Why It’s Wrong, Stupid, And Self-Defeating To Be Mad About Eric Benet’s “Redbone Girl”

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Twitter is how our reactions to it instinctively let us know exactly how “relevant” a star currently happens to be. For instance, no one bats an eye if a name like Obama, Lebron, or Rihanna is repeatably showing up in people’s mentions. The same concept could be applied to someone like Stevie J, except that for someone like him, their “relevance” is completely time dependent. (In Stevie J’s case, it’s dependent on whether “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta” is currently airing or if Joseline has murdered him yet)

On the other hand, you have celebrities so far off the current relevancy grid that their name trending only inspires one immediate reaction:

“Oh shit, **** just died!”

With that being said, you can imagine my elation last week when seeing Eric Benet’s name all over Twitter, immediately thinking he was dead, feeling bad, feeling even worse for not feeling as bad as I thought I should, feeling completely shitty for asking myself if it would be wrong to sleep with a woman who used to be married to a dead guy, and feeling much better when seeing that he was in fact alive and that the only reason why he was trending was because of a song he recently released.

The song? “Redbone Girl.” The tweet-able issue? Some people were feeling a certain way about the fact that he devoted an entire song to light-skinned Black women.

After listening to the song and reading a few of the articles devoted to it, I knew what my official stance would be — “This controversy is so f*cking stupid it’s making my ears bleed” — but I wasn’t quite sure which angle I would take when writing about it.

I initially considered making a list titled “10 Reasons Why It’s Wrong To Be Mad About Eric Benet’s “Redbone Girl.” That list would have included perfectly legitimate reasons such as “Light-skinned Black women are Black people too” and “No one gave a shit when he made “Chocolate Legs,” and I also would have touched on how insane we looked giving a light brown-skinned Black man — Yes. Eric Benet is light brown-skinned. The only way he wouldn’t pass a paper bag test is if the paper bags had malaria — shit about writing a song devoted to light-skinned Black women. (“Damn you, Black man, for writing a song about women who happen to the same complexion you happen to be, you self-hating motherf*cker“)

Thing is, while that list would have worked, it would have taken attention away from what I hope is the main takeaway from this, Namely, the fact that becoming upset with people for praising lighter-skinned Black women does nothing but reinforce the opinion that lighter-skinned Black women are, in fact, generally more physically attractive than their darker counterparts. It’s affirmative action for attraction.

I understand that those upset with the Black community’s perpetual praise of mulatto redbone, quadroon, octoroon, and half-cave women feel that the criticism of said praise has historical and sociological merit. This is not incorrect. We have a long and complicated history of giving women “points” just for looking closer to White than other Black women. Even many of the darker-skinned Black women universally praised for their beauty tend to have physical features more synonymous with lighter-skinned women.

Thing is, while complaining about unfairness and eventually demanding that things are made more fair works with other injustices, you cannot demand that people start finding other people more attractive. Physical attraction just doesn’t work like that. You can’t rely on guilt or obligation to make things “equal”. Erections don’t give a damn about social justice.

And, as I said earlier, this process becomes self-defeating because when a person complains about the praise of light-skinned women it implies that the person doing the complaining also feels that light-skinned women are more attractive. It’s as if they’re saying “Them bitches already on top. They don’t need no more praise” — an assertion that makes their gripes disingenuous. It’s not about appreciating what other shades have to offer as much as it’s acquiescing to “defeat” and asking the victors not to stomp on your grave. You want men — and, to be clear, this isn’t all Black men. Not even most — to start praising darker-skinned Black woman more? Instead of getting pissed about the attention redbones receive, start the process by…not caring. Or, even better, start praising darker-skinned women more yourself.

Now, should I have touched on the fact that Eric Benet reached out to Lil Wayne — the founder, president, and social media manager of “f*ckdarkbuttbitches.com” — to drop a verse for this song? Maybe. Am I being generous with the hyperbole by calling this issue about a song seven people outside of the Benet family have actually heard a “controversy?” Definitely. You’ll have to forgive me, though. I’m just glad Eric Benet is still living, and I suggest those sore about redbone chicks getting praise from singers and rappers they wouldn’t be interested in dating anyway start living too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)