Brittney Cooper deserved better. All women deserve better. Women should not be afraid to voice their opinions for fear they’ll be called a “ratchet hoe” or “bitch” as I was by Kweli defenders during our exchange.
Kweli ducked and dodged challenges all week abruptly ending discussions with women he deemed too angry or vulgar.
A woman I follow on Twitter acknowledged she tweeted him abrasively because the ongoing discussion of rape triggered her. Kweli struck back just as I’d witnessed during his exchange with dream hampton a few days earlier. The woman admitted fault, but her apologies, though appreciated, made me uncomfortable. As the overwhelming victims of sexual assault and primary targets of rape culture, women shouldn’t constantly be asked to stretch ourselves across gaps in knowledge. Women need freedom to express our feelings without admonishment. Those who call themselves allies are responsible for understanding the contexts in which they speak; they are responsible for recognizing the structures of power from which they derive their privileges. And if this all sounds like too much to ask, then, perhaps, they should reconsider their claims to social justice work.
– From “The Problem With Our So-Called Allies,” by Kimberly Foster
After this latest week of utter shamtastery in hip-hop, the words of the late great Aaliyah resonate now more than ever:
We need a resolution; there is so much confusion.
- Rick Ross thinks that drugging a woman and raping her isn’t rape, but rather a case of misunderstanding. FOH.
- Talib Kweli thinks that the first responsibility that women in hip-hop have to men in hip-hop is to love to them.
- Despite his alleged support for Frank Ocean, Busta Rhymes remains an unrepentant and violent homophobe. From my armchair therapist’s seat, I want to ask what Busta is fighting against in himself that has him out in the world acting a fucking fool. (And since I’d ask the question just like that, it’s probably best that I didn’t become a therapist.)
I am more interested in the quintessential case of #allyfail that was Talib Kweli’s participation in this conversation. On Monday, in a conversation at Huffington Post Live with host Marc Lamont Hill, and guests Rosa Clemente, Jamilah Lemieux, and Rahiel Tesfamariam, Talib went in on Rosa for suggesting that she didn’t consider Ross a part of hip-hop culture.
She argued that her view represented a radical edge of thinking about hip-hop culture, which attempts to separate what she referred to as the “rap industrial complex” from the broader culture. She also fully acknowledged the extent to which folks would disagree with her perspective. I think her critique and perspective is a valid one, meaning that while I’m not sure if I agree, her argument is worthy of debate and dialogue.
But what Talib offered wasn’t dialogue. Instead, he attempted to dress Rosa down for even having such a perspective. And then he dictated to her what her perspective should be and told her that ultimately, it didn’t matter what her view was, “Rick Ross and Wayne are a part of the culture whether you like it or not.”
Do women not get to draw boundaries? Do women not get a say in determining the cultural environs of hip-hop?
This act of masculine aggression, mansplaining, and general disrespect is all the more absurd given that Talib Kweli then went on Twitter and told his friend dream hampton who attempted to point out some of the flaws in his argument, that he was “disappointing in her for rattling her sabers,” (i.e. critiquing him), especially since he’s an “ally.”
Um, Talib (if by chance you are listening), your conduct here is actually a primer in “How Not To Be An Ally.”
I know you may stop listening at this point since you probably perceive my tone not to be loving, but if you do continue to read, here are a few pointers on how to be a real male ally in hip-hop:
1.) Let the women have the mic. Rick Ross disrespected all women, and particularly Black and Brown women, in this situation. Black and Brown women have the right to command the space, to “get on the mic” if you will, and speak our peace, without you yanking it back cuz you don’t like what we’re spitting. In other words, if you should find yourself yelling at one of the injured parties, just know that something has gone woefully awry. Check it before you wreck it, ya heard?
2.) Don’t mansplain. Telling Rosa Clemente that the “smarter move” is to embrace Rick Ross with love assumes that Black women’s contribution to the conversation is emotional, not logical. But I hope it is abundantly clear that you were the one all in your feelings in that convo. We’ve been conditioned not to see it when men get defensive and emotional, cuz y’all usually signal that by telling women that we’re the ones who aren’t being “smart” or “logical.” But I call bullshit for bullshit. Despite what you said to dream hampton on Twitter, “your outrage clouded” your judgment.
3.) Don’t invoke the tone argument. You expected Rosa to listen to you, even though your tone wasn’t loving. You were offended, and you felt the right to communicate that offense and be heard. Why not Black women? If someone is standing on my fucking foot, I don’t have to ask them nicely to move. Like the Queen (Latifah, that is) said 20 years ago, “a man don’t love ya, if he hits ya,” or rapes ya, or raps about raping ya. To ask me to love somebody who ain’t even remotely interested in trying to love me back, either means you think Black women are Jesus or fools. To demand more love when all Black women do is give love is at best woeful misrecognition and worst an egregious show of male arrogance.
