So on Sunday, I wrote the above tweet in response to the image of our favorite First Lady Michelle Obama hugging Kanye West in Childish Gambino’s animated video for his new song, “Feels Like Summer.” In the almost 10 years I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve tweeted many things like this and nothing has ever happened. Hardly anyone reads what I have to say and I go about my business.
But this tweet was different because it was captured in a Twitter Moment about the image because several other Black women felt the way I did and The Root tweeted about the image as well.
Cue the angry mob of men, Black and white, quote tweeting my tweet saying some version of “bitch shut the fuck up.” No, that’s not an exaggeration. Several men quoted my tweet and said this. Many men quoted my tweet and called me a bitch. Many quoted the tweet and simply said, “shut up.”
This is what let me know what I said was important. That it had value. Because if it didn’t, if it wasn’t true that Black women are expected to put every man, child and thing before themselves, so many people wouldn’t have attempted to silence me.
Also cue many people telling me what I took from this image wasn’t Childish Gambino’s intent. Some people believe his intent was to show Kanye being comforted by a maternal figure because as he’s lost his mother, a mother’s love is clearly what he needs and if he had had it, he might not have said the despicable, vile things he did or aligned himself with a white supremacist. Some people thought Gambino’s intent was political. For them, Mrs. Obama hugging Kanye West wearing a MAGA hat symbolizes she doesn’t hold a grudge regarding the negative things he’s said about President Obama and on a larger scale, the power of forgiveness.
So now we as Black people are all about intent? Here’s the problem with that. As I’ve said before on this blog, intent is not impact. It really doesn’t matter what Childish Gambino intended if the impact of the imagery he directed is harmful. If you follow the logic that Gambino’s intent is what matters, that would mean every time a white person or a company says/does something racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/etc. and when called out about it, responds by saying racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/abelism/etc. wasn’t their intention, we as Black people, or other people of color or women or members of the LGBTQI2S community or disabled community, would have to accept that response and move on. That’s not how oppression works. Impact is what’s important, not intent.
Several Black men told me I was trying to divide the Black community with my words. One even hypothesized a white woman was actually running my Twitter account.
It is 100% true that Black women are the backbone of the Black community. Three Black women started the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Beyoncé has created several scholarships for Black women at HBCUs all over the country. Black women all over the United States are working to protect and increase the reproductive rights of Black women. Many of the slang words, GIFs and attire you use everyday were created/curated by Black women. I truly believe Black women are the most creative group of people on earth.
Here’s the problem. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of just Black women to keep our community together. In response to the belief I was trying to divide our community, and to the comment I “hate men” made by a member of “Pick Me” Twitter (I’ll get to them shortly), I stated that when I practiced criminal defense, I successfully defended many Black men, thereby keeping them out of jail or prison. Two Black men responded to this by saying that meant nothing because it was my job and a lawyer will help anyone for money. Uh, not true. I pointed out to one of these young men that I could have been a prosecutor and helped the state put Black men in jail or prison. I’m still waiting on his response.
When I asked the Black men who accused me of wanting to divide our community, what they had done for the community lately, most of them couldn’t name anything concrete, responding with some variant of “I do what I can.”
My thing is when are Black men going to start carrying some of the load. When are more Black men going to start offering to cook dinner when they see their girlfriend/fiancée/wife is tired after a long day at a job where she is more than likely underpaid (Black Women’s Equal Pay Day anyone?)? When are more Black men going to offer to go to the grocery store to for their mothers? When are more Black men going to start tutoring Black children at underperforming schools? When are more Black men going to offer their emotional labor to help heal the wounds of the Black women in their lives as they so often want Black women to do for them? When are more Black men going to become nurturers?
I work a full-time job, I’m trying to break into the entertainment industry, I’m grieving my grandmother and I still manage to stand up against anti-Black racism and misogynoir every chance I get. I. AM. TIRED. More Black men need to start doing their part.
Now on to “Pick Me” Twitter. For those of you who don’t know what “Pick Me” Twitter is, it consists of women, many of them Black, who shame other women to get attention from men. Do they ever actually get “picked”? I have no idea.
