When Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion dropped their video for “WAP” yesterday, we didn’t think their NSFW rhymes, outrageous fits, and absolutely savage dance routines would be overshadowed by 15 seconds of Kylie Jenner walking. But, alas, the media once again centered whiteness to talk about a Black-led project.
In covering Cardi and Meg’s song, many outlets fell into an oft-used trope of focusing on whiteness as the most important thing about the project. The headlines reflected how much importance is placed on a white woman appearing for a few seconds, versus the two Black women to whom the video belongs.
People spoke of “Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s Sexy ‘WAP’ Music Video Includes a Kylie Jenner Cameo,” while Entertainment Tonight declared that Kylie’s bit “IS EVERYTHING.” People even took the opportunity to segway into a listicle on all the times the Kardashians made “epic music video cameos.” Once again, the media was treating Black creators as the accessories in their own craft.
This was not an exceptional lapse in judgment or journalistic faculty, it’s part of a much bigger problem of attaching value to whiteness and relegating Black people to the sidelines that can often be observed in media. Just yesterday, People did this again with Zola a Black-led film about a Black stripper, Aziah “Zola” Wells, featuring titular star Taylour Paige. People’s coverage was all about Paige’s white co-star Riley Keough.
Even in a movie primarily about the Black female lens and her authorship, the white sidekick was immediately more worth mentioning than the lead Black actress, inspiration, writer, or the countless Black personalities attached to the film – including Ava DuVernay, Solange Knowles, and Jeremy O’Harris.
While the media outlet later apologized for its headline, we need more than that, we need a reset across the board. Unfortunately, the erasure of black voices and talent extends beyond the entertainment industry. Whiteness has even been centered in coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement, with outlets amplifying the voices of white celebrities rather than black activists who have been organizing for years.
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