A month or so ago, there was a huge debate regarding singer Bruno Mars. Mars, who has had a succesful run making r&b music, was called out as a cultural appropriator. This shocked a lot of his fans. Usually, it’s white artists who are accused of cultural appropriation. Folks wondered how Mars, a man of color, could be considered a cultural appropriator. His fans pointed out Mars was of Puerto Rican descent, thus had enough Negro in him to sing Black music/use Black cultural images.
It was a YouTuber, Seren, who sparked the national conversation. I’ve been a follower of Seren on YouTube. While I don’t always agree with her, I find her to be a well-informed young woman. She’s passionate about her views, particularly the importance of maintaining Black culture/Black legacy/Black history…as it seems to be up for grabs to any/everybody these days. I really didn’t find anything wrong with her argument, so it was surprising when people reacted to her with hostility, even threats of violence. Some folks thought it was tacky she said she didn’t care if Mars ate a cake and died, or something to that effect. Umm.. I’m sure most of us have celebrities we don’t care for, that if they fell off the face of the earth, we would say “oh.” To me, her dis didn’t warrant the vitriol she received. So, what else could it be?
I was on a messageboard, when someone pointed out what I had been thinking, the hatred toward Seren seemed to be because she was a Black woman. I read several posts were people felt she was loud/stupid/had an attitude, stereotypical words used to describe Black women. Or basically, Ms. Seren didn’t know her place. It was fascinating to see the abusive language coming not just from white folks, but people of color (they failed like hell on their allyship to a Black woman) and even some Black people. Black women are never allowed to be angry. Even when that anger, was really in protection of what this young woman saw as an erasing of her culture/her people’s contributions to this racist country. She wasn’t saying some off the wall shit, she was stating facts. Folks just couldn’t handle it.
The attacks on Seren, popped in my mind as I listened to the audiobook “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower,” by Britney Cooper. Cooper is a rising contemporary Black feminist, writer, and teacher. She’s one of the founders of Crunk Feminist Collective, and has given numerous lectures on the lives of Black women in America.
In “Eloquent Rage…” Cooper shared about her southern, religious upbringing with a single mother. She had been an extremely smart child, and often found herself in advanced classes with majority white students. Cooper admitted to falling for the myth that she was a “special” Black, because she did so well academically. Of course, as she grew older, she came to realize the complexities/oppression of the public school system and it’s marginalization of Black children. She also talked about her struggles dating as a Black feminist, her love of Beyoncé, and being immune to white women’s tears.
But really, her focus was on the issue of Black women’s rage. Cooper stated there was a long time when she refused to acknowledge her anger, until a friend pointed it out to her one day. In a country, that constantly degrades/mock Black womanhood (misogynoir), it has created a smoldering rage in a lot of Black women. I know I am always on the verge of cussing someone the fuck out. Particularly, on a daily basis having to deal with white /non Black folks who engage with you like you don’t know anything/some ignorant Black girl. Pretty much how folks were treating Seren.
White/non-Black folks tend to view Black women in a contemptuous/superior manner. Especially, Black women who aren’t palatable to them (dark skin, heavy-set, etc.) I’ll never forget visiting a friend at her job. She was the office manager and was in charge of scheduling meetings for staff. A white co-worker came into her office, to ask about an upcoming meeting. She told them and we thought that was that. When the co-worker left her office, we heard them ask someone when the meeting was. My friend and I looked at each other. Why would he ask another colleague the same question, when my friend had just told him. The person they asked, wasn’t sure. We watched the fools run around the office trying to figure out when the meeting was…when my friend, who SCHEDULES the meetings had just told them.
White/non-Black people never believe/listen to Black women. I could see the hurt and anger in my friend’s eyes. I wanted to tell them a thing or two, but it wasn’t worth risking my friend losing her job.
Cooper also discussed the problem of Black men not understanding/respecting Black women’s anger. There are some Black men who tend to think Black women have it easier than them, that white America isn’t as hateful towards us. There tends to be a push to squash Black women’s outrage when it comes to gender issues. Recently, a young Black man, Stephon Clark was violently killed by police. As protests grew, tweets came out that showed Clark in a not so favorable light regarding his thoughts on Black women. Many Black women found themselves in a conundrum. Should they speak out for someone who seemed to view them with disdain/of little value?
While some Black men found it distasteful that Black women would even consider such a thing, I understood where Black women were coming from. For the past 20+ years, Black women have literally begged Black men to discuss gender inequality in the Black community. We were told that’s white women’s feminist stuff. Black women have asked rappers decade after decade please stop calling us bitches and hoes, please stop uplifting non-Black women over us, please stop calling us bitches and hoes, please stop uplifting non-Black women over us…hey, could you please stop calling us bitches and hoes?
Many Black women simply have had enough. Especially, younger Black women. This is a new generation who aren’t as Black male identified/ride or die as older Black women. It’s not that they don’t care about the plight of Black men, but they no longer feel obligated to speak up for Black men all the time, especially when it’s not being reciprocated. A lot of younger Black women were upset by Clark’s comments. They were scolded for not looking at “the bigger picture” and it was “not the time” to talk about gender issues. But the reality is, there will never be a right time.
We are living in a society that is committed to its anti-Black agenda. If Black women waited until white supremacy/oppression was eradicated, we would be waiting forever. The gender stuff could’ve been dealt with years ago, if Black men had been willing to meet Black women halfway. But since that never happened, you get the Clark situation.
Cooper touches on all these issues in her book, white supremacy’s suppression of Black women’s anger and Black men’s refusal to address Black women’s anger. Cooper ends the book with how this silencing of Black women is taking up our time to live fulfilled/joyous lives. Black women become so consumed with trying to ward off attacks, we never get the chance to just be. The anger boils in us and manifests into depression, addictions, etc.
Cooper gave a great TedTalks on the racial politics of time. She noted, “We Black people have always been out of time. Time does not belong to us. Our lives are lives of perpetual urgency.” For Black women, this urgency is doubled as we navigate racism and sexism. Our rage, is always justified.