The first “Pick Me” who made her way into my mentions told me “it’s already hard out there for [B]lack men.” There’s more to her tweet, but I’m going to start with this part of it. The belief that Black men have it harder than Black woman is pervasive in the Black community. Now, of course I know that Black men are usually the victims of the school-to-prison pipeline and the daily state-sanctioned killings committed by police officers in this country.
However, though Black women aren’t murdered by police as often, when they are, not as many people protest their deaths. Many of the brutal assaults of Black women by police officers don’t receive national attention. Everyone knows about the two Black men who were arrested for doing nothing at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Far less people know about the brutal manhandling and arrest of Chikesia Clemons at a Saraland, Alabama Waffle House for asking for corporate’s number because she was denied plasticware for her to-go order.
The Black community has always sided with Black men. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, Black women were told their issues would have to wait. Black women, statistically speaking, are still making less money than Black men for doing the same job. Because of all these things, I would argue it’s harder out here for Black women.
“Pick Me” Number One then went on to inform me I was “low key” shaming “women who want to nurture and show them (Black men) love and comfort when they come home.” How she got I was shaming women from a tweet in which I was standing up for Black women, I’ll never know. Obviously, I have no problem with women nurturing or comforting their man or other men in their lives if that’s what they want to do. My point is they’re not obligated to do that. At any rate, her plan probably worked. Her tweet got 542 likes.
Other “Pick Mes” were quick to let me know they’re here for our brothers and have no problem taking care of/comforting/etc. Black men. Of several of these women, I asked, “Who’s comforting/taking care of you?” One woman responded by saying she expects the same in return. But does she though?
Women, particularly Black women, are socialized to believe taking care of themselves or wanting more for themselves is selfish. It’s not. It’s like they tell you on airplanes, put the mask on yourself first before you try to put one on someone else. Black women, you are valuable. You are worthy of having your needs met. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE. You deserve to be with a partner who lifts you up, always supports you and has a shoulder for you to cry on when you need it. You are worthy of being with someone who can be strong when you are weak, who you can turn to and say, “I’m tired. You take care of everything,” and he does it (I’m being heteronormative here because I think partners who aren’t straight cis men are probably much more comfortable/used to shouldering burdens).
Today, a good friend casually mentioned that my tweet appeared in an article in THE WASHINGTON POST, which I’m glad she did because I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. THE WASHINGTON FUCKING POST. Can you believe that?!!! Honestly, having my tweet in a Washington Post article makes all the hate worth it. I never imagined I’d see anything I’d written in The Washington Post. I still can’t get over this. You can read the article here if you want.
Funny story: while I was looking for the link to the Washington Post article, I discovered my tweet appears in a Billboard article as well. You can read it here if you’re so inclined. This writer even went so far as to mine my Twitter bio, talkin’ bout I describe myself as a lawyer and Black feminist. Yeah, that’s because those are two of the greatest things I am.
All in all, I learned several things from this experience. Firstly, I’ll be honest and admit I was often jealous of people whose tweets went viral. I wanted to be noticed and talked about and retweeted. Now, I know better. You may think you want one of your tweets to go viral, you don’t. Inevitably, more than a few people will have not-so-nice things to say to you. Also, viral tweets are incredibly time-consuming. I don’t know how Jamilah Lemieux and Mikki Kendall deal with going viral all the time. I spent basically all of Sunday on my phone looking at and responding to many of the responses to my tweet. There are better things I could have done with that time, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy putting several people in their place.
Secondly, the next time I disagree with a viral tweet, I’m likely going to keep my opinion to myself. The tweeter has probably heard what I have to say a literal thousand times and I don’t want to participate in a pile-on. Countless people told me I was reaching with my tweet and that got annoying real quick.
Thirdly, never underestimate how much time people have to spend commenting on something they don’t like. NEVER.
I posted a tweet containing what I learned on Twitter on Monday and said I was going to be nicer on Twitter, but that probably wouldn’t last. And it hasn’t. I’ve already changed my mind. Lol! This is America. I’m gonna say whatever the hell I want while I still can (by that I mean while 45 still allows free speech, not while I’m still alive).
And lastly and most importantly, I learned that no matter how many times someone calls me a bitch or curses at me or disagrees with me, I will not be silenced or shy away from what I have to say. I am one of the strongest people I know and I have much more to say. So “Pick Me” and misogynistic male members of Twitter, put your big girl/big boy panties on. This is gonna be hard for you.