jennifer lopez and when efforts of inclusion erase us

February 11, 2019

During a whole Black history month (the shittiest fucking one we’ve had in a while, by the way), J.Lo got her Ashanti-stealing vocals up on stage during The Grammys and made the community suffer through her very own struggle vocals. And even though it was already one of the biggest “fuck yous” to Black people especially during this month, many non-Black people — otherwise known as folks who have no business commenting on a Motown tribute to begin with — were okay with it or “thought she did decent” because “girl power” and because it was still “inclusive” to them.

The first gag is that words like “inclusion” and “intersectionality” have been watered down so much that these anti-Black clowns and nincompoops don’t ever know what they’re talking about anymore (not that they ever did).  The second gag is one cannot be inclusive when you erase the same people you seek to uplift or center.

This is true of that disrespectful Struggletown tribute. Black people invented Motown music. They should have been up there on that stage to honor that. All the Black greats and the people who love them and could have down them justice should have been contacted for such an occasion. But instead of that being the case, The Recording Academy wanted to make it an “everybody” thing, “an inclusive” thing, because of girl power; a concept that always conveniently skips over girls who are Black which is how we ended up with fucking J.Lo. Upsetting, right? Are you upset and annoyed?

Good, because these feelings and this concept of “inclusive” erasure are also relevant to American Eagle and the recent unveiling of their body positive campaign. Known as #AerieReal.

When #AerieReal unveiled their body positive campaign weeks ago, I was very quiet. Not because I’m afraid or anything, but because I needed to see what would be said or done by various parties.
At this point, we all know that body positivity was a concept coined and invented by fat Black women and fat Black folks to carve out space for ourselves in a society that hates us and seeks to embarrass us and punish us over our bodies and our existence. We all know this. There are ample resources that prove it as wellBut in the last couple of years, it has been co-opted in the name of “inclusion”. Watered down to mean that it is representative of EVERYONE’S bodies—including those who are thin and present as such (disorders or not)—and bodies who will never move through society and earn as much hate and vitriol as fat bodies earn. And fully erasing said fat Black bodies and making them afterthoughts. You might think this is a very harsh criticism of the current state of the body positive movement, but I disagree, especially when you look at how the #AerieReal campaign has unfolded. Sure. They included non-Black bodies: a singular Black body, disabled bodies and barely one plus-size body. But where were the fat Black bodies? Nowhere to be seen, of course.

And you wanna know what the most visible spokesperson in that campaign, Jameela Jamil, said when challenged about it? Well, she basically comments that she and the company are listening and attempting to address and resolve these criticisms, but that the campaign is inclusive anyway because it has Black and disabled people and that, like, one fat person.

Of course, I laugh. And I’m insulted. Mainly because fat Black people are also, you know, Black. And can also be, you know, disabled like myself (shoutout to all the spoonies out there with invisible disabilities). And are also sexual assault survivors (even though society tells us we should be grateful to be assaulted because fatness). And are also blind. And are also gay. Because we are multifaceted like that and already thought of these things and who to include in to begin with. And yet, and still, have been systematically erased from our own movement.

Mainly because the one fat person who they included is a White woman. This is already just a lot for me since they have single-handedly made fat representation about themselves even though there is ALL this data about the various ways in which fatness is racialized. But it’s also pretty laughable because said fat woman is barely scratching at requirements to be plus-sized and is even smaller than myself, which is saying a helluva lot since I am what many in the movement would rightfully call “small fat” (which is still fat, to be clear, but definitely not receiving uglier displays of fatphobia perhaps because I have curves “in the right places” or my gut “is not as big” or “offensive”).

I reject that anything can be fucking “inclusive” if it erases the very people it should be including. Sure, Jamil has since amended her initial statement, but for me and folks who have grown increasingly weary of and irritated with someone who is not fat and who is not Black taking up space in a movement that should be led by and yielded to fat Black people, the damage is already done. It doesn’t even matter that everyone else and their mama and bodies was included in this campaign. Hell, you could have put both Satan and Cthulhu in the campaign and it would have yielded the same exact result. Which is, there can be absolutely no claims of inclusion where body positivity is concerned if no fat Black people were even thought of when this “inclusive” effort was conceived. Absolutely none. You don’t get cookies if you’re Jamil or any other spokesperson or any other person involved with Aerie for saying that you will *now* included fat Black people when we should have been here from the beginning. 

We have GOT to revisit society’s bastardization of “inclusion”, particularly after J. Lo’s Yawntown tribute and this poorly “inclusive” Aerie campaign. We have GOT to look very closely at the eagerness that non-Black women display when it is time to actively erase Black women in things that we had a hand in creating. And fat Black people, in particular, should NOT at all be meek or shy about reclaiming space in our own movement. Nor should we care who this pisses off.  In fact, may they “inclusively” die mad about it.

CLARKISHA CLAPS BACK is a weekly column that humorously and honestly claps back at the world around writer Clarkisha Kent, from culture, politics, sexuality, gender and her personal life.