Is Doja Cat White?

According to Doja Cat via her Instagram, “I’m a black woman. Half of my family is from South Africa and I’m very proud of where I come from.”   Everyone has the right to define themselves, artists and entertainers especially build their careers exploring the depths of who they are and how that relates to the world around them.   Given the current climate surrounding racial inequality and the multitude of issues therein, it calls into question Doja Cat’s unapologetic claim to Blackness.   Read on to discover the whole story.  

Family History

  In RapTv’s article, Is Post Malone White?, they explain “these days, many believe what makes your ethnicity is not just your skin color; it’s also how you grow up and what kind of culture you are exposed to during your formative years.”   Doja Cat, whose real name is Amalaratna Zandile Dlamini was born on October 21, 1995, in Tarzana, California. So, Doja Cat is ethnically an American? Growing up she moved between the east and west coast. She called both the Bronx in New York as well as Oak Park in Los Angeles, home. The question becomes, did this experience expose her to life outside of her awareness or if she became an expert at presenting what others expected.   The United States has long been referred to as a melting pot of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities. The problem with this metaphor is it romanticizes the gritty reality of American fear. Often covered by words like patriotism and assimilation, it’s seldomly about making immigrants comfortable or welcome in their new home.    Would you ask your new roommate to refrain from putting things that bring them joy in the shared rooms? Would you ask that he change his religious practices because of how they make you feel? Hopefully, the answer is a resounding no. By melting together in a pot we become a goopy mess, covering our differences in the same bland, creamy, sauce.    We erase and undermine, whether by accident or on purpose, other new, special flavors and textures. The spicy, crunchy, salty, chewy, bitter, and sweet culture that immigrants bring. It might not seem appetizing at first, but just as your tastes mature with age, your beliefs can only grow through exposure.    Her mother, Deborah Elizabeth Sawyer, is a Jewish-American painter. Doja credits her mother with starting her love for music saying as a white Jewish woman, she wasn’t someone you would think would love hip-hop but “she would play a lot of Erykah Badu, a lot of Fugees, and Jamiroquai and Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire, Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, a lot of stuff like that.”     Her father, Dumisani Dlamini, is a South African actor, who has starred in films such as “Sarafina!” and alongside Whoopi Goldberg in “The Lion King” on Broadway, of Zulu ethnicity. In an Instagram video, Doja Cat tells Goldberg she hasn’t met her own father. Goldberg responds by saying “he is a good man.” But being a good man is not the same as being a present father. It’s definitely not teaching her about her culture, family, or what it means to be Black in America, society, and the world. He did nothing to help his daughter know or understand how she fits in a county with systemic racism, and why her place and experiences within it will never really be the same as either his or her mothers.   Doja’s mother raised her as a single parent, and Doja Cat has said her father never played a role in her life. Growing up as a mixed kid comes with a unique set of struggles. Only having a white parent to navigate those waters calls into question how closely her mother realized her own, no matter how unintentional, racial biases. You don’t grow up in America without them. Even Black people have to unlearn them at times, they are so deeply ingrained in our society, we don’t see them. Especially as white people, until someone shows us or it affects someone we love.   At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if someone thinks they are racist. The important thing is holding space for new information and instead of denying it and rebuking it, put your feelings to the side and listen. Be willing to admit you were wrong, especially when you don’t want to be. We have to search for ourselves if we can ever hope to make lasting change for the future.   As a child, Doja participated in many hobbies. She studied piano, tap, ballet, and jazz lessons. She also enjoyed surfing and breakdancing. By her teens, she was teaching herself to sing.   Instead of questioning her race, perhaps we should question her intentions.  

What effect does Doja Cat’s race have on her music?

  Doja Cat suddenly began receiving recognition with the hit track “So High.” More singles followed, gaining her a following and attention online. The bizarre single turned meme “Mooo!” arrived in 2018. Dressed in a cow print outfit, Doja fantasies about being a cow. The bizarre nature of the lyrics and interesting visuals caught the attention of celebrities, such as Chance the Rapper and Katy Perry, who praised her creativity and caused her to go viral.   Doja Cat’s ability to capture the attention of internet audiences was and remains essential to her rise to fame. She is active on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, the latter of which is largely responsible for the popularity of her newest number one hit, “Say So.”   Doja Cat is known as both a singer and a rapper who mixes multiple genres to achieve her eclectic sound. She has influences of dancehall, trap, house, and R&B, all of which have their roots in Black culture.    She has released music with well-known rappers. Tyga was featured on a remix of “Juicy” a single from her first album, “Amala.”  Her song “Like That” from her second album “Hot Pink” features Gucci Mane.   She considers artists such as D’Angelo, Rihanna, and Beyonce as some of her main influences. If Doja’s career is as influenced by Beyonce as she claims, surely she can’t have missed Beyonce’s activism.   RapTV again explains the “main hip-hop contributing cultures are part of the classically defined’“African Diaspora’ which means any African people not born on the continent itself.”   Doja’s mixed ethnicity in and of itself, shouldn’t define nor prevent her from being an asset to hip-hop culture. However, she would do well to be particularly mindful of her words and the impact they can have.   Doja Cat told MTV News that her new album will feature a variety of genres and sounds spanning afrobeat, dancehall, funk, and house. “It’s very similar to ‘Hot Pink’ in the sense that each of the songs to have their own kind of personality,” she continued “It’s not gonna be perfectly consistent, I’ve never been anyway.” That becomes apparent when you find out some of the things she’s said and done. Again, it’s less about her ethnicity than her experience. The way she presents herself is problematic, to put it mildly.   She went on to say on her Instagram, that although the album is complete, the timing isn’t right for a new release. With all the recent controversy surrounding Doja, it’s not hard to imagine why she has decided to wait.   It seems her intentions and the way she proclaims to be a Black woman, and even a bi-sexual, have recently been called into question. Allegations include using racist language in chat rooms and homophobic slurs on social media.  Additionally, an old song emerged under the title “Dindu Nuffin”  a term used to disparage black victims of police brutality. She first attempted to defend her actions then subsequently apologized for these behaviors, leaving many confused. It’s clear that she took no issue in her behavior and only apologized because she was being called out.  

