Social media has become more and more important in pop culture in our increasingly digital age. Fandoms, especially, dominate the conversation surrounding certain artists and popular trends. In 2017, it just so happens that a large number of these artists and trends originate from black spaces. Taking into account the nature of fandom itself, where admiration and fixation are key, it is no surprise that fandoms centered around black artists are composed of non-black stans. The nature of this fixation on black art and bodies is pervasive. Through the non-black lens, these artists are distorted to be objects for consumption and their work is warped to fit a non-black perspective.
In the context of black artists and their online fan bases, it is often nonblack fans who are the most vocal and visible. Because of the pervasive and obsessive nature of stan culture, there is often an air of fetishization surrounding black artists. Black artists are fetishized and objectified more often than not. Seen as inherently sexual beings, black artists are rarely ever allowed to represent more than their sexuality and sensuality. This begs the question: do you support all black art or only black art that can then be warped and manipulated to fit a certain narrative? The voyeuristic nature of a nonblack fan's interactions with black idols is ultimately reflective of real-world interactions between black people and their nonblack counterparts.
Essentially, a fan's basis for stanning black artists isn't reflective of their admiration for black art but rather, it is reflective of their attraction to an artist's appearance. What it comes down to is palatability. Nonblack fans are drawn in by how similar to them a black artist is. Basically: the less black you seem or appear to be, the more similar you are to me, a nonblack person.
There is a certain level of ownership projected onto black artists by non-black fans. Nonblack fans often blur the lines between appreciation, fetishization, and idolization. From Frank Ocean to Kanye West, fans function as purveyors of blackness. A black artist’s narrative is only lauded if it can be distorted to fit a broader sense of identity. For example, non-black stans may adore Frank for his bisexuality, but they cannot relate to his experiences as a black man. Sexuality impacts black people differently; Ocean's existence as a queer black man is not identical to the experience of any other queer nonblack person. But, still, his experiences are used to represent the gay experience in America.
The same can be said for Kevin Abstract. While Abstract does in fact fit the suburban boy mold, his experiences cannot represent all suburban experiences. As a black man, his experiences are unique to him and only him. Non-black stans tend to gloss over this important distinction, yet another result of their attempts to relate to artists such as Frank Ocean and Kevin Abstract by erasing a significant part of their identities: their blackness.
The black masculinity exuded by artists such as Kanye West and Migos is ultimately what non-black and, particularly, white men strive for. They aspire to Kanye's level of confidence and gush over Migos' style, but there is one thing that cannot be emulated: black masculinity; the swagger in a black man’s walk, perhaps a particular drawl in his accent.
To nonblack stans, black idols exude a level of charisma, style, and confidence that might seem otherwise unattainable. Stan culture is a form of escapism and ultimately, it is black idols who present the most opportunities for nonblack people to escape from their own lifestyles. At the core of it, blackness is what drives popular culture in America. The clothes we wear, our hairstyles, the music we listen to — it can all be bought on shelves, but no amount of money can give nonblack people what they truly desire. Black cool is not for sale.
jasmine feaster is a non-binary artist from atlanta, georgia. their art consists of filmmaking, poetry, and think pieces. jasmine is 19 and tweets @pearldiver.