Does the term “redbone” offend you? How about when it’s used to confer a level of superior beauty or as a description of aesthetic preference? If you’re an Eric Benét fan, you may have already heard his single “Redbone Girl.” You also may be aware of the controversy it’s stirring.

The song, which features Li’l Wayne, is an ode to a former light-skinned paramour. The chorus is:

She’s my, redbone girl
A bitter sweet, but she’s my world
Coffee cream, thick and lean
My redbone girl, redbone girl, yeah
She’s my redbone girl
A bitter sweet, but she’s my world
Coffee cream, thick and lean
My redbone girl, redbone girl, yeah

This may seem innocuous enough. Benét himself doesn’t outright state a preference for light-skinned women in the song. The Li’l Wayne verse has folks a little more up in arms, with lines like, “I like the long hair thick redbone” and “I like them light skin, lighter than a feather.”

Journalist Akiba Solomon finds the entire song problematic:

“There’s a clear premium on light skin and on straight hair, whether it grows out of your head or not. I’m not a big fan of songs that fetishize dark skin, either. But you could argue that [the "dark-skin" devoted songs] offer some sort of resistance to the prevailing beauty standards. He’s attempting to be provocative. He’s pretending that he’s never heard about light skin preferences. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

In an interview with CBS Local, Benét defended his song and even went as far as to claim that those who took issue with the song were engaging in a “form of racism”:

“I think it’s its own form of racism. I did a song called ‘Chocolate Legs’ about my experience with a dark-skin lady. There was no anger or uproar of ‘How dare you.’ So ‘Redbone Girl’ is one song about one experience about a girl who happens to be light complected, but there was quite an uproar.”

Allegations and blatant instances of colorism are nothing new in the worlds of R&B and hip-hop. Two years ago, Wale was under fire for neglecting to cast dark-skinned models in his video for the song “Pretty Girls,” which was seen as a particular slight, given the title of the song. In Benét’s case, he insists that the song refers to one relationship — and I’m willing to go with him there. When artists begin to censor and edit their experiences so as not to trigger backlash, they limit the work they’re able to produce.

Is Benét courting controversy with his comments about the song? Absolutely. And I can certainly understand why. Despite four Grammy nominations, his U.S. chart history and sales have never been very high. He can use all the press he can get. I’m most annoyed by his penchant for making these stock songs with “girl” in the title: “Poetry Girl,” “Ghetto Girl,” “Weekend Girl,” “Redbone Girl.” Now he’s talking about doing one about an Asian girl? Sir, quit that now.

  • Youwishyoucouldbeme

    Well said Dave

  • Sally

    The African American community will never meet its full potential because we are so divided. The color of our skin is not important. Why must we continue this foolishness. Other ethnic groups are coming together and their communities are reaping those rewards. Yet we continue with our stupidity. This makes me sick. It is time for us to wake up black people. We have bigger issues like the educational gap and fatherless children. It is time to fix the things that matter so our community can rise.

  • Suave

    +1,000,000,000

    Perhaps this will clarify, white people actually do go through discrimination and racism. The qualifying difference, however, is that the racism against non-white people is defined as “effective racism”. Effective racism just refers to the fact that because white people are an overwhelming majority, their racist ideas and actions are able to effect black people in a way that can not be equaled in a reverse trend. Experts will tell you that we do indeed need to work on racism against white people, but it is a low priority because they simply are not experiencing much more than hurt feelings on average. All societal ills work this way, i.e. colorism may cut both ways, but the heft of the damage still remains on darker spectrum of skin color in the black community. Effectively speaking, light skin people at most have people question their “blackness” by other black people, on a human level will you really compare that to the horrendous way we have historically treated dark skin people (women specifically)? If you don’t like terms, say something, when you hear a dude disparage your dark/light sisters let em know it’s not hot, don’t support rappers who set women back for anything, etc.

    I say this as a dark skin gay male who is currently entering academia in the biology and chemistry fields. I look at comments everyday on videos/blogs about the glorification of light skin people. We literally have the same mess! Lol. Light skin boys believe it or not are considered “pretty”, “red-bone” and “yellow” also. The problem isn’t pride in being light, it’s the problem of light skin people often seeming to need to place their value on how low the stock of dark skin people is at the moment. It’s akin to the fact that somehow “white pride” somehow always comes at the behest of devaluing racial minorities, rather than just pride in a culture.

    Last note: Irony is that we are placing racial pride on the fact that we find lines with more obvious “white” in them to be the most prized of our race. Throwing up black power, but celebrating the more eurocentric of our features over our pride in our African descent. Smh.

  • SayItLoudImBlackAndProud

    Why do you feel the need to say something to defend Eric Benet if you feel the song is appropriate. Thats because you know the song is inappropriate. For centuries dark skin people have been victims of racism so people want to hear a song uplifting darkskin women. People in the black community are tired of the self hatred the.