Each week, as part of our “Roving Reporter” series, an Aggie reporter will walk around campus and ask random students a question specific for that week. The questions will cover a variety of topics, such as “If you could switch places with anyone in the world for one day, who would you switch places with and why?” or “If you invented a class that would go on the mandatory list needed to graduate from college, what would the class be?”
For this week’s “Roving Reporter,” The Aggie asked students the following question: “If you were Becky with the good hair, what would your response to Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ be?” For those who don’t understand the reference, in Beyonce’s new visual album, Lemonade, she sings “He only want me when I’m not there / He better call Becky with the good hair.”
On a surface level, listeners may think that Becky is a mistress of Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, and there were rumors of who that person actually was. However, the album itself is not only a statement on the marriage between Beyonce and Jay Z and Jay Z’s potential infidelity, but it is also a sharp commentary on racism in the United States as it pertains to hair texture. Historians and members of the black community have explained that “good hair” is a phrase used to describe the hair of someone who is usually of mixed race, and the inference is that “Becky” has desirable, straighter hair.
The term “good hair” is problematic because it implies that black women who don’t have wavy, straight hair have “bad hair.” This inference sheds light on the perception of black femininity, showing the discrimination that black women face because their hair is deemed as unprofessional and the favoritism that mixed African Americans receive because of their “good hair.” The inference is that “Becky” is a representation of the privilege that black women with straighter hair have benefitted from since slavery. The truth of the matter is, black hair is anatomically not the same as white hair. Black women have been manipulated by a vast number of industries that make ridiculous amounts of money off of the idea that black women should strive to have “good hair,” or hair that’s as similar to white women’s hair as possible.
The Aggie’s “Roving Reporter” article yesterday was in poor taste and has since been taken down. The reporter and subsequent editors did not understand the true meaning behind the lyrics when talking to students, and no black students were interviewed for the article. I understand why students at UC Davis are upset by this; writing an article about a phrase that has such strong negative connotations in the black community and then not speaking to black students for the article is insensitive and ignorant, and I apologize for the oversight.
The Aggie does not want to perpetuate stereotypes, racism or discrimination of any form, and failing to understand or catch racial undertones or commentary is no excuse for this newspaper to produce content that contributes to further ignorance and racism. There have been issues of racism in The Aggie in the past, most notably the “Jungle Fever” opinion piece written in 2011. Nobody from The Aggie’s current staff was around in 2011, and certainly there is no way to defend the words of that article. I hope that, while students should remember that article for its unequivocal offensiveness, nobody equates an article written five years ago with the convictions of today’s Aggie staff.
The “Roving Reporter” article was a massive oversight, and I am sorry for offending anybody and for perpetuating any discrimination or racism. I will do everything I can to inform myself and my staff to ensure that nothing like this happens again at The Aggie. The UC Davis Diversity Education Program offers workshops in cultural sensitivity and has a specific workshop in Culturally Respectful Training, and I have already reached out to the Office of Campus Community Relations to set up a workshop for The Aggie’s staff.
Thank you all for your continued readership, and I appreciate students bringing issues like this to my attention.