The Monsters You’ve Created: Still “Lifting & Climbing”

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There’s no yoga mantra, African proverb or respectability politics that serves properly when a black woman is fighting the systems of patriarchy and white feminism.

I didn’t watch the VMA’s last night. Hell, I haven’t watched them in about 12 years. I did read The Atlantic Stephen Kornhaber’s article “Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, and the VMAs: A Tone-Policing Palooza,” which led to me watching the video and reading the preceding The New York Times Miley Cyrus Q&A with Joe Coscarelli. It’s not just about tone, it’s about being malleable enough to assimilate.

Palooza is a stretch. The use of words like terrorism, scuffle or thug when referencing isolated moments involving blacks is tiresome. Onika was straightforward and “they” can’t have that. Let’s continuously label her ANGRY to discredit her feelings or burdens. Perhaps it was just an unnecessary use of alliteration.

Miley Cyrus, the 22-year-old entertainer of sorts, took it upon herself to publicly correct, Nicki Minaj, 32-year-old entertainer of sorts, by dismissively attempting to address Minaj’s concerns about cultural appropriation and the manner to which she discussed her problems with MTV’s VMA nominations.

Miley first acts as if she doesn’t even know what Coscarelli is talking about. However, she then politely gives her opinion of how and why people haven’t responded or would respond to Minaj. Be nicer.

Apparently, there is a way to talk to people and anger is not to be respected. If I press my foot on someone’s throat for an extended period of time, I don’t expect the victim/abused to ask me nicely to remove my foot. I expect them to grab me by the leg and inflict bodily harm. Structurally speaking, dismantle the system that enforces oppression.

Some think that Nicki Minaj should have ignored Miley Cyrus. The symbolisms of this exchange is so blatant and seemingly rehearsed in white Hollywood or requirements to be a feminist that I applaud Minaj for responding in a “All About the Benjamin’s” type of way. Others think that it was awkward and lacked solidarity because Rebel Wilson was to her left in her sardonic police brutality costume. Some question why Kanye or Nicki Minaj was even present while many know that answer to this question. Most don’t care.

It’s the latter that concerns me. Where is our support? Why must Nicki Minaj walk throughout her career with her hand covering her mouth unless she’s in the booth? Does the amount of clothes a woman wears dictate whether she gets to have a voice or not?

Too often the binaries leave black woman silenced. How do you expect me to handle my queen shit when you keep reducing my strength as a fleeting, powerless emotion? Why are my struggles so invincible, when my adversary is a white woman?

The idea that the complexity that is the human can be cookie cut into a singular dimension of emotions or trait is a mockery of the magnificence of our Creator—marginalization is a form of supremacy. I can’t understand why anyone would believe that descendants of Africa, the mother of all civilizations, would think they are one dimensional in thought or action.

Police brutality is a serious issue and cannot be glossed over or solved by a movie and its popular moniker; lest we forget the misogynistic, abusive and predatory overtones of NWA (and yes of Hip Hop). You will not attempt to muffle my feminine power and get a pass. No one expects a man to be quiet.

Kanye responds how he wants. Chris Brown responds how he wants. Dame Dash responds how he wants. Even “Ari Gold” responds how he wants, with little to no consequence or critique but with much applause. I would have loved for Nicki to have had a “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t” moment and said something short and sweet like ‘I’m accepting this award on behalf of black girl magic everywhere. Black lives matter.”

But I’m not her and I don’t know the crosses she bears. It definitely would’ve reminded Miley that her persona is about as organic as her blonde, faux locs and made Rebel Wilson think twice about insensitivity, witlessness, timing and delivery. It seems trivial, but this shit adds up. Once accumulated, it’s like consistently stubbing your toe on your grandmother’s coffee table. The one she refuses to move.

There is no revolution without the black woman rather she shows her ass, rocks a gele, or draped in a hijab/chador/burka/niqab, likes weaves instead of natural or bears children. You don’t get to define us. She does. And our definitions don’t exclude your responsibilities.

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