TAKE #17: Hip Hop’s Maltreatment of Black Women

Sigh, here we are with another addition of “Hip Hop Hates Black Women.” A couple of weeks ago, The Atlantic posted an article by Hannah Giorgis called “Hip-Hop Won’t Stop Protecting Alleged Abusers” The article mentioned how people like Russell Simmons or Chris Brown have had allegations or situations that have been proved in where they have harmed Black women, and spaces have still been made for them in the hip hop community. The situation with Chris Brown and Rihanna happened when I was in middle school, and now I’ve graduated from college, and Chris Brown is still being played on the radio. In annoying amounts. And Russell Simmons, per the article, was still invited on an episode of The Breakfast Club (which is already a questionable institution), to speak on the Black Lives Matter movement and recent protests, despite allegations of sexual assault against Black women.

This article was posted a couple of times in a hip-hop subreddit, and because that subreddit is full of men, it sparked little conversation until the third time it was posted. It was that third post where the person who posted it expressed disdain for how abusers were being upheld by the hip hop community and people needed to start talking about that more. They offered that that work comes from the fans first. Which is a fact. I guess that rubbed some folks the wrong way, and there were a couple of people that commented, albeit ridiculously uneducated on the topic and unwillingly to see past surface level stuff. They started mentioning that people like Fabolous – another name mentioned in the article – served time in jail, and therefore, have been absolved of any wrongdoing. LOL. L O L. So naturally, I took that as an opportunity to get the conversation back on track, and I offered that jail is a joke and how the point is that the music that people make is being prioritized over the people that they hurt. And that’s a prioritization that happens all the time. It would take me years to count how many times that the hip hop community (read: Black men who make hip hop stuff) have said, done, or written something stupid about Black women and people have dismissed it for the sake of still being able to enjoy there music. And that was the point of the article.

And that sparked some allegations of me “pocket watching” and not allowing people to “move on” – which is wild to me because who is really riding that hard for Fabolous…Fabolous???? And that also doesn’t exactly get at the point of the article. The question that I still have is how do we “move on” when there are people who have been harmed that haven’t been made whole yet? Since the beginning of Black life in America, Black women have always been given the shorter end of the stick. I think I’ve talked on here before about the Cult of True Womanhood, so allow me to evoke my past self:

Essentially, the Cult of True Womanhood is a litmus test for women. To be considered a woman, a body must be white, dainty, cis, feminine, and necessarily thin. And if she isn’t all of those things, she is not considered to be a woman. 

Tyler the Creator, Odd Future, and a Move Towards Black Visibility

And because Black women aren’t allowed to exist within the Cult of True Womanhood, we aren’t given the same privileges and rights that come with being a woman. And one of those things is protection.

There’s always a dismissal and erasure of the way that Black women have been harmed, and that exists in the hip hop community as well. Hip hop in general is already a space where masculinity rules, and Black women tend to get pushed to the side, so the space in itself doesn’t offer an opportunity for accountability. We’re made invisible in hip hop spaces. So for me this problem goes well beyond just individual situations – even though hip hop artists and producers who have done harm to Black women should be thrown off a cliff. The problem for me is the environment as a whole, something that won’t be fixed unless people decide to acknowledge it as a problem and not as characteristic of the space. The same situation goes for the homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia that happens in the community. It’s easy to dismiss those things because they just seem like a part of the culture. But that’s wack, disgusting, and stagnating af.

Hip hop can’t be a space for freedom of thought and freedom of expression, while causing people to feel unsafe. Hip hop can’t be a space of revolution if there’s people being left behind. It can’t be a space of innovation, if it can’t find ways to hold people accountable who have done harm. Giorgis’s piece wasn’t talking about someone stealing a bag of chips off the counter in somebody else’s house. She was talking about people being raped, abused, assaulted, and disrespected. Those aren’t small things. Those are things that can’t be ignored just for the sake of being able to listen to someone’s music without the guilt of acknowledging the things that they did.

People have to stop being afraid to not listen to their favorite people. And I’ve mentioned that before. We don’t know these people. We don’t have any reason at all to defend or excuse or explain anything that they do. But we do have a responsibility to stop supporting them when they do stupid shit to other people that’s damaging. And that’s always the push and pull that I have with enjoying hip hop music as much as I do. On one hand, it’s been a genre that I have loved for a significant portion of my life, and it’s a space that I will always appreciate for being so impactful and influential in Black culture. But as a woman, especially as a Black woman, the misogynoir that flows freely in hip hop will always be a stain on the work that it does.

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