The importance of how Doja Cat presents

  The need to amplify Black voices and have more representation in the entertainment industry is at the forefront of many minds. It seems obvious these issues would be relevant to Black fans of a woman who identifies as Black. Doja, however, seems oblivious to the people she offends and even less capable of understanding the consequences of her actions.   Rapper Nas came for Doja Cat on his newest single, “Ultra Black”, calling her “the opposite” of “unapologetically Black.” This shows that Black people do not appreciate someone benefiting from their culture, while not seeming to respect the people who are a part of it.    However, it also highlights an issue that is important to Black women, which is constantly having to justify themselves for simply existing. They are often not heard or tone policed. In a similar way, Cardi B who got so much shit for “WAP,” even other (male) rappers were talking about “stripper rap” being played out. It’s not even a remote comparison to the number of songs by male rappers talking about sex and their desires and fantasies. I’ve yet to hear male rappers be criticized for their sexual music.   This article says it wonderfully, “Let’s not be hip hop hypocrites and forget our history. Let’s make this a teachable moment and learn how to confront our own biases and isms. Hip-hop is a part of American culture and just like we’re demanding justice and equity in everyday life — we need the same in hip hop.” The author does a far better job than I ever could trying to explain from the outside. The author knows her rap music, dirty music, and racial and feminist issues.   Back to Doja and the controversy seems to surround her. Her too little, too late approach to listening and owning her mistakes jeopardizes her ability to continue success as an entertainer. If for no other reason than if you don’t care about your fans, who is going to care about you?   “Does saying f****t mean you hate gay people? Do I hate gay people? I don’t think I hate gay people. Gay is ok.” While the tone-deaf actions themselves are cause for concern, Doja Cat’s apparent inability to empathize with those she has offended is even worse. It’s almost as if she herself has never experienced discrimination. It seems unlikely as someone who claims to be both Black and Bi-sexual. But if she experienced discrimination and prejudice, specifically being called offensive slurs, why would she refer to others in a similar manner?   These controversies have spurred fans to “cancel” and strangely “cancel” Doja within 24 hours. Her behavior is inconsistent and far more confusing than her ethnicity. She also seems unable to take ownership of her own actions as well as aspects of her career. Doja acknowledged that some of her promotional photos may have been “lightened to a certain point” but claimed: “That just happens. I’m not behind editing my photos”. Representation matters. Lots of Black celebrities, no matter how famous or how beautiful have had this same thing happen to them. Her careless attitude calls into question her stance on these issues. This calls back to a related issue, is Doja “passable?” This is a term used to reference the privileges she enjoyed by being more ambiguous and not necessarily Black. It highlights the ability to claim your Black identity when it’s convenient, beneficial, or profitable, or to deny or minimize it if otherwise advantageous. Now that she is famous, people question her motivations for capitalizing on Black culture while making offensive comments and songs. In today’s social climate, it’s hard to believe she is not more socially conscious. At the very least she lacks the self-awareness required to make it in today’s “cancel culture.” Tiffany McClain conducted a series of interviews with white women with biracial children. She drew some promising conclusions, such as their willingness to acknowledge their own racism, so that they can overcome it. They are not bad people, in fact, they are doing the work that is required of every single person who wants to see the end of systematic oppression. She reiterates the importance of acknowledging that the existing binary when we talk about race is leaving an ever-increasing number of people, all of their feelings, experiences, and contributions, out of the conversation.    This kind of introspection might be too much to ask from someone who believes, “I’m sorry if I hurt you or made you feel in any way upset,” is even approaching a sincere apology.  

Does Doja have a place in hip-hop?

  It’s a beautiful thing when a person can appreciate all aspects of their heritage, however, Doja’s problematic behavior has led some to believe she has internalized racism. It’s no wonder many people take issue with the fact she seems to commodify Black culture while acting racist and carelessly in today’s social climate.   Doja has an inherent opportunity to bring a unique and important voice to the world through her art. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to have the emotional maturity to accomplish that. Tone policing is a problem, not listening to women is a problem. But we have to have the courage to speak the truth to what’s wrong. Not to allow labels and self-image to obscure the voices of those who are hurt and raise legitimate concerns with another’s behavior, regardless of race.   “I don’t want you to look at me as a (role) model. I just want you to hear my music and the joy that you take from that is the most important part.” Doja shared on Twitter.   Many of today’s fans have higher expectations out of the entertainers they choose to support. Doja Cat further addressed people who had said she was guilty of “internalized racism” and self-hatred”, saying: “I love my skin color. I think I’m beautiful.” Doja has some work to do if she hopes to enjoy long term success. Rap and Hip-Hop, two of the genres she gravitates toward, have been used since their inception to give a voice to the oppressed. People who were silenced, angry, and passionate were given a mic and beat. It has empowered many artists to change their lives and those of their fans. If Deja wants to be a part of the community, she will learn to listen instead of double down. I think most people are curious about her race because of her actions, not her music. If Doja Cat develops integrity and is a more thoughtful person, it will mean far more than any aspect of her race or ethnicity.   Sources:


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