other forms of neurotic self-hatred to become the Whitened images that Western media routinely presents in place of Authentic Black ones? And how do you claim to love and revere the Black African male image (as Western sexism profoundly fetishes Black maleness) while at the same time erasing the dark womb that produces him? How do you save a man without saving the womb that he came from?
As an African woman, these media images remind me all too much of the various slave trades that have afflicted our continent. Non-Black people, mixed raced people and self-hating Black people are in charge once again of controlling our image and do so based on color-when a Black person does something horribly bad (O.J. Simpson); that person is 'darkened' several shades in media images. When they do something glamorous and cosmopolitan (Beyonce)-their image is lightened so as to give whiteness the credit. If a Black man is presented as a romantic image, then they must pair him with a very light skinned image in order to assure that he will eventually be bred into a more a palatable color, one that matches their 'one love' preaching racist eye.
I myself am technically biracial. The daughter of a White Arab Egyptian and a Blue Black Oromo woman, I was adopted by Black Americans and have lived off and on for thirty years in America. I speak seven languages and have authored ten books in eight countries and have lived in eleven other nations. Though like most North African biracial people, I am Black with African nappy hair, I am consistently told that Cleopatra (who had an African parent) could only look like Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie because she was biracial. Americans don't take into account that biracial people in Africa are much darker than the ones in the United States. When arguing Cleopatra was half Greek, they ignore how dark the Greeks were thousands of years ago. It horrifies America that Cleopatra probably looked more like Kola Boof, Jill Scott or Waris Darie than like Claudette Colbert.
The recent monument in Washington D.C. of Martin Luther King depicts him as somewhat Asian-looking (it was sculpted by a Chinese artist). So now we have countless Black teens visiting the statue and coming back to report the lie that King was part Chinese. No one sees the problem in this-innocent Black children believing that Martin Luther King and now Harriet Tubman weren't really Black people; thus credit for their humanitarian achievements belonging to other groups.
My current boycott of the film "Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter" (wherein Tubman is played by a Half-Dutch actress) caused its White filmmakers to counter that their film is a comedy satire and that Thor and Tonto have been played by Black actors in recent films. But Harriet Tubman is not a fictional character like Thor and Tonto. Tubman is a Historical iconic symbol of the Black race's liberation and self-identification; their break with enslavement and control by outsiders. To me you really have to hate Harriet Tubman to erase her true image and make her a light skinned biracial woman. That depiction, no matter how you attempt to dismiss or downplay it, says everything about White Supremacy and the erasure of Blackness.
In my latest novel, "The Sexy Part of the Bible"-I wrote about a beautiful charcoal-colored African woman who feels betrayed that her image in a Hollywood film is portrayed by a very Mixed-looking actress. Some American readers said I was being 'sensitive', but right after the novel was published, biracial actress Thandie Newton was cast by a British company as an Igbo Nigerian tribeswoman for a major upcoming film. Many Nigerian women's groups both in the West and Nigeria formed a letter-writing campaign to protest such disrespectful inaccuracies. But as usual, we were told by a nice White lady calling us "sister" that it doesn't matter if White-looking women consistently represent the image of Black Women. We were told by the White lady calling us "sister"…that African women's actual blackness doesn't need representation and that we were 'racist' for not wanting a White-looking woman to play an Igbo tribeswoman.
I reject such hypocrisy and hatred against my beautiful dark skin. I reject the recent film "Red Tails" where Black American women were completely cut out of their own history-the leading lady was Caucasian and not a single black actress appeared in the film. I reject Black American academics who claim "Africa is the most racially diverse continent"-no, dear Over-seer, Africa is the most invaded, conquered place with outsiders taking up our space. We in Africa are overwhelmingly Dark skinned and nappy. Arabs and Berbers are not Black people-so stop the lies Black American Professors. And I reject America's lies about promoting a rainbow human race. America is for the whitening and erasure of other people; not the inclusion. When I tell these truths, Americans call me 'bitter and angry' to try and silence me. But there is no bitterness or anger in me. Like most intelligent Black women, I spend ninety percent of my day laughing and what I have said here is actual and factual. Your great society is as hypocritical and White supremacist as ever and a growing number of us are able to dismantle the beauty that hides your faces.
Black is beautiful, too.