Another day… another prominent Black man is using his blackness to garner support from Black women. Let me start by saying that I have no problem whatsoever with interracial relationships. I believe that all human beings are entitled to and should love who they love. I do have a problem with Black people justifying their self-worth by their proximity to whiteness. In addition, nothing bothers me more than those same Black people getting shunned by the white people they have aligned themselves with and returning to the Black community for support in their self-imposed plight.
I remember when Kanye West first hit the scene with his College Dropout album. He was raw and gritty, from the streets of Chicago, had just survived a terrible car accident that inspired his debut single, Through the Wire, and had been raised by his mother, Donda West, for whom he had the utmost love and respect. We could relate, as most of us had been through or knew someone who had experienced some aspect of his life. He was the ultimate story of overcoming. Black women’s reverence for him was further solidified when he dropped his single with Jamie Foxx, Gold Digger. One verse, in particular, caught fire:
“So you stick by his side.
I know there’s dudes ballin’, and yeah, that’s nice.
And they gonna keep callin’ and tryin’, but you stay right, girl,
And when you get on, he leave yo’ ass for a white girl.”
I couldn’t personally relate to the lyrics and could not have cared less who any man chose but knew this was a strong narrative circulating amongst Black women. The belief that some Black men would stay with us while they struggled, using our loyalty to grow and flourish, then move on to white women when success hit was hurtful to many. Kanye understood. He, too, could relate. He put Black women’s pain to pen and paper and hit a gold mine. I was skeptical, as I knew the history of people using Black pain and suffering for profit.
As the years went on, Kanye seemed to change. He lost his mother, married, and created a family with Kim Kardashian, appearing to have followed the blueprint he laid out in Gold Digger. His supposed slap-in-the-face of Black women was the catalyst for Poet, Jasmine Man’s 2015 poem, Footnotes for Kanye. As the years went on, we watched him spiral into an abyss of perceived anti-blackness. He allowed his wife to repeatedly appropriate Black hairstyles, mimicking and exploiting the aesthetics of Black women. He supported Donald Trump, who publicly and aggressively sought to disenfranchise Black voters among many other terrible things. And let’s not forget the “Slavery was a choice” thing. Over the years, Kanye has successfully dismantled his reputation in many circles of black people unapologetically.
Fast forward to today. Kanye is in the midst of a messy divorce from Kim Kardashian. His unstable behavior over several years had led to the decline of his marriage. Last year we watched as he begged his wife to take him back. She seems to have ignored his pleas and since then, we have seen him publicize his co-parenting drama time and time again. Then today, Kanye issued the following statement on Instagram:
Divorce and co-parenting problems are not new or exclusive to Kanye West. With almost half of marriages ending in divorce, it’s entirely possible that many of us have experienced the same. Expressing one’s feelings on social media is the new norm. Although not ideal, many people do it to gain support, get sympathy, or simply to vent. But something about this post really bothered me.
The use of the word “BLACK” and the context it was used in feel inauthentic and in my opinion, take away from the real problems that Black people experience. In the first instance, Kanye talks about claims that he put a hit on Kim and how easily these false accusations can impact the lives of Black men. You have to be living under a rock to not understand the impact of police brutality on the Black community and the frequency of Black men being locked up, based solely on the testimony of white women. Although this is a valid concern, I believe Kanye is bringing it up to exploit the emotions that Black women feel when confronted with racism and injustice against Black men. It’s common knowledge that Black women are at the forefront of the fight for racial justice. He knows that and is using that for his own personal benefit, whether warranted or not.
In the second instance, Kanye uses the word “BLACK” in reference to his children, implying the need to protect them. Black women have a history of being viewed as nurturers and living up to that stereotype. Whether being forced to care for the families and nurse the children of slaveowners while ours went neglected, and even feeding our broken and battered men from our breasts when they were deprived of food or the expectation that we are the empathetic caretakers in the organizations, Black women are often given everyone’s burden to carry. When it comes to children, especially Black children, our natural inclination is to protect them from the unique dangers they face in this world. As the son of a Black mother, Kanye gets this. Instead of dealing with his marital woes like a man, he is using his platform to lay his problems at the feet of black women. Words have power and he is yielding that power to play on our emotions.
As a man with the resources needed for whatever legal custody battles he faces and undoubtedly, a team of “yes” men and women surrounding him, ready to jump at his every beck and call, there is no financial support that we can provide him in his time of need. But that’s not what he is looking for. What he needs is our anger, our empathy, our maternal instincts toward his Black children. Kanye wants to win in the court of public opinion and he wants to enlist the help of Black women to wage emotional warfare on his soon-to-be ex-wife. Make no mistake about it. There are some of us that have already internalized his plight and decided that we are ready to get in the trenches to protect this man against the racial injustice he is apparently facing. I am not one of those women and you should not be.
In recent times, self-care has become a 10 billion dollar industry, buoyed by the realization of Black women that our first obligation is to ourselves. We have awakened to the idea that it is not our job to save every Black man that needs saving. Kanye cannot launch a successful career off the backs of black people, say and do hurtful things to those same people, and return to them for support when it’s convenient. He made the decisions that he felt were best for his life and career and has to lie in the bed he made. Most of us get it and take the situation and his obvious pandering to Black women for what it is… gaslighting. My hope for all of us is that we save our energy for those that deserve it and live up to the responsibility they hold as influencers. Let’s prioritize ourselves and ignore the chatter. Don’t be sucked into situations that do not involve you, protect your energy, and certainly do not allow toxic and conniving men of any race to use your Black Girl Magic reserves to fill their cups while leaving your tank on empty.
Here is a list of 9 ways to practice self-care from Essence Magazine.
“I don’t have to go around trying to save everybody anymore; that’s not my job.” ~Jada Pinkett-Smith
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