#AshWednesday and the Toxicity of Hotep Culture

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Courtesy of Son of Baldwin/Facebook

 

Leave it to Black nerds on social media to tell the truth.

About two weeks ago, I joined Nerds of Color (NoC), a Facebook haven exclusively for radical people of color who merge politics with nerd culture.  Besides posting Steven Universe fan art and comic strips, the page also displays social commentary pertaining to injustice affecting the Black community. This is also where I stumbled upon the brilliance that is #AshWednesday.

Spearheaded by NoC veteran Zahra Tahirah, #AshWednesday is a weekly segment where members post material highlighting subjects that center Black people (women in particular) and the vast spectrum of oppression we experience.  Though the focus of the hashtag has since expanded, Tahirah and other collaborators has initially created it to generate discussions around the toxicity of Hotep Culture.

Blogger/Activist Janaya “J” Khan describes a Hotep as “A person who promotes a quasi-religious, quasi-intellectual set of beliefs based in obscure and dramatically inaccurate historical references to ancient Egypt while ignoring the rest of Africa, obsession with food modification, conspiracy theories, the regulation of Black women and their bodies, and the ’emasculation’ of Black men.” Hotep culture itself consists of Black men and women who not only adhere to these fallacious ideologies, but tend to use numerous forms of media to propagate it.  The term Hotep is an Egyptian for ‘peace,’ but the rhetoric prevalent among the HC demographic is the complete opposite.  In fact, it reeks of internalized hatred, White superiority, and anti-Blackness.

Think about it:  hoteps claim to love themselves and the Black community, yet interwoven with their loquacious declarations for Black unity are denouncements of non cis-heterosexual able-bodied Black males.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen leaders like Umar Johnson claim that White people introduce homosexuality to Black boys or that Black female activists use feminism to destroy the community.  For one, matriarchy and same-sex relationships were commonplace in African culture for centuries until Europeans introduced Christianity to the continent. Hotep Culture, however, dismiss this part of African history and instead accuse Black women of succumbing to Second Wave Feminist ideals “disemboweling” the spiritual/financial/political foundation of the Black family and the entire community.

Come to think of it, much of the disarray occurring within the Black community somehow falls on the shoulders of the women.  Black women (female activists/organizers especially) are consistently blamed for the son’s sensitivity, the daughter’s sexual assault and/or disrespectful attitude towards men.  There are numerous instances where women risk their safety, freedom, and lives for the community, yet men who’ve adopted Hotep philosophy believe otherwise. Lesbians, transpeople, and gender non-conforming folks are often the target of this nonsense by being told that sexual trauma and hatred towards men is why they “choose the lifestyle.”  Meanwhile, these folks endure harassment, sexual and physical violence and death at an alarming rate.

Then there those who support abusive Black men, preaching about the importance of keeping the Black family together—regardless of the severity of harm he imposed upon his victims.  This right here is why most female and male victims rarely report their perpetrator, which unfortunately fuels the family loyalty narrative.

While reading the #AshWednesday memes posted on the NoC page, I notice something else:  the consistent message that Black folks are mentally/emotionally/spiritually/socially impaired.  If a man fails to be the breadwinner for his family or girlfriend and expresses his dissatisfaction, then he lacks masculinity.  If the woman is too opinionated or independent, then she is adhering to White Feminist logic.  Even our anatomy and neurobiology is questionable to the hotep who claim that man-made foods like broccoli or cauliflower is hazardous to our Black bodies. This untruthfulness infused with internalized self-hatred has unfortunately created capitalistic opportunists within the hotep community.  Yada, for example, is generating an income with an accelerated version of the late Dr. Sebi’s alkaline diet, telling Black women that menstruation isn’t natural.

Even as I write this article, I wonder why hotep culture exists in the first place.  Why Black men and women are choosing this philosophy that’s devoid of common sense.  I truly believe that it’s because many of them desperately yearn for a connection to the Motherland.  Against our will, our ancestors have been separated from authentic African life and forced to restart in regions where we are denied our entire culture.  Fast forward to the Radical Black Power movement, the Black is Beautiful/Black and Proud campaign, which introduces young radicals to an Americanized account of African pride.   This sets the foundation for the hotep culture we have to deal with today.

But what the hoteps don’t realize is that their misinformation actually perpetuates White superiority and the oppression that maintains it.  Black males especially gravitate towards this propaganda, truly believing that they are sharing viable knowledge when they’re excluding the demographics that require the most support. This alone makes Hotep philosophy one of contradiction as it proliferates White Christian ideologies in regards to homosexuality and the societal roles of women, children, and the family structure. So when Umar Johnson is on the Breakfast Club slinging that bullshit about homosexuality being a European concept introduced to Black boys, please note that this fool isn’t even telling the truth.

Long story short, NoC’s #AshWednesday is weekly commentary displaying Hotep fuckery in all its greatest glory.  Though I laugh at the “Eye see you, my Queen” memes flooding the group’s main page, the discussions they initiate has me thinking about how we Black folks (especially activists and organizers) interact with one another. Hotepism is not only a detriment to the Black community, but highlights the dangers, hypocrisy, and overall failure of Hotep ideology itself. We must do away with it in order to thrive as a people.

