“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” -Zora Neale Hurston.
I was ten years old when I first saw a fresh faced Jamelia dressed in a mantua literally waltz across MTV Base declaring she was no prima donna while Beenie Man zaga zow, ziggy zowed his way through his feature. She was a vision I would often don my mother’s net curtains trying to recreate. Jamelia’s visibility in the early noughties was important to me as a dark skinned black girl because I was able to see myself in popular culture and her existence validated mine. During the early noughties, the trifecta of women who I could look to as representations that reflected how I saw myself in popular music were Jamelia, Kelly Rowland and Sabrina Washington in British girl group Misteeq.
Jamelia’s last studio album was released in September 2006 and since then, the mother of two has transformed her career into one as a television presenter. Joining the cast of ITV’s Loose Women in 2013, Jamelia was a part of the daytime panel chat show for 162 episodes before her contract came to an end in August last year. Dan Wooton reported for The Sun, a collection of words smashed together masquerading as a newspaper, that Jamelia was “Axed from Loose Women” after she had fallen out of favour with with viewers. The reason public support turned against her was in part to due to the inaccurate reporting of comments Jamelia made on a 2015 episode of Loose Women combined with the perceived insensitivity of her rhetoric itself. If you watch the videos of what she said you’ll clearly hear “…I don’t think a size 0 should be available in the shops. I don’t think it’s a healthy size for an average woman to be. In high street stores, you’re catering to the average woman- there’s a healthy range, I don’t think they should be providing clothes for above that range or below that range. I’m not saying nowhere should. Yes, have specialist shops. I do think you should feel uncomfortable if you are unhealthy.” However, that doesn’t fit in a clickbait headline and eventually it simply became “Plus size clothes should not be available on the high street.”
The controversy followed her for almost a year before ITV bosses decided not to renew her contract as part of the Loose Women panel. She was vilified in both left and right leaning publications. Phoebe-Jane Boyd wrote about her “nasty judgement” of fat people for The Guardian. Claire Cohen for The Express wrote “Oi Jamelia. Telling women they're ‘too fat’ to go shopping aint helping anyone.” First of all, “Oi Jamelia”? Who tf are you talking to? But let me not digress- the concerted effort to stoke anti-Jamelia sentiment in the British public works to nullify the rationality of anything she’s said since her departure from the UK’s answer to The View.
Since she is no longer beholden to a contract with a major corporation, it's easy to see Jamelia has been a lot more vocal about issues of race and how it intersects with her gender. After the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, fulltime, verified dickhead Piers Morgan wrote the film that accompanied the album “smacks of shameless exploitation” to which Jamelia, as tired of his shit as the rest of us, wrote a “Dear Piers” Huff Blog. “I absolutely understand why you don’t get the new Beyoncé album. *Newsflash, honey* it wasn’t made for you…. and I’m going to need you to be cool with that.” I removed my wig and swung it in the air to celebrate what was a flawless read of his entitlement. Right on time like the hilarity that was Hunger Games in Bahamas, here comes this flame grilled knob head claiming “saying I can’t have an opinion on Beyonce because I’m a ‘middle-aged British white man’ is a tad racist, no?”
For the past year Jamelia has been doing the Lord’s work calling out racism wherever and however she can. And for the past year whenever she does so, mongrel ass crumpets like Piers Morgan respond by telling her she’s “racist” for reporting the racism she experiences. Writer Zeba Blay explains “some people simplify racism as one group not liking another, and think “racist” and “prejudiced” are interchangeable” and continues to highlight the basic understanding those who scream reverse racism fail to realise “racism is a system in which a dominant race benefits off the oppression of others…” In Jamelia’s case it is impossible for her to be racist towards white people because it is them who are the dominant racial group in Britain. Their offence further highlights the power their racism has to magically transform a victim into a perpetrator.
Case in point, Jamelia recently created a package for popular British morning talk show This Morning about the lack of diversity in dolls and toys. “Jamelia goes to investigate why, in 2017, there is still an incredible lack of toys and dolls designed for ethnic minorities” reads the ITV website. See, I’ve blocked The Daily Mail and its affiliates because Twitter is my safe space and I don’t like my blood pressure to be sky high first thing after reading all their racist click bait so I had no idea Jamelia was facing any kind of backlash until I saw my dear friend Kelechi firing off one of her famous threads in support of the mother of two. “Jamelia called racist by This Morning viewers” read the first headline I saw when I did my googles. “Jamelia provokes fury as she bemoans the lack of ethnically diverse dolls in toy stores prompting This Morning viewers to say she is being racist” continued The Daily Fail’s reporting of the story. The comment section is a mess of misogyny, racism, their everpresent cousin misogynoir and Twitter’s just as bad. Those desperate to participate in the Oppression Tour De White Tears came out in full force, pulling all sorts of falsehoods, delusions and mythology from their arses in an attempt to silence the valid concerns her piece for This Morning presented.
The claims Jamelia is “trying to make issues where there aren’t any” help make white people comfortable with ignoring concerns of people who don’t look like them. For them it would be preferable if Jamelia didn’t speak at all about being racially abused by a police officer, being racially profiled in first class on a train, or that there aren’t enough dolls that represent the one in six people here who are non-white. The idea that we live in a society that is in anyway “post racial” or a utopia is a joke when black women are incapable of discussing their experiences without being shouted into submission. The gag is the problem of representation in toys is so far reaching that even in a recent episode of Black-ish (see trailer above), Diane starts a protest about the lack of black toys available to her.
The fallacy of reverse racism reveals itself as an instrument of white supremacy which seeks to further disenfranchise black women like Jamelia by labelling them “annoying” or a “bitch” for simply deigning to use her platform to bring attention to her experiences. It is important for all people and particularly children to be able to see themselves represented in the toys they play with and the TV and films they watch because as the only First Lady I acknowledge, Michelle Obama explains they validate who you are. As Ava Vidal pointed out Jonathan Thurston “was praised for his daughter having a black doll” and Sophia Brenner was praised for desiring a black doll but when Jamelia asks why there aren’t more choices for people of colour, it’s pitchforks and torches at the ready to burn the witch who dares question a lack of diversity. Listen, the worst thing to ever happen to white supremacy and its kinfolk was black women's access to the internet. Every time you lot appear out of nowhere, determined to abuse black women for daring to demand equity or at the mf bear minimum –equality, I will use my platform to call you out, the same way Jamelia uses her platform to call you out. One of us will get so tired of this merry-go-round they quit and I promise it wont be me. If Jamelia was silent, white people and nonwhite people content with the current state of representation could pretend people of colour and especially black women enjoy the treatment we receive and while this isn’t a big deal to you, casual and institutional racism affects us daily and what you’re not going to do is try to drag Jamelia for doing what needs to be done to enact a positive change.