By Liz Brazile
Ever since she was thrust into the public eye, 6-year-old Blue Ivy Carter has been subjected to countless insults about her physical appearance. You could even say the attacks on Blue began before she was born. When Beyoncé announced her pregnancy in 2011, people wondered to themselves and aloud: does Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s baby stand a chance at being cute?
The general consensus has always been that Bey is physically attractive and Jay—not so much. Consequently, people crossed their fingers that the child would take after Beyoncé, with minimal phenotypic similarities to Jay. The public had already made the terms and conditions for Blue’s worth clear while she was still in utero: exhibit the Eurocentric beauty standard-friendly features of Bey and be praised, or look like your unambiguously black feature-having daddy and be ridiculed.
Like most children, Blue Ivy displays obvious physical traits of both her mother and father. In my estimation, she is the perfect blend of Bey and Jay, and neither one could ever deny her adorable little self. But for some reason, people seem to have forgotten she is just a kid. People also tend to forget that Beyoncé is a human, who once too was a non-lace wig and non-makeup wearing youngster. As a culture, we love to objectify and idealize Bey as this perfect, blemish-free being at the expense of her humanity—she’s become a caricature of sorts. And by extension, we’ve been treating Blue in the same manner.
If you’ve been on the Internet at all this week, you already know Blue Ivy is making waves after being filmed at the Grammys motioning for her parents to simmer down after Camila Cabello’s historically inaccurate tribute to Latino immigrants. As such, a photo of Blue holding a Valentino purse worth $2,700 appeared on my Instagram feed. I showed the post to a girlfriend of mine (black) and her friend (white), joking about how a 6-year-old’s purse was worth more than all of us combined. Although the focal point of the post was Blue’s handbag, the friend of my friend—we’ll call her Heidi for the sake of anonymity—took the opportunity to slam Blue’s appearance.
“I just don’t think she’s a cute kid,” Heidi said.
My friend, who we’ll call Brittany, and I immediately defended Blue’s adorableness. Heidi then went on to say how much cuter North West is than Blue and how her facial features are beautiful and Blue’s are not.
With more patience than I usually reserve for problematic white women who express anti-black sentiments, I explained to Becky—I mean Heidi—why it was colorist trash for her to compare the physical attributes of an unambiguously black child with those of a mixed-race black child. We already know many white people find non-mixed black children to be unattractive. And in my humble opinion, it will always inherently be out-of-pocket for a white person to criticize a black person’s—and a child’s especially—appearance.
The disdain for black phenotypes is so pervasive that even black people have internalized contempt for blackness. I, like so many other black girls, grew up self-loathing and imagining what life would be like if I could successfully wish away my “bad” hair and brown skin. It took years worth of emotional labor to decolonize my perception of beauty and self-worth. And folks are not about to put Blue through this. Not on my watch.
Before having natural hair and being unapologetically black became the (re)new(ed) wave a couple years ago, black people were largely responsible for the misogynoir aimed at Blue too. Folks everywhere wanted to know why Beyoncé wouldn’t “just put a relaxer in that baby’s head”. The real question is, why are we so eager to rob black girls of a carefree childhood?
Her economic privilege and fame notwithstanding, Blue is just an everyday kid. She was always destined to face scrutiny—she’s black, she’ll face the trials of womanhood one day, and her parents’ fame will follow her wherever she goes. The least we can do, as a society, is leave her the hell alone while she’s still growing up. I’m tired of people deciding how worthy black girls are on the basis of whether or not they’ve had everything possible done to them to reject their blackness. We will not tolerate psychological warfare against black girls in 2018. Do better, lest you catch these metaphorical hands.