I don’t have to tell you how supremely tough 2017 was to deal with. Like, I’m sure we all could go on and on about how terrible this year truly was to each and every last one of us. Still, the year had some high points, which we pointed out earlier this week, but in the spirit of balance and equilibrium (it took me all that I had to not make a Star Wars crack, since I finally went to go see The Last Jedi), I think reflection on the super, terrible year that was 2017 is necessary, even if that means reflecting on its low points for us as a people.
So, without further ado, I present to you the top 10 disappointing moments (in no particular order) black people experienced in the year 2017:
This ... is a given. In 2017, perhaps the greatest moments of discomfort, borderline instability and downright asininity experienced by our large and expansive community could be most certainly traced back to Chet and them.
From President Cheeto Dandruff yucking it up in the White House and threatening to start a war every time he tweeted with his sausage fingers to white people trying to install a whole (alleged) child molester in another political office in Alabama to chanting about “white lives” in Charlottesville, Va., with their busted tiki torches, white folx showed no sign of waking the fuck up and instead continued to plead that we save them from themselves.
On Jan. 22, 2017, it was announced that the Atlanta Falcons would face off against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51. And after President Radioactive Cheeto Dust was elected to office at the conclusion of 2016, it became quite clear that this aforementioned game was about to become an unintentional, extended metaphor for that year.
Indeed, it was the ultrablack, ultralit Falcons versus
Trump’s America the New England Patriots and Tom “Trump Is My Boi” Brady. And for a minute, during that very game, it looked as if the Falcons were gonna take the win, with a 25-point lead to boot.
... and then they blew that lead to lose to
Trump’s America the Patriots by six points.
It was one of the most embarrassing Ls we took this year, and to be quite honest, I’ll never get over it.
I am honestly still too angry to describe how unjust it was that Underground was canceled but shows like, oh, I don’t know, Megyn Kelly Today are still chilling on the air.
It was an unnecessary loss of a show that focused on aspects of black liberation during slavery rather than the kind of torture porn that Hollywood is used to peddling. The cancellation was especially hard to swallow when it was announced that HBO had its own alternate-universe slavery fan fiction in development (thankfully, that looks like it’s no longer happening).
However, despite its unjust cancellation, the search for a new home network for Underground continues.
Colorism. It is a subset of oppression that precedes your existence and mine. And yet, to this day, black people can’t seem to get ourselves together when it comes to this topic. Such was the case this year as well.
Tinashe was the earliest example as she implied that being light-skinned had hurt her odds of succeeding in the music industry, even though she had not done anything remarkable as of late, and she simultaneously failed to call out the over-saturation of stars who look like her in the business, thereby causing her lamentations to fall on deaf ears.
Alexandra Shipp was just another example of this when, a couple of weeks ago, the actress claimed that black people had been the most racist to her for her entire life. This was after a Storm superfan came into her Twitter mentions about hoping that Marvel would cast a dark-skinned Storm for a hypothetical X-Men franchise reboot.
Not everyone agreed with how the fan approached the ever present problem of characters like Storm being portrayed by light-skinned actresses, but I think most of us can agree that the actress (a word I use lightly) took the conversation in a direction that didn’t even make any damn sense.
And in 2017, we should be able to do better.
2017 was a shit year, no doubt, but it also proved to be, for the most part, a year of reckoning for men who had done some dirt in the dark. The domino effect started with Harvey Weinstein, and folks are still out here in these streets being rightfully exposed. And Russell Simmons was among those in the carnage.
After Terry Crews came forward about being sexually assaulted by WME’s Adam Venit (a moment that was very, very important for male survivors), Crews also was very candid about the folx who had tried to silence him and, in turn, exposed Simmons’ damning email to Crews in which he attempted to tell Crews to “let it go.” It was a disgusting development, and no one was surprised when Simmons was subsequently accused of sexual assault, too. However, folx who were familiar with Simmons’ Rush Card scams and Kimora Lee’s stories about him knew that this was part of an already trifling pattern of behavior.
