Wow. What to say. Inhale, exhale.
I'm not trying to jump onto some media hype. Rarely am I blogging about celebrity goings ons (rarely am i blogging period, to be honest). But the fact that this conversation about male privilege, rape culture, accountability and hip hop IS happening in such a public arena across genders, feels important. At the same time, I am honestly a bit heartbroken.
A bit of backstory, Crunkfeminist critiqued and commented on Talib Kweli's Huffington Post Live conversation. Monday, which was hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, and included guest speakers Rosa Clemente, Jamilah Lemieux, and Rahiel Tesfamariam. The subject was dealing with Rick Ross' now infamous and much discussed rape lyrics in his new song.
In response to how Kweli interacted with guest Rosa Clemente, Crunkfeminist wrote a blog post entitled "Five Ways Talib Kweli Can Become A Better Ally To Women In Hip Hop." An amazing, firey and to the point bit of bloggery. To which Kweli has recently responded with an extremely dismissive "5 Ways Crunkfeminist.com Could Actually Be A Responsible Source Of Information."
It was a painful read for me.
I particularly winced at Kweli's rebuttle to Crunkfeminist's 5th allyship definition/requirement:
5. Recognize that you don't get to tell us how to be our ally; we get to tell you- No. Recognize that I'm your ally whether you and your crew realize it or not. I always have been, I always will be, regardless of how you feel about it. Get your own damn megaphone. I rock mics.My jaw literally dropped. I'm not sure if Kweli means it, or if he was simply being reactionary and defensive after being called out in so many ways, as well as him feeling misrepresented, and yes, even Crunkfeminist admits that their post was not written with the most "loving tone", but... wow.
I mean, i know race and gender are very different oppressions, but i'm trying to imagine some straight white dude telling Talib Kweli (and me for that matter) that they call the shots on what being a white ally means, and that us black folks just need kill that noise about dictating what our empowerment is gonna look like. I umm, don't need allies like that. I don't know Kweli, but i suspect he doesn't either.
Kweli's response continues to read in a shaming, silencing, dismissive vernacular and tone, ironically to explain how he isn't mansplaining with a tone. Wow. I feel like an opportunity was lost. When someone tells me how to be an ally, I am grateful. I see it as a gift from the true scholars of how i can be a less oppressive presence in the world. It may clash with my preconceived notions of power and privilege, but it is always a valuable learning experience, and at the very least, a door for constructive dialogue.
For Harriet responded with The Problem Of So-Called Allies, which stated:
In discussions about misogyny and sexism, women are the experts. Trust us. Trust our knowledge, our experiences, and our pain. If women's voices can't come first on the issues that shape our lives -- on those that result disproportionately in the loss of our safety and security, when will we ever be heard?
The worst allies believe they're doing a favor; they compulsively pat themselves on the back; they spend more time deflecting correction that reflecting on their questionable judgements; they demand our gratitude and our silence. I do not want nor need allies who spend their time dressing down those they claim they're trying to help.
Speaking for myself, I know that ego can be the largest obstacle to being an effective ally. In a 2008 blog post i did called What Is One Sexist Thing You Are Trying To Unlearn?i talk about benching my grumble around how women weren't beating down my door to date a nice feminist/womanist/humanist brother. Tap on the shoulder. You aren't an ally to score some ass, Richard. Liberation work is not done for cookies. Liberation work is not done for nookie. Remove the attachment to being a "good ally", and just do the needed work. Work that is done for many reasons, but mostly because no one is free until we all are free. Work that is done with humility and a grounding in the fact that we are going to be wrong and challenged sometimes, as men injected with heteropatriarchy from birth. I learn this from women and LGBTQ folks, elders like Audre Lorde and Angela Davis, and my own relationship to how I want folks of European descent to ally for the liberation of all.
While I have been disappointed by Kweli's response, i am still greatly appreciating that men in hip hop are breaking the silence around rape culture and male responsibility (as Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco did live on Twitter, great convo!), and I have a feeling that this conversation has not been permanently derailed, but will in fact continue to blossom. Clearly, we will have bumps along the way. I hope it leads to larger community conversations, healing, and bigger steps towards gender equality in our communities.
And i stand in solidarity with CrunkFeminist.