#AshWednesday and the Toxicity of Hotep Culture

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person who promotes a quasi-religious, quasi-intellectual set of beliefs based in obscure and dramatically inaccurate historical references to ancient Egypt while ignoring the rest of Africa, obsession with food modification, conspiracy theories, the regulation of Black women and their bodies, and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.