Dr.Brittney Cooper from Crunk Feminist Collective and Salon wrote a sharp critique centering on Iggy Azalea’s cultural appropriation of blackness, as well as T.I.’s [and other black men’s] cooperation with the continued marginalization of black women. Cooper stated that TI recently “expressed disappointment that ‘we’re at a place in America where we still see color.’ Apparently, color is only relevant when he’s talking about racist acts against Black men, but not when he has to think through his complicity in white appropriation of Hip Hop music.”
Her critique was phenomenal and pointed to a very important, yet uncomfortable truth about blackness in the U.S.: that black women are routinely told that “race” is a black man’s thing. The mainstream phenomenon of black men colluding with white supremacy and patriarchy through the white-hijacked hip hop marketplace demonstrates how black men are being bamboozled, and how black women are routinely excluded and pushed to the back burner by black men who show no interest in fighting for black women’s rights.
“That Black men have no sustained critique of the politics of caping for white women in hip hop is lamentable. That their race politics don’t extend far enough to include Black women in any substantive way is downright unacceptable.
Forty years ago, Black male race leaders told us that race was the only thing that mattered, feminism be damned. Now in this political moment of My Brother’s Keeper, in the cultural arena, rap crews like Lil Wayne’s Young Money Cash Money and T.I.’s Grand Hustle Entertainment throw their weight behind white women rappers without a second thought.
From this, Black women are supposed to conclude two things: 1) race does not matter, except if you are a Black man and 2) if Black men do anything for any woman, it’s the same as being hospitable and/or progressive to every woman.”
As black women, we sit at interesting intersections in the mainstream marketplace: while we feel racial solidarity with black men, we are regularly left out of activist organizing considering racism popularly refers to black men, and when we think we feel gendered solidarity with white women, we are reminded that we are invisible through their feminist organizing practices which only focus on white women who are quite comfortable with their accommodations in white supremacy.
Issues relating to “race” are regularly labeled “black” and oftentimes, this “black” is male. So, when it comes to issues of race in the black community, we usually think about black men. Perhaps that’s why we know Trayvon Martin’s name, and Jordan Davis’ name, but we might not know Renisha McBride or Rekia Boyd. We have heard of George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, but we haven’t heard about Theodore Wafer or Dante Servin. In fact, Theodore Wafer’s trial date was recently announced, but news stories are still saturated with analyzing the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s trial a year later.
Issues impacting black men generally trump the issues we as black women experience. Therefore, in regards to the mainstream, when we talk about black men, it’s assumed that black women are covered, even though we aren’t. It’s uncomfortable to perhaps speak to the ways that black men might perpetuate our struggles; it’s uncomfortable to speak about the ways that some black men prop up white women in an effort to prop up “all” women.
Hip hop has become a contested space where the intersections of sexism, racism, and capitalism all collide. It’s quite easy to see the ways in which white supremacy has seeped into the black consciousness by looking at commercial hip hop stars. White stars continue to populate the hip hop landscape, and unfortunately, many black men have colluded and have helped white stars gain notoriety. Cooper states:
“Black men keep on proving that when given access to power, money and influence, be it political or cultural, it is not Black women they ride or die for. They want our unwavering devotion, even as they make choices that contribute to the silencing of women of color in a culture we helped to build…
In all cases, Black women remain relegated to being what poet Jessica Care Moore calls ‘hip hop cheerleaders,’ ‘cheering from the sidelines of a stage we built.'”
Again, it seems like a lot of black men [not all] will come to the front lines for issues that deal with race [meaning gendered racialized events towards black men] but quickly fall into the backdrop when black women are faced with exclusion or danger. Black women are facing a type of social extinction, where we are regularly erased in popular images.
Black women are slowly being replaced with white women who “sound black” in almost all musical genres.[Think of Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Duffy]. Black women become a source that these white women mine for their emulation [Think of white singer Adele who sites Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald as her inspiration]. This process of musical appropriation is very similar to white pop feminists’ appropriation of blackness, where they mine black voices and knowledges so that they can look intersectional without actually catering to the issues that black women face.
These are complex issues, so solutions are not simple. In recognizing the ways in which many black men regularly ignore the voices of women of color, we can easily see how difficult the intersections are for black women who are excluded by black men and white women.
It’s important to remember that when black men are talking about racism, they are not necessarily speaking to the ways in which black women experience racism. In talking about “him”, we are not talking about “her.”
We have been conditioned to only discuss the ways in which black men have violent confrontations with white supremacy, but we forget that black women do too. Renisha McBride and Dr. Ersula Ore are examples of violent collisions with white supremacy and patriarchy. Black women shouldn’t be an afterthought when we speak about racism. Some black men need to take a seat and move over so that we can center our organizing efforts for anti-racism around black women’s bodies.
As black women, we don’t need to be “protected” by black men…we need them to stop drinking the capitalist white supremacist kool-aid and to de-center themselves from the discussion about racism so that they can look beyond themselves to see how black women are violently struggling in this culture, and how they too might perpetuate our pain.