Modern Identity of the Black Madonna?

Black Madonna

A Black Madonna or Black Virgin is a statue or painting of Mary in which she is depicted with dark skin, especially those created in Europe in the medieval period or earlier.

Since joining this blog, 50 Shades of Black keeps me thinking about identities and diversity via our skin tone and sexuality. As a minority of any sort sometimes we adopt the positive and negative connotation associated with our Race. Even as we give such connotations power by confrontation, feelings like ownership and resentment and guilt affect the culture of a group.


Last week Madonna was quoted on Instagram calling her son a “nigga”  --the same woman who popularized the gay black underground ball cultural interpretation of voguing through song, video, and employment of the underground’s most prominent. In an apology on Facebook, she wrote the following:

"I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N word on Instagram," she wrote. "It was not meant as a racial slur.. I am not a racist. There's no way to defend the use of the word. It was all about intention.. It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white.  I appreciate that it's a provocative word and I apologize if it gave people the wrong impression.  Forgive me." 


Last month I hosted a Caucasian colleague in New York from North Carolina. As we pulled off from his hotel in Midtown to head to Harlem for dinner at Red Rooster, he threw his hands in the air where the roof was missing as he rambled off every lyric to Yeezus song Black Skinhead, politely editing himself each time Kanye West said “nigga” and “coon”. Focusing on the road I couldn’t help but count the number of pauses and the fact that he knew exactly where all of the niggas were: pun on Harlem.

The blunt reality of Hip Hop culture and Rap as its spawn is indicative of the transparency culture that started after the US civil rights & sexual revolutions in the 1960’s. Just because something exists in the culture that we know, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for the individuals of the culture to internalize. Having stated that, western society has historically done a poor job of stifling cultural shifts. I don't know that it can, or ever will.

jigga is present

When I listen to Mac Miller (a white rapper) get called "my nigga" by Tyler The Creator (a black rapper) , I realize that the word has been normalized. This isn't the language of camaraderie that existed with a duo like Eminem and Dr. Dre in the generation before Miller and The Creator. Times are constantly changing. Further, we’ve seen Rap’s foremost mentor normalize the word more than anyone. Jay-Z’s live performance called "Picasso" based on the MoMA presentation of "The Artist if Present" is the most prevalent. In the live show Jigga presses his head against Marina Abramović and then use the word "Nigga" multiple times. His breath leaving a legacy of the word on her face as the crowd chants “Picasso Baby”. While watching the show, I thought of the 2007 funeral that the NAACP hosted in Detroit, MI for the death of the word Nigga. Immediately Eban Thomas’ voice pops into my head from his rant on Nas’s untitled album song Project Roach:

It is absolutely silly, and unproductive to have a funeral for the word nigger when the actions continue.

While Madonna is correct in that her intentions mattered, intellectuals who identify as “Black” must meet the changing culture with PEST (political, economic, social, and technological) activism instead of washing their hands of the generational-ly loaded words. The only way to counter culture is with an actual counter culture.


writer, cultural critic, special contributor to 50 Shades of Black

Posted on January 23, 2014 and filed under art, personal stories, skin tone.