4.) Interrogate your privilege. You may be a progressive man in hip-hop, but you are still a man who moves through the world with male privilege. And what you did in that conversation and the subsequent conversation on Twitter was communicate from the space of that male privilege. You told Rosa that she didn’t get to determine who was in and out of hip-hop, though she has paid her dues in the culture just like you. And then you told her who was in. Period. The end. That’s not being an ally. That’s being minister of information for the Ol Boys’ Club.
5.) Recognize that you don’t get to tell us how to be our ally; we get to tell you. And if the fact that you don’t have the power to determine the bounds of your allyship make you uncomfortable, then you have found the primary place of your problem. We get to determine who our allies are. Not you. Your primary job as an ally is to listen, and then be a megaphone, not a microphone. Your job is to amplify what we’re saying so other folks can hear it, and have our back if something pops off. If the folks you are attempting to help or be in alliance with tell you that they are feeling unsupported, then that might mean there is a problem with the support you are offering rather than a problem with the demands they are making. (For a far better explication of this principle, check out this good work from our friends over at Shakesville.)
I don’t know that the tips above come from a place of love. I don’t always love hip-hop, since hip-hop so infrequently loves me back. But I absolutely care about what happens in hip-hop and I care about the healing of Black men with pathological ideas about sex and I care about Black men who are interested in being allies. Most of all, I care about Black women. So maybe a little more love is not what we need. Too many people use that word in vain. Perhaps hip-hop should start somewhere far more basic: let’s imagine what it would look like to care. For others, for ourselves, for the culture.
Talib Kweli responded to the Crunk Feminist Collective here.
- Stop Talking About Single Mothers Unless You Have Some Solutions (Clutch Magazine)
It looks like the media found a new group to throw under the bus this week: single moms.
I really just want to say…keep our names out your mouth, yo…but I’m going to take a more diplomatic approach.
The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Think Progress, and a slew of blogs published essays discussing the decline in marriage rates and the rise of single parent households and what it means for America. In case you’re wondering, we’re doomed.
- Barbara Byrd-Bennett: It’s Not ‘Racist’ To Close Schools (The Chicago Sun-Times)
I am recommending that we close 54 schools because I believe, and I know that the Mayor believes, that we should not invest in buildings; we should invest in our children’s education. This is not about numbers on a spreadsheet for me. This is far more personal and close to the heart. This is about our children. This is about ensuring that they have a chance to succeed.
While some have called my recommendations racist, the true crime would be to continue to allow our children to attend schools not equipped to help them reach their God-given potential.
For too long, children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated. They have been denied the resources they need to succeed in the classroom. And in far too many cases, these children are black and brown. They are trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools. They are stuck because no one took the decisive, responsible and progressive action necessary to better their education. We cannot, and I will not, bury my head in the sand and pretend that there is a level playing field for all our children.
If we are to decry inequality, if we are to teach our children tolerance and humanity; if we are to teach our children the principles of equity and democracy, how can we stand by while thousands of children are deprived of the resources they need to have a fighting chance?
As a former teacher and a principal, I have lived through school closings. I know that we have a difficult road ahead. I know that this is painful, but in my 40 years as an educator, I have never felt more certain that we need to take this action now.
The always-inquisitive Jada Pinkett-Smith recently posed a question that has many people scratching their heads and some folks outright upset. In short, she’s wondering if black women ask to be represented in mainstream media, on the covers of magazines like Vanity Fair, shouldn’t white women be represented on the covers of traditionally black magazines like Essence, Ebony and JET?
The answer? Yes and no.
It’s not enough to have this discussion without a little bit of context. We didn’t come to this dilemma out of nowhere. There is a long, difficult history that informs our current dynamics around race that can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. This country has a long history of exclusion and the many movements for equal rights and access including the women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement (both of which black women fought in) reminds us that every person is not considered deserving and some of us had to, and still have to, fight for representation.
Magazines like Ebony and Essence were created from a need for black people to see ourselves featured prominently and positively. Ebony, which was founded in 1945, aimed to focus on the achievements of blacks from “Harlem to Hollywood” and to “offer positive images of blacks in a world of negative images.” Back then it was rare for mainstream magazines like LIFE and LOOK to feature black people in a non-discriminatory way. During a time when blacks were fighting so diligently for equal rights, it must have been a devastating blow to morale to be disparaged in the folds of corporate media. We’ve seen other marginalized communities like the LGBT and fat communities create their own media for fair and just representation. This plight is not exclusive to black people.
- Immigrants Held In Solitary Cells, Often For Weeks (The New York Times)
Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.
While the records do not indicate why immigrants were put in solitary, an adviser who helped the immigration agency review the numbers estimated that two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards or getting into fights. Immigrants were also regularly isolated because they were viewed as a threat to other detainees or personnel or for protective purposes when the immigrant was gay or mentally ill.
The United States has come under sharp criticism at home and abroad for relying on solitary confinement in its prisons more than any other democratic nation in the world. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement places only about 1 percent of its jailed immigrants in solitary, this practice is nonetheless startling because those detainees are being held on civil, not criminal, charges. As such, they are not supposed to be punished; they are simply confined to ensure that they appear for administrative hearings.
