A Tale of Two Princes: Diamonds & Pearls and the Myth of Colorblindness in the Work of Prince

In recent years, “he did not see color” has become a common refrain from some fans when attempts are made to center blackness in the narrative of Prince’s life and art. Given Prince’s rebuke of racial boundaries and the fact that he forged his iconic career during the post-Civil Rights era when America adopted colorblind ideology as an antidote to racism, it is understandable why some continue to perpetuate colorblindness when discussing his work. However, though Prince himself even espoused the colorblind ethos in his chart-topping single “Diamonds & Pearls,” the reality is that Prince was anything but colorblind. Rather, he was profoundly aware of color, race, and racism and their impact on his work. As culture critic Greg Tate has noted, Prince was a “pop music tactician and strategist.” This presentation will demonstrate the role that race played as part of the strategy that made Diamonds & Pearls one of Prince’s most successful albums.

Kamilah Cummings

Kamilah Cummings is a writer, editor, and visiting senior lecturer in writing and communications at DePaul University in Chicago. In addition to presenting at Purple Reign (University of Salford), the EYE NO Prince Lovesexy Symposium (NYU), the Batdance Symposium (Spelman), the virtual Prince #DM40GB0 Symposium, and the virtual #SOTTSDC: Peach + Black 2 – Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Celebration, she has developed the interdisciplinary course Prince: A New Breed Leader. Her essay “Sisters in the Shadows: an Examination of Prince’s “Strange Relationship” with Black Women” is featured in the Howard University Journal of Communications special issue Prince in/as Blackness: Explorations of a music icon and racial politics. She has also contributed to Prince and Popular Music: Critical Perspectives on an Interdisciplinary Life. A lover of House music as well, she has presented on House music and taught her original course The House Chicago Built. Her research interests include exploring the intersections of media, pop culture, and history in representations and constructions of black identity.