Several days ago Dominican American artist was trending on Twitter for a controversial song: “Yellow Bone.” The song lyrics stated: “Yellow bone is what he wants.” Yellow Bone is an AAVE (African American Vernacular English) term used to describe light-skinned Black women and colorism is the inner community discrimination against darker complexions. Though the song sparked a conversation surrounding colorism and the dangers of “light-skinned” anthems it also sparked a larger conversation around Dani Leigh who isn’t African American and in the eyes of many Twitter users isn’t a Black woman either. Ultimately, her song as well as her position in the music industry led to a conversation about racial identity, ethnicity, nationality, cultural appropriation, and gatekeeping Blackness.
Who is DaniLeigh?
Before this song going viral many Twitter users were unfamiliar with who Leigh was and why exactly she is releasing a song rooted in colorism. Dani Leigh is a Dominican American singer, rapper, and dancer from Miami, Florida, and is currently dating rapper DaBaby.
She is oftentimes seen with Black hairstyles such as box braids and cornrows and the N-word can be found in most if not all of her music. She released the song in a now-deleted Instagram video and initially defended it saying she just was uplifting herself and later tweeting: “Congratulations y’all gotta another thing to say about me when u hate, “it’s all good .. only God can ‘cancel’ me… that shit don’t mean shit to me bc the people around me are the ones that know my heart and intention and real-life … I’m sorry if I offended u .” The issue with DaniLeigh’s song is more complex than just colorism. Light skinned women have always been uplifted in society due to their proximity to whiteness and have always been the example of Black femininity. Light-skinned women are still more likely to marry and historically Black women who had proximity to whiteness gained access to better education, sororities, and jobs leaving an economic impact. Today, skin bleaching products and lighteners continue to be one of the most purchased beauty items, and documentaries such as “dark girls” reveal the experiences dark-skinned women have had to gain mobility, love, and respect. Colorism is just as powerful as racism and the effects are systemic and long-lasting. Light Skinned women have also been seen as examples of Black femininity and success in media with characters such as Whitley Gilbert in A Different World, Pam on Martin, and Zoey Johnson on Blackish. Many of the faces we see of Black femininity and elitism are not just light-skinned but biracial altering not just the public’s perception of Blackness but continuing the ideas that come from slavery that “light is right.” It continues to push the one-drop rule which in return has left many people confused on whether or not DaniLeigh is a yellow bone because she might just be another non-Black girl with a fake tan.
One of the reasons why DaniLeigh herself might not be able to digest colorism is because her connection to it is more aligned with Rachel Dolezal’s than light-skinned or biracial Black women. DaniLeigh’s ethnicity is Dominican and the diverse island is filled with Black people, White people, Indigenous people, and people that are all three. However, Dominican is not a race, it is a nationality and ethnicity. For many Latinx people navigating the United States a country that adheres to strict and few racial binaries and has a history of the one-drop rule, it is confusing to some people as to which box DaniLeigh and many Latinx people fit into because Latinx isn’t a race but an ethnic category.
One Drop Rule:
The one-drop rule in the United States meant that those who had one Black ancestor or one drop of African blood were legally considered Black and before 1863 many were enslaved regardless of their proximity to whiteness. However, this history is unique to the United States and the African American community which DaniLeigh is not a part of. Race functions differently in the Dominican Republic and many Latinx countries. Many of the colloquial terms used in the Dominican to classify “race” make space for the mixed population and peoples such as mestizo, mulatto, Indio, or Morenito. There are Black Dominicans such as Adrián Beltré and Amara la Negra who both are culturally, phenotypically, and socially Black people and have been denied access to privileges and resources based on it. Where DaniLeigh fits in the conversation is still up for debate since neither of her parents are phenotypically Black and she has a small amount of African ancestry that required her to take an ancestry test to discover. Whether or not she is a Black woman is still up for debate however, her ability to profit off of her ambiguity and utilize it to make a song isn’t.
DaniLeigh, similar to Miya Ponsetto, benefits from racism and utilizes it to promote herself while retreating into her ambiguity and the one-drop rule to erase accountability. One of the reasons why non-Black women have been able to identify as “transracial” is due to the tight hold and attachment to the one-drop rule to keep non-black people into Blackness at the expense of everyone else. DaniLeigh can’t be a yellow bone if she isn’t Black.
After making several social media comments defending the song, DaniLeigh eventually released an apology video that was equally problematic to her light-skinned anthem. In the video, she claimed she didn’t see color and that she isn’t like that [colorist] because she has a chocolate man.
DaniLeigh saw color when she wrote her song and sees color enough to fetishize her Black boyfriend and mention brown-skinned women but she’s colorblind when it comes to accountability for her contributions to colorism.
We as a community cannot tweet Black Lives Matter while simultaneously centering non-Black people. DaniLeigh symbolizes a lot of non-Black women of color and non-black women, in general, utilizing colorism and light-skinned privilege to their advantage to infiltrate the Black culture, communities, and spaces for-profit and notoriety. We don’t need more music or images of light-skinned women being praised because society always has praised them and given them access to privileges because of it. We also don’t need non-Black women using spray tan and curly hair as a way to appropriate Blackness for their mobility.