- “Leaning In” In Iraq: Women’s Rights And War? (Al Jazeera)
In the weeks leading up to this 10-year anniversary of the 2003 war there has been precious little said about actual women’s rights in Iraq. Media venues and screens of all sorts instead are in full gear discussing feminist dilemmas in the US, from Sheryl Sandberg’s need for powerful women to lean in, to whether women – that fantasmatic unspecified category – can “have it all”, or “not”.
These are messy times we live in. Wars are said to end (and they really don’t) and the war/s on women across the globe – from Congo, to Egypt, to Afghanistan, to the US Republican party – are not counted amongst them anyway. There is much noise about Sandberg of Facebook fame telling women to lean in – meaning to stay at the table and persevere – to get top leadership roles, while most women here and elsewhere have no chance for the top rungs of power. Do not be confused by the fact that Secretary of States Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hillary – who leans in readily – spoke on behalf of women’s rights while getting little in return.
It is problematic and troubling that Sandberg readily claims to be a feminist, without qualifying that her kind of feminism is corporatist and way too exclusionary. Her notion of “true equality” requires more women to be at the top – in leadership positions in government and the corporate structure. She supposedly believes that these women can change the world for the rest of women, and men. But, so far, they have not done so in meaningful ways. Shall I remind us of Madeleine Albright’s famous statement when asked about US sanctions against Iraq that endangered the lives of 100 of thousands children? She said: “We think the price is worth it.”
So what is a girl or woman to think? Hillary finishes up her stint as Secretary of State and is lauded as one of the best, ever. She is acclaimed for her “women’s rights” foreign policy agenda and the gratitude of women worldwide. Little is said about the imperial stance of her framing, or the gender violence that US policy has triggered and continues for women across the globe under her watch. Women in Iraq, and Afghanistan and Egypt are standing up, what Sandberg might term leaning in, but against patriarchal practices that US policy is implicated in.
Trigger Warning before the next selection
- Rick Ross Thinks Rape Is A Punchline (Ebony.com)
What’s so scary about Ross’ line is that this is something that a good number of men and boys actually do. Maybe a rap lyric won’t inspire an impressionable young dude to go and try to flip a couple keys, but normalizing this sort of rape? I see it. I see it and it scares me.
Because he’s tied to a major label and because the rape reference was so blatant, it’s likely that Ross will issue some sort of apology or come forward to say that it was just a joke—“Don’t really go out and do that now, y’all!” To that, I’d say…the title of his last studio album was God Forgives, I Don’t and, well, that’s one thing I have in common with the ex-cop. Not unless he commits himself to actively working to change his tune, and if that happened, he probably wouldn’t be signed to anyone’s major label anymore. So while this sister is praying for him and urging him to be some positive person that I’ve never observed him to be during his rap career, I just hope he goes away and fast.
By Guest Contributor R.N. Bradley
“He so fine, he could rape me so good.”
Yeah. You read that correctly. To borrow from my southern roots, I got “thowed off” when my student put this in the atmosphere while talking about black women’s sexuality in a multicultural space like hip hop.
It happened in class about a month ago, and I have yet to find the words to ease the levels of high anxiety and horror that I continue to grapple with after hearing this phrase. Part of me recoiled like the 9-year-old little girl I talked about here; part of it was me as a grown woman angry at the fact that rape is contextualized and dismissed as a spectacle. By no means is this quick commentary intended to be a polished discussion of rape and blackness in the popular imagination. Instead, is more sporadic and “off the dome.” It has no shaped trajectory but accentuates the messiness of rape discourse that currently exists in (black) American popular culture.
TRIGGER WARNING: Video NSFW, includes imagery of violence toward women
By Guest Contributor Naima Ramos-Chapman, cross-posted from PostBourgie
Decided to throw this up here before the label undoubtedly takes it down: Kanye West’s leaked video “Monster.”
Soon there will be a host of blogs that pick a part every scene to explain what Kanye is trying to tell us, but here is the short version: there are a lot of dead, eroticized women- dead model-esque women hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers, dead women lying in bed made to pose in “sexy” positions, dead women body parts lying around a mansion…there just seems to be dead women everywhere.
But to be fair, there were also women who are seemingly alive and kicking, depicted as man-eating zombies, screaming banshees and werewolves.
The dichotimization of women as it pertains to race; in the video, white women are predominantly locked into roles of subordination to the point of gruesome lifelessness while black women are cast as aggressive, angry and threatening sexual beasts.
Nicki Minaj’s scenes are mild compared to rest because A) they have no corpses of any kind and B) the self-interrogation part can be seen as “edgy” and “different.” But, that would be too kind. What sort of internal conflict can be that deep if the two versions of yourself that are having issues with one another — dominatrix Nicki versus barbie Nickie — are also ones that readily appeal to male-fantasies?