 

 

 

When Will Y’all Say Her Name? The Near-Erasure of Black Women

This week, a Black teacher was under social media scrutiny.

Fourth grade paraprofessional Patrice Brown was reprimanded for wearing attire the Georgia school administration deemed questionable.  In the photos distributed throughout Facebook and Twitter, Brown smiled confidently while she donned outfits accentuating her hourglass figure.  This, of course, resulted in semi-epic debates involving the teaching assistant’s appropriateness (or lack thereof), accusations of body envy, and the unnecessary sexualization of a woman just doing her damn job.

While all that nonsense went down, though, I admit that my main concern wasn’t what she looked like (shit—as long she performed her duties correctly while treating those babies with respect, her wearing a tight dress and heels were the least of my worries).

I was actually worried about Brown’s overall safety.

Since gaining attention for her “sexy clothes,” #teacherbae’s Instagram following increased to 160,000.  She recently had to make the account private because of the recent jump in popularity.  After reading about her instant fame, I lowkey wondered about the hoard of basic ass fuckboys who flooded her inbox with unsolicited sexual advances.  How some of them recognized Brown on the street and yelled “Ay, Baby Girl.  Let me get that autograph” while trying to walk beside her, but spat “Oh you can’t speak?  Fuck you, Bitch—you ugly anyway” while she continued to ignore her admirer.

Those thoughts traveled through my brain—especially when, while attending a Brooklyn festival, a graduate student named Tiarah Poyau was shot in the face by Reginald Moise after she told him to not grind against her.  Or when 25-year-old Dee Whigham was stabbed 119 times by sailor trainee Dwanya Hickerson in a hotel room back in August.  And then there was Rae’Lynn Thomas, a 28-year-old transwoman who was shot by her mother’s ex-boyfriend while being called Satan.  And Renisha McBride. Aiyann Stanley-Jones. Lynaya Griffin.

The Black women and young girls I just named unfortunately fell victim to violence and death at the hands of abusive men or racist police officers. Black women are more likely than their White counterparts to succumb to this form of injustice.  Despite this fact, there is very little coverage about violence against Black female victims and the Black activist organizations are just as silent.

To be honest, I take issue with organizations such as Black Lives Matter and how they handle the attacks on Black women.  Though I don’t expect them to fight every single battle, I did notice they are disturbingly quiet about the recent murders of our innocent sisters.  When prominent BLM activist Daryl Seale was found shot to death in a car set ablaze, entire squads demanded answers through all kinds of media sources.  Black independent and national publications investigated Seale’s murder for more than a week.  Yet when 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen was found dead in a juvenile detention cell while awaiting trial, the outrage was non-existent even after it was discovered that an employee watched her die.

When women do get a sliver of media attention, we are often blamed for whatever consequence we face.  Remember when Korryn Gaines was gunned down by the Baltimore County police this past summer? Well, I hope y’all also recall the army of Black men saying she deserved to lose her life for “pointing a loaded gun at the S.W.A.T. team.”  But these Twitter judges were nowhere to be found when the Baltimore County Police Department later admitted that officers fabricated most of the information reported to the press.

Speaking of the media, this industrial complex often contributes to the semi-erasure of Black women.  We stay losing our lives and freedom out here for petty reasons, but Black journalists would rather squander their time reporting on Lena “ The Garbage Pail Kid” Dunham for two weeks for lying on a Black male athlete.  Mother Tanya McDowell faced jail time for “stealing education,” yet we’re reading the 100th story on Colin Kaepernick.  Cherelle Locklear committed suicide a year after William Paterson University failed to investigate her rape and her mother filed a lawsuit against the college.  Keep in mind that Locklear’s tragedy paralleled that of Nate Parker’s victim, who took her own life in 2012.  But because the majority of the Black media caped for this asshole, many folks in the community took his “I’m working on becoming a new man” nonsense as the truth.

Look. So many y’all Black folks offered him a chance at redemption—even though he used the media to manipulate y’all into thinking he’s trying to right his wrongs.  Meanwhile, his fans won’t even acknowledge the fact that he penned a rape fantasy involving Turner’s wife into “Birth of a Nation.” Knowing that, please don’t be shocked when I read his apologists for filth. Especially after I found out about Locklear.

So much shit happens to Black women.  For centuries, we underwent trials and tribulations on behalf of others, risking our entire souls for our community while receiving next to nothing in return.  The dead ones might be the center of a candlelight vigil or a political demonstration.  The lives ones tend to gain recognition for either committing a crime or becoming a victim of one.  Whichever the case may be, most of the stories reported on/shared about us are rarely positive.

And it’s easy for me and other frustrated women to suggest having more discussions about toxic masculinity, to hold fuckboys and Noteps accountable for their anti-Black woman rhetoric.  We can even put the Black media on blast for neglecting us women and our experiences (both positive or negative).  But what good would any of those suggestions be if the community as a whole is unwilling to acknowledge the power that Black women possess?  Until the entire collective wakes up, the hatred towards Black women is never going to dissipate.  And in turn, our erasure will only continue.

 

 

The Politics Behind #ICanBeBoth

Hey all.  Because I’m working on the B.L.A.C.K. newsletter this week, I won’t have time to write a new piece.  However, I still have something for you for this coming Wednesday. This is a piece I published in one my other blogs, The Possible World called “The Politics Behind #ICanBeBoth.”  It’s about the online campaign that celebrated both the professional and informal personalities of Black women.  

Enjoy.

 

“Pride…If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it.  If you got, you can’t hide it.”

–Zora Neale Hurston, Author

 

Recently, I’ve been noticing the hashtag #icanbeboth popping up in my newfeed.

For those who don’t know, #icanbeboth refers to the fact that women of color can be sexual, sexy and fun loving one day and professional in every way, shape and form the next.  Those who participate in the online campaign post comparison photos: one of themselves in the club, at a party or wearing a cocktail dress with heels and the other of them in casual or professional attire while on the job.

Hence “I can be both.”

I’m going to tell y’all right now that I love every minute of this campaign, Dear Readers.  For one, women are coming together to celebrate everything about their individual personalities and interests without throwing shade.  This can’t make me any prouder because we know how much the media loves featuring Black women slapping the shit out of each other or feuding on Instagram.  Major networks and social media sites stay making us look outrageous in the negative fashion, so I stan for anything that show us celebrating our magic.

But I also immediately recognize the politics behind the hashtag and how it can encourage us to have a much needed conversation about why #Icanbeboth exists to begin with.  There’s so much I can touch on so much here, but I’m going to focus on three main issues that:  White supremacy, respectability politics, and Black male privilege.

White supremacy is the idea that people of European descent are superior to people of color—Black people especially.  It’s the reason why all the negative “isms” exist: racism, sexism, ableism, lookism, ageism and so forth. It is also created the male privilege and systematic oppression that Black women endure in the labor force, the education system, the religious community and other environments that shape the individualism of Black women.  Furthermore, White supremacy perpetuates their ideologies pertaining to European standards of beauty and social etiquette.  So while White women are deemed beautiful and pure (even to this day), Black women are seen as ugly, classless, uneducated and promiscuous.

Now keep that in mind as we move on to respectability politics. There’s this notion that Black people are to present themselves a certain way in order to be accepted by mainstream society.  In many cases, it is the Black woman who is spoon fed this message by both the media and her community.  Unlike our White female counterparts, Black women are not given the liberty to disclose their entire self without the risk of criticism or losing a necessary resource such as employment.

But the main focus is often the sexuality and sexual expression of the Black woman. Even in 2016, women are placed in the position to explain themselves when they promote and profit from their sexuality or sex positivity in general.  Celebrities like Amber Rose is a prime example.  Though she’s known for her Instagram presence and relationship with rapper Kanye West, Amber Rose is known for her sex politics (In 2015, she has organized Slut Walk LA and campaigns for sexual consent).  But she begins to pique my attention when bluntly explains consent to entertainers Rev Run and Tyrese Gibson on their show It’s Not You, It’s Men.  Yes, ladies and gentlecats.  Amber Rose has to explain to these two grown ass men that not only is it ok for us to be sexually provocative, but that we have the right to say “No.”  This is the same woman who is criticized by both the media and members of the Black community for being comfortable in her own body.   And like many Black women, I notice that our biggest detractors are Black men.  Case in point: Louis Farrakhan.

Which brings me to my last point about the politics of #icanbeboth:  the hashtag and the women who take part are pushing back against Black male patriarchy—and rightfully so.  Most Black men tend to erroneously assume that Black women should somehow fit into some vision of what we should be—whatever that may be.  And when we don’t meet their standard of whatever the hell, then they claim that that’s the MAIN reason why they started dating White women (no shade towards interracial relationships, but there are so many Black men who have only date outside their race because they’ve internalized the negative Black woman stereotypes). But what these men don’t realize is that this type of nonsense feeds into the very negativity that #icanbeboth is rallying against.

Why am I writing about this, Readers?  Because as a Black Pansexual woman, I am growing very tired of women of color having their intelligence, integrity and very existence questioned and their whole entire selves compartmentalized just so someone else can be comfortable. It’s this type of pigeon holing that contributes to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.  It can furthermore play into the Impostor Syndrome, the belief that they don’t belong in an academic and/or professional setting.

But most of all, it’s a full-on attack on the human spirit.  When society and members of the very community that supposedly promotes unity and safety criticizes the Black woman’s individuality, it is she who feels every word piercing through her.  And when we can’t find refuge within our own environment or negatively affected by the people in it, it can lead to issues such PTSD or Complex PTSD as well as this sense of disappointment.  And due to the current political climate, feeling displaced due to simply celebrating every part of ourselves is the last issue we need.

So, yes!  I’m extremely stoked about the very existence of #icandbeboth because 1) it brings together a tribe of women who embrace (or wish to embrace) their individuality and 2) it challenges and claps back at respectability politics and patriarchy by showing that women of all ethnicities and ages can be both ratchet and classy.  At the same time, I do hope that the hashtag generates a discussion about White supremacy and how it’s being used against women of color in the forms of respectability politics and Black male privilege and how we can all work together to cut the monster off at the head.