Kyrie Irving is a newly minted NBA Champion. As such, he's celebrating like the 24-year-old multimillionaire that he is. The problem is, the optics of one recent party drew heavy criticism from Twitter. Their anger is best summarized by a cultural observation about the black community rapped by Kanye West in 2005: "When you get on, he'll leave your ass for a white girl," he joked (but not really) on "Gold Digger."
As seen in the video below, uploaded five days after Irving's Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA title, Irving's toweled head is surrounded by white women -- not a single black woman is seen. To many, this was a clear example of yet another black man running from his race after experiencing celebrity-status success. And once MediaTakeOut wrote about the video with a "No Black Girls" headline, the ensuing outrage came swiftly.
Last week, Irving responded to the criticism with an Instagram post captioned "All different shades," showing himself surrounded by black people. His subtweet did nothing to calm online nerves, only serving to fuel more reactive tweets and frustration. If anything, it caused people to draw a connection between Irving's very public breakup with R&B singer Kehlani and his supposed shunning of black women from his party.
It's now been almost a week since Irving's purported "no black girls allowed" party, and on Wednesday, he took to Facebook to defend himself against a smattering of racial- and gender-based criticism:
Irving's apology addressing his alleged all-white party feels genuine -- he lost his mother at a young age, and his father helped raise him, along with his older sister and his aunts. So while his post is appreciated, he's also missing the main point, which is at the heart of Kanye's flippant "Gold Digger" lyric.
His apology dismisses the anger from many black women who feel that Irving's party is a reflection of how black women are historically marginalized and treated as lesser citizens in the United States, even by men of their own race. Irving could never imagine his party would conjure such concrete analysis and repulsion from black women, because simply put, he's a black man who, culturally speaking, can't quite grasp the gripes against him.
The Root's Demetria Lucas D'Oyley explained further:
Irving’s lily-white celebration was a reminder that when some black men feel like they’ve arrived, their symbol of success isn’t a woman who looks like their mother or sister but, rather, a white woman, while the black women who were loyal when that same black man struggled are discarded as if they’re valueless. Irving’s boat party was yet another example of a black man who, when he gets on, “he leave your ass for a white girl.” Black men don’t really know that particular brand of rejection.
Women -- black or white -- aren't mannequins standing around to make men look more powerful, influential and cool on video. And it's unfair to levy absolute judgement on a person based on a crudely shot 29-second video. But the image it represents is indeed part of a larger cultural conversation in the black community, and one worth continuing, especially when an NBA star is the catalyst.