6. The Fallout from VerySmartBrothas’ “Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People” Piece
The moment I saw the headline “Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People” come across my timeline, I knew that all hell was about to break loose.
I’m not gonna get into the specifics of the piece (mostly because you can read it here), but Damon Young’s article got at a point that cisgender straight men had been ignoring for a long time: that they are the most privileged in our community.
Of course, it wasn’t as easy to refute coming from a fellow cis, straight black man, so many of Young’s detractors, in turn, went after prominent black women who had shared the article—the chief example being Jemele Hill, who they had all fake supported weeks prior. It was an ever present example of the kind of hypocritical bullshit black women are confronted with every damn day.
On Oct. 6, 2016, it was announced that Jay-Z and his team were putting together a documentary about the life, times, and completely unnecessary and avoidable death of Kalief Browder. The documentary finally debuted this year, and while it was something we sorely needed, it was also a painful reminder of all the black people we had lost thus far to an unjust “justice system.”
It also served as a harrowing admonisher of the effects that racism and white supremacy can have on our bodies and minds, too, which we were reminded of after his mother’s (Venida Browder) untimely death last year and Erica Garner’s recent hospitalization.
In a year full of watershed moments when women snatched back the mic from a society that constantly seeks to silence us, it was particularly angering when Munroe Bergdorf did just that and was punished for it.
Indeed, L’Oreal was all for profiting off her image as a black trans woman and her ties to those respective communities, but as soon as she attempted to speak on behalf of them, L’Oreal was like, “Nah.” Combine this with instances like Jemele Hill’s, and it’s another example of these corporations wanting “diversity” without teeth. Performative nonsense.
Let’s be real. Since the goal of any sensible corporation or business is to make a boatload of cold, hard, stinking cash (hello, capitalism), no one is expecting them to be super-“woke,” empathetic entities.
In the spirit of getting as much money as fucking possible, you would think they could at least appeal to the most common denominator of their demographics and have people on deck to make sure they are not racially insulting a huge chunk of their base.
But this year, that was not the case with Dove. Dove made it excruciatingly obvious that it has no black people in its public relations/marketing department when it released a commercial that showed a dark-skinned black woman taking off a brown shirt and morphing into a white woman.
To be forthcoming, it wasn’t the only beauty company with a racist ad this year. Nivea joined in on the fun by putting out its “White Is Purity” ad and got the social media flogging it deserved. Yet Dove’s ad happened to be a bit more biting because black people are a huge piece of its base and because there’s something very visceral about seeing a black woman morphing into a white woman in an ad that is not Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video—especially considering the history of racist soap advertisements in America and abroad.
In March 2017, after years of being off the air and mostly out of the limelight, Dave Chappelle prepared for what looked to be a roaringly victorious return to television.
This was something black folx had been anticipating and cheering on for a long time. After watching Chappelle walk away from a $50 million contract and refuse to be Comedy Central’s dancing monkey (and thereby get branded “unstable” because of it), we were all excited for him to stick it to the man and make a glorious comeback via Netflix.
And he surely did return, but it wasn’t the unanimous victory some of us were hoping for.
With his Netflix specials, it was clear that Chappelle had not lost his sharp comedic edge and that he was still 100 percent on point about the subtleties and not-so-subtleties of white supremacy and how its food chain works (e.g., “White women not liking their cut”).
However, it was also very clear that Chappelle may not have completely crossed over into 2017 with the rest of us. This was particularly the case with his Bill Cosby-heavy rape jokes (e.g., “He rapes but he saves!”), and his weirdly obsessive jokes at the expense of queer and trans folx.
It was fairly disappointing, to say the least, to see someone willing to push the envelope in one area of oppression (racism) and willfully refusing to adapt to the times in other areas (homophobia and transphobia).
I didn’t know it then, but it was surely gonna be an omen of what was to come in 2017: that killing our darlings and letting down our idols was going to be oh so necessary ... as there was absolutely no guarantee that they were going to grow and change with us.
And what an omen it was.