This isn’t the first time Tinashe has spoken out about the music industry and its lack of Black female artists. Back in 2015, she chopped it up with xoNECOLE about the struggle of feeling like “there’s only room for one” on the charts, saying, “It’s just kind of ridiculous because there are like a hundred blonde, white actresses and leading ladies … But for some reason … there can’t be five Black girls winning.”
Now, she’s back on the scene in a recently published article in The Guardian, talking more about what it’s like being Black and female in the biz and how that has contributed to her slow rise to stardom, citing sexism (“As far as female producers or female engineers … when you’re in these studios, it’s all men. It is so rare that they’d not even expect me to have an opinion.”) and reiterating that there’s this belief that only one or two Black girls can be at the top at a time (“There are hundreds of [male] rappers that all look the same, that sound the same, but if you’re a Black woman, you’re either Beyoncé or Rihanna.”).
It’s when she brings up colorism, though, that things become problematic.
“There’s colorism involved in the Black community, which is very apparent,” she tells The Guardian. “It’s about trying to find a balance where I’m a mixed woman, and sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the Black community; they don’t fully accept me, even though I see myself as a Black woman. That disconnect is confusing sometimes.” Thing is, that’s not colorism.
Colorism (also known as “color complex”) specifically deals with light-skinned Black people being favored over darker skinned Black people, and it stems directly from slavery when lighter skinned slaves were put to work in the house, while darker skinned slaves were forced to work the fields, creating rifts within the slave community. Rifts that continue in the Black community today. Tinashe, whose dad is an immigrant from Zimbabwe and whose mom is of Danish descent, is light-skinned.
Now, don’t get it twisted. We are not ever about to sit here and say that light-skinned Black people have perfect, easy lives and that they don’t deal with discrimination both outside and inside the Black community. Tinashe is an example of that herself — her sophomore album Joyride still hasn’t been released, even though it was announced a year and a half ago, partly because, according to her, her record company was more focused on releasing former One Directioner Zayne’s first solo album. Her skin tone hasn’t magically skyrocketed her career, and despite hustlin’ toward her dreams for years, she hasn’t blown up the way she’d hoped.
It’s just that the use of the word “colorism” isn’t quite the right word here. Rather, Tinashe seems to be dealing with the stereotype of not being “Black enough.” Another biased generalization that exists within our community, not being “Black enough” consists of Black people accusing other Black people of speaking “too white,” looking “too light,” listening to “white music,” and on and on. Black people aren’t some monolith, though. We aren’t all the same, and we shouldn’t try to be. Each of us brings our own experiences, likes/dislikes, and appearances to the world — all of which are worthy.
Either way, we’re glad Tinashe continues to keep this discussion alive, and encourage other Black girls to speak out on things they feel strongly about. Her fierce resolve and refusal to quit amid her setbacks and barriers is enough to make her a role model. “Things haven’t always gone according to my original plan, but that’s life, and things change,” she tells The Guardian. “However long it takes, I know I will get to my end goal. I’m never going to stop. I will make music forever.”