*Somehow Blake Lively is being labeled racist or racially insensitive because she referenced Sir Mix a Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” And I don’t get it.
Lively said she had an LA face with an Oakland booty as a caption to a picture that shows her backside. Somehow this has been interpreted as insulting to black women. But really all she did was talk about herself. Any conclusions that people draw regarding her view of her body, black women’s bodies, or black women in general are rooted more in the observer and less in her comment because she makes not value judgments by quoting Sir Mix a Lot.
In fact if we can agree that “Baby Got Back” is a positive statement about the curviness of women’s butts, then Lively’s reference of the song would similarly be a positive comment on her body. I recognize that I must draw conclusions in making that statement. My point is that I don’t see how others conclude Lively was making a negative comment. It seems like a knee jerk reaction to a white person referencing black culture which is unfortunate.
I have argued in the past that there is a difference between racial and racist. And that difference is very significant. Racial is simply an adjective that means dealing with race. It does not have to mean good or bad. Racist is an adjective that specifically means biased because of race. Racial is being aware that black people are medically more susceptible to diabetes than other groups; racist is saying that black people don’t deserve health insurance because of their proclivity toward diabetes. To combine these two ideas is lazy and unhelpful in society.
More specifically regarding Blake Lively, when a white person references black culture they might be dismissing black culture, co-opting black culture, or insulting black culture. These three actions are not the same. Lively did not insult or dismiss – she co-opted “Baby Got Back” to comment on her body. While that is certainly racial, there is nothing racist about it.
And if you believe that white people should never appropriate black culture then I understand how you might see Lively’s comment as racist. But I need you to understand you are promoting segregation and probably being hypocritical insofar as most people would not argue that black people should never use white culture.
Funny enough the most probable scenario is that Blake Lively is one of many people who grew up in the 1990s and this song was part of their cultural vocabulary. When faced with a growing backside she, like most other people of this generation, mentioned something that others their age would instantly understand. Voila: “Baby Got Back.”
Let’s not persecute Lively for doing what plenty of others have done and will continue to do. Especially when it takes some large leaps to conclude she deserves said persecution.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.