Meanwhile, On TumblR: Bed-Stuy, Tupac, And Azealia Banks

By Andrea Plaid

Usually, this review spotlights an item or two that the R’s Tumblizens have been checking out/liked/reblogged during the week.

This week, though? Let’s just say that folks were feeling quite a few of the posts, starting with one about some mystery posters appearing in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood.

Racism Still Exists poster, via Colorlines.

Racism Still Exists poster, via Colorlines.

Colorlines’ Jamilah King reports:

Even local activists who spend their time dedicated to working on racial justice issues can’t figure out who’s behind the billboards. Nonetheless, they’re intrigued by the campaign. This month’s billboard is dedicated to Stop-and-Frisk, the controversial NYPD tactic that’s drawn national criticism for its disproportionate impact on black and Latino men. The billboard’s provactive text reads, “Don’t want to get stopped by the NYPD? Stop being black.” On the heels of New York City’s 2013 mayoral race and the prominent role that critics of Stop-and-Frisk have taken in city politics, the billboards have become a meaningful part of local discussion.

It’s no accident that of all of New York City’s neighborhoods, the billboards have targeting this one. A historically black neighborhood, Bed-Stuy has become one of the most contested spaces in New York City. A 2012 study from Fordham University found that Brooklyn is home to 25 of the country’s most rapidly gentrifying zip codes. That’s created a stark contrast between those in the neighborhood who have more upward social and economic mobility than others. Several high profile media accounts have recently noted Bed Stuy’s so-called “hip” transformation and “resurgence”, but the borough’s medium per capita income in 2009 was just $23,000, which was $10,000 below the national average.

Actor/director Rashida Jones thought the late rapper Tupac acted below some dignity when he talked about her father, music legend Quincy Jones, and his interracial marriage. According to Tumblrer babylonfalling, Rashida, then 17 years old, sent a letter to The Source in 1993:

Via babylonfalling.tumblr.com

Via babylonfalling.tumblr.com

Finally, the one of the most read/liked/reblogged posts on the R’s Tumblr ever comes from social critic Edward Ndopu. Guest-posting at Crunk Feminist Collective, he critiques the fallout from the Azealia Banks/Perez Hilton controversy:

White gay cis men have cultural access to the bodies of black women and black femmes, cultural access that black women and black femmes do not have in relation to white gay cis male bodies. This cultural access allows white gay cis men to caricature black femininities, through mannerisms and voice intonations, as rambunctiously depraved and outlandish. It is a form of ontological mockery that reinforces dehumanizing narratives and racist tropes about black femininities. Perez Hilton, who personifies a homonormative politic, has systematically tapped into the cultural access to which I refer at various points in his career. Indeed, the sassy lexicon he, and so many other upper middle class non-disabled white gay cis men like him, employs rests on the commodification and appropriation of black femme identities. Hilton interjecting himself in a social media dispute between two black women, Azealia Banks and Angel Haze, precipitated the Hilton/Banks altercation, which is emblematic of his (problematic) cultural access.

Because our society subscribes to an insidiously misogynistic sociocultural paradigm, to insult someone, notwithstanding gender, is to invoke the feminine. So what better way for Banks to cut Hilton down to size than to call his masculinity into question? The Banks/Hilton feud had absolutely nothing to do with sexual identity (read: homophobia), but rather, gender power dynamics (read: femmephobia). Azealia calling Perez a “messy f****t” suggests an attempt to assert her status as a no-nonsense, hard ass femcee in a largely masculine of center dominated hip-hop industry. Masculine of center queer men, notwithstanding race, appropriate the word bitch. Very often, they use it pejoratively, and with impunity. They’re seldom called out on the ubiquity of their misguided misogyny. Yet, when it comes to Azealia’s use of the word f*****t, she’s quickly characterized as homophobic, reinforcing the dominant narrative that people of color are somehow inherently homophobic, to echo Janet Mock’s recent sentiments. Although Azealia Banks is queer, she is not part of a population that would have this slur used against her. That being said, there are other words that are deeply entrenched manifestations of oppression that go unchecked each and every day. Ironically, many gay men who are up in arms over Azealia’s use of the word f****t are the same men who render femme-identified men invisible and undesirable.

Azealia Banks’ career allegedly hangs in the balance and Perez Hilton’s remains firmly intact. She’s now regarded as the ratchet, violently homophobic black woman. By virtue of his white gay cis male privilege, Hilton did not have to contend with the implications of calling will.i.am a f*****t several months ago. This isn’t two wrongs make a right, but rather, one wrong is minimized, and the other, pathologized.

Check out what else what and who else quite a few folks are feeling, rightly or wrongly, at the R’s Tumblr!