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Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Hotep Twitter

Tristan Samuels is a MA student in Egyptology via the Near East Studies progam at the University of Toronto. His major research centers on race in antiquity and the relationship between Kemet (ancient Egypt) & Nubi‎a. This post is the first essay for Tristan’s new column for us, With Malcolm, a space to discuss Africana studies and cultural engagement, which you can follow also on Twitter @WithMalcolm.

 

I’ve noticed, frequently, on my twitter timeline a series of tweets in a hashtag #ThingsIHateAboutHoteps which was rather ironic because I was venting my thoughts about the latest anti-Black erasure of Kemet (ancient Egypt) in Hollywood in Spike TV’s TV special Tut in the #BoycottTut hashtag. More recently, there was a Huffington post discussion that was decent, but had limited diversity in perspective. From my understanding (based on the tweets that I’ve observed), ‘Hoteps’ refers to black pseudo-intellectualism and pseudo-Black nationalism. I’m down for all the criticisms (some of which were especially funny), but to call these people ‘Hoteps’ in a matter of slur is anti-Black. I will provide this list illustrating why the naming of this group as “Hotep” is problematic and anti-Black. This list by no means is exhaustive, but should be seen as an introduction to the idea of “Hotep” within Africana studies.

 

Fact #1. “Hotep” is a classical African word, specifically from Medu Neter (ancient Egyptian Language) meaning ‘peace’. E.g. famous Kemetic intellectual ‘Im-hotep’ can be rendered as ‘in peace’. The problem remains two-fold: people who do not care to do rigorous study of Kemet are hi-jacking the term; also, those who criticize them as Hoteps perpetuate anti-Blackness by dissing an ancient African language and concept which is remains misunderstood.

 

Fact #2. There are alternative terms to describe pseudo-intellectualism & pseudo-Black Nationalists. For example, Fake-Deep & Fake-Conscious (I prefer the former because it’s shorter). These posers are fake in that they co-opt academic language and use pseudo-intellectual scholarship in order to prove how much blacker they are than the next person. I’m also open to other ideas that do not disparage any Black cultural traditions (ancient or modern), maybe even as these interviewees at the Huffington Post referred Fake Deep as No-Tep or other have called it, Faux-Tep.

 

Fact #3. Disagreement with Twitter’s version of intersectionality is not inherently bigoted. The fake-deep community cites youtube videos as ‘evidence’ for their faux academic Black nationalism, but many people misabuse ‘intersectionality’ to look ‘progressive’ with limited knowledge of the discourse itself. Twitter Intersectionalists refuse read/acknowledge serious criticisms of intersectionality from post-intersectionalists or multidimensionality theorist perspectives.  Part of the problem that Rod and I have noticed is that intersectionality in online discourse is understood in primarily individualist, private, experiential terms. Any criticism of a person using intersectionality in an online context will be seen as a personal attack.

 

Fact #4. The bigotries associated with ‘Hoteps’ can be found anywhere on Black Twitter. As heterogeneous as Black Twitter is, not all Black women and men are AntiRacists or Womanist thinkers. Black Twitter is a reflection of Black Life in the African diaspora and its diversity should be recognized as such.

 

Fact #5. The concept of Black male privilege has no support from empirical evidence. For good arguments to back up this criticism, please see Dr. Tommy J Curry  ‘The Myth of Black Male Privilege and ’“‘Black Male Feminism’: a debate between Dr. Tommy Curry and Dr. David Ikard”  Perhaps this is my most controversial statement, but it must be said.  Fake-deep people certainly are sexist, homophobic, etc., but this is not only Black men & gendered discrimination is not one way.  It is impossible for Black men to be patriarchs in a society where Black men wield little institutional power as well as demonizes Black masculinity, e.g. observe the rate of police brutality against Black men.

 

Fact #6. It is a patronizing argument to continue to say: ‘why focus on Ancient Egypt, what about other African cultures’?’ Unfortunately,  Mainstream discussions of ‘Black/African History’ do not include Kemet.  Kemet’s Blackness is constantly contested in comparison to other African cultures, e.g. I don’t have to argue that medieval Mali is a Black culture. Kemet is the oldest attested Black culture & yields a vast range of primary sources that are more accessible and more diverse than most pre-modern Black cultures (e.g. ancient Nubia, Medieval West African Kingdoms, etc.). Black LGBTQIA scholars have asserted Kemet’s African context based on their understanding of ‘other African cultures’ as well as , via African-centered thought, Kemet scholarship offers us unique ways to think about the contemporary Black world. It would be best for critics to say that they personally are not interested on Kemet – and they shouldn’t disparage others who are.

 

Fact #7. There is a very lazy argument that is quite popular these days: “This ‘we were kings and queens’ shit is ahistorical and celebrates oppressive systems” Okay, first of all, it’s just a popular way of saying African societies had complex socio-political systems – Duh! Chiekh Anta Diop demonstrated this over & over. I’d recommend looking at PreColonial Black Africa . These Black rhetorics of royalty are, in fact, subversive to Western notions of ‘democracy’ as Pan-Africanist scholar Greg Thomas argues  in “Queens of Consciousness & Sex-Radicalism in Hip-Hop: On Erykah Badu & The Notorious K.I.M.” JPAS 1.7 (2007), pp. 31-32. In contrast, Classical Athens, the idealized democracy, included only Athenian males as citizens (with situational exceptions). Some “democracy!”The slave class was racialized (but not only Blacks) and ethnicized (non-Athenian Greeks). The U.S. prides itself on being the a descendent of ancient Athens, and I presume readers know all about American democracy & white supremacy. So democracy – read historically – can be shown to be inherently tied to exclusion. I’d prefer critics read the work of actual African-centered scholars – like Chiekh Anta Diop, Jacob Carruthers, Theophile Obenga, Mario Beatty [1] – to critique fake-deep twitter, not personal assumptions, and come to their own conclusions concerning the complexities of pre-colonial African political life.

Notes

[1] Recommended sources:

(a) Mario Beatty has a great discussion which makes a great overview: Part 1 –  ; Part 2 –  

 

(b) The Journal of Pan African studies has some articles that discuss Kemet itself and/or in context of other African cultures: (click ‘archives’ tab)

c) there is also ANKH: (NOTE: some articles are written in French)

(d) great overview of the meaning of Africana studies in general:  “What Black Studies Is Not Moving From Crisis To Liberation In Africana Intellectual Work

Claudette Colvin, Respectability Politics and Human Dignity

Manushka Gracia-Desgage is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh graduate with a degree in English Writing. She has a passion for writing, law, God, and social justice. She spends her time tutoring 1st and 2nd graders.

March 2, 1955 was a monumental day in Montgomery, Alabama. When they hear this, most people will assume that I’m referring either to the stand that Rosa Parks took or the introduction of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But both will be wrong. March 2, 1955 was the day a 15-year-old Black girl stood up for justice. Before there was Rosa Parks, before there was a Montgomery Bus Boycott, there was Claudette Colvin.

        Claudette Colvin’s place in history is generally denied or passively mentioned. From elementary school on to the rest of our lives, it is cemented in our historical schema that Rosa Parks’ arrest was the spark that ignited the bus boycott which served as the springboard for the Civil Rights Movement. However, nine months before Rosa Parks took her stand, Claudette Colvin found herself in the same situation and did the same thing. And that’s about where the comparisons end. When Colvin was arrested, she was grabbed by the wrists and jerked up from her seat. Her books went flying everywhere. She was dragged and kicked. Parks, on the other hand, was relatively peacefully escorted off the bus with two officers carrying her belongings for her. Her hands were not cuffed. When she got to city hall, her fingerprints were taken and she was given permission to phone her family.

        Rosa Parks was the secretary of the Montgomery NAACP; Claudette Colvin was a teenager who came from a family that wasn’t part of the prominent sect of Black Montgomery. Parks was deemed as a composed, acquiescent, and levelheaded person; Colvin was seen as feisty, emotional, and demonstrative. Parks was light-skinned; Colvin was not. In short, Claudette Colvin did not embody the politics of respectability that the religious leadership of the Civil Right Movement wanted to project.

        Once Colvin was charged and convicted of “assaulting” an officer, the support she reaped from leading Black officials dwindled. People had hoped to use Colvin’s case as the means to challenge the system of segregated bus seating. However, she was regarded as an uncontrollable teen and too young to be the face of such a powerful and transcendental movement. She was from King Hill, the place seen as the bottom-feeder of Montgomery, Alabama. The leader of the Montgomery NAACP, E.D. Nixon, put it this way: “I had to be sure that I had somebody I could win with.” Claudette Colvin wasn’t seen as that ‘somebody’.

The bus boycott ensued not too long after Rosa Parks made her stand. In the meantime, NAACP lawyers were mounting a case to attack the constitutionality of segregated bus seating. When the case was formulated and prepped to go to court, Claudette Colvin was one of the four witnesses chosen to testify in the case that came to be known as Browder v Gayle, a case that changed the course of history but is widely forgotten. The testimonies of Colvin and the three other women (not including Rosa Parks) had helped the federal court abolish segregated bus seating in Montgomery, AL.

        After the case was over, Colvin was once again ignored and undermined. There were no congratulatory phone calls, no visits, no letters, no anything. She was pregnant. Yes, she was pregnant. And so she wasn’t exactly someone to be heralded in their eyes. It didn’t help that she didn’t reveal who the father was, a man that had taken advantage of her sexual naïveté, and the fact that her child was light-skinned, prompting most to assume that the father was white (even though he wasn’t).  Colorism (read: internalized White Supremacy) was part of the reason why the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ostracized Claudette Colvin.

        There’s a famous picture of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, a key figure of the Civil Rights Movement, and Inez Baskin of the Montgomery Adviser. It is a portrait of the three on a bus on the first day of integrated bus seating. Claudette Colvin is nowhere to be found in that photograph. It’s a glaring absence every time I look at that portrait. A 15-year-old girl from the shunned town of King Hill who was raised by a great-aunt and great-uncle who were maids made a stance that adults of higher status didn’t have the gall to make. She sparked a fire that grown men and women didn’t dare risk to spark before her. Yet, the most mind-numbing part of her story is not the back seat the laws expected her to take, but the one the people that shared her skin color (and, of course, those who don’t) forced her story to take. They didn’t want her to be the face of the boycott movement because she was viewed as a feisty teen who didn’t respect authority. The same authority they were tirelessly fighting against. The irony. Nine months later, Rosa Parks was catapulted to iconic status for doing the same thing. The difference was that Parks was, number one, not a teenage. Number two, Park’s hair was silky and shiny as well as her skin was much lighter. Lastly, Park’s family wasn’t lower-lower class like Colvin. Did I mention Parks wasn’t a teenaged mother either?

        The aspect of self-hate that permeates throughout her story is interesting to note. Black leaders who dedicated their lives to fighting for racial equality were still victims of some level of self-hate. Rosa Parks, to them, was a more politically respectable figure to make the poster-person of the Montgomery Bus Boycott because of what she presented: lighter skin, smoother hair, more privileged background, and an appeased spirit, akin to W.E.B. DuBois’ Talented Tenth. White people wouldn’t feel challenged by someone so docile and who resembled them more than Claudette Colvin. It showed that, despite the fact that the black community had garnered enough audacity to contest the racism laced in segregated bus seating, they were still colonized intellectually. Their mindset was still, “We need THEM to accept US,” a mindset that still plagues our people today, when our mindset should be, “We ARE just as good and just as worthy. We don’t need acceptance.” Using Claudette Colvin as the face of the bus boycott movement would have shown that our people were aware that we are so valiant that even a 15-year-old girl with poor parents, coarse hair, and dark skin could change the course of history. But instead, the all-too-familiar rhetoric prevailed.

In spite of it all, the truth doesn’t change because of how one feels about it.  Courage doesn’t have a preconceived mold. When you stand up for what is right in the face of hostile forces, you could be two years old or 222 years old. History can be made by ordinary people who come from meager circumstances. Claudette Colvin changed history regardless of who people decide to put on the historical poster. Colvin’s courage was the bank from which Rosa Parks withdrew her courage. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to fame from what Colvin had the courage to do.

        Historians have often dismissed Colvin’s story, citing her as a passing notion, a mere detail that helps provide color to a bigger story. But historians don’t make history, history makes history. History is still history even if no one talks about it. Biblical history shows a God who takes persons like Gideon, the youngest child from the least respectable family, and transforms a deliverer, yes the poster child of divine liberation. God is not a respecter of persons because God has created us with infinite worth, the imago Dei. The liberation movements of human beings should be committed to human dignity, which is a matter of the heart, and not the superficiality of respectability politics. While Rose Parks will always be seen as the face of the Montgomery Boycott, nevertheless, Claudette Colvin was THE catalyst. She is not forgotten. Just like Rosa Parks is not forgotten. As Colvin herself said, “I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.” And that’s all that matters. 

they would respect us if

With the Ferguson movement and other protests around the country highlighting the dual but interrelated problems of police brutality and racial profiling in African American communities, many public intellectuals have been pondering the reasons why Blacks are more likely to be profiled, brutalized, or worse, murdered in cold blood as Mike Brown was. A few such famed thinkers, such as Pastor Voddie Baucham, actor Bill Cosby and CNN’s Don Lemon continue to push the false myth of Black intellectual inferiority as the reason behind Blacks’ natural criminality. If THEY, those hoodlums will pull up their pants, not dress like ratchet ladies we see on them hip hop videos, and get a job, perhaps the police would less likely assume that (presumably) poor blacks were all criminals. In marginalized communities, there is this pervasive, dogmatic belief that if marginated persons assimilate to the dominant culture, and go along just to get along, everything will be alright.

Respectability is depicted as a panacea to heal cross-cultural divides. In many ways, Respectability can be co-opted to subvert the status quo, to debunk stereotypes and to exceed expectations by the mainstream. On the other hand, Respectability Politics, when it is taken as an absolute, can be a dangerous affrontery to the disadvantage of the oppressed. If only Black people, immigrants, and First Nations people would cling on to the American dream like the middle Blacks who strived so in Prince Georges County, Maryland, better day will be ahead. We are often told it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know that will help you get that promotion, or perhaps make it to an Ivy League school like the New York Times’ Charles Blow’s son did. For those that are unfamiliar with the term, according to Trudy, respectability politics are

“cultural, sexual, domestic, employment and artistic “guidelines” or “rules” for racially marginalized groups to follow in the effort to be viewed as “human” in a White supremacist society and by individual Whites. Some of the most noticeable manifestations