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Guiding Erica Mena and Other Colorists Towards Personal Growth & Raising Balanced Black Children

The fiery New Yorker faced backlash after an explosive racial comment towards dancehall artist Spice. Here's advice for navigating the dangerous terrain of colorism and personal responsibility.

Initially introduced as an "urban model" and singer, Erica Mena, a blend of Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage from New York, graced the inaugural season of "Love and Hip Hop." Known for her candid sexuality and tempestuous nature, she consistently delivered on-screen drama. A recent "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" episode showcased a heated altercation between Erica and the Jamaican dancehall sensation Spice. The dispute escalated to table-flipping and Erica dubbing Spice a “blue monkey” – a jibe at Spice's blue wig but also a profoundly offensive racial slur, particularly against those with darker skin. This incident led to Mena's swift exit from the series.

From my perspective as a dark-skinned woman, while it's challenging to empathize with Erica's current predicament, it's essential to remember the broader issue: the insidious presence of white supremacy and its manifestations, like colorism. Erica's actions warrant consequences, but I hope she finds a path to redemption and growth. Her personal life, including her marriage to co-star Safaree Samuels, which blessed them with two children and subsequently ended, indicates some lapses in judgment. However, using her as a cautionary tale, I wish to extend advice to Erica and those who might tread similar paths in the future.

  • Don't fall for the bait

    When someone starts talking about your kids, they’re intentionally trying to get a rise out of you. Spice wanted you to fly off the handle. Don’t fall for that again.

  • Black women put you on

    Look at Black women's role in your life. -- if not for Black women, nobody would even know the name Erica Mena-- and treat all of us with the respect we deserve.

  • Take advantage of the chance to pivot

    “Love and Hip Hop” released you from the pressure to portray yourself as anything but who you want to be. This gives you a great opportunity to tap back into Erica Mena, the woman, and leave Erica Mena, the second-tier reality show, spitfire behind.

  • Stop using the 'n' word.

    Everything ain’t for everybody. I’ve heard you drop the n-word consistently over the years. Something that Puerto Ricans and Dominicans seem to get a pass for. That’s how people talk where you’re from; there’s no racism in your heart behind that. But think about the larger dynamic at play, and don’t throw around racial slurs in front of your kids. Remember, those words can hurt them in a way you will never experience.

  • Anti-blackness isn't cute

    Your proximity to Blackness does not absolve you from harboring anti-black attitudes. We don’t forget who has shown disgust for us. Many Black women will refuse to work with you in the future to avoid that misogynoir mouth of yours.

  • Your children are Black

    Your children will believe the Black part of them is ugly if you don’t undo your hateful attitude. This is exactly how anti-black racism is designed to work.

  • Don't pass down your ugliness

    Don’t depend solely on your co-parent to give your kids a healthy understanding of Blackness. It’s on you to make sure your children aren’t running around calling each other and other Black people monkeys. Throw yourself into raising your kids without passing them your anti-black racism. In the process, please keep Black people’s names and any racial epithets for us out ya’ mouth.

    ________________________________________________________________

    Thembi Ford is a TV comedy writer, essayist, and cultural critic with takes on race, pop culture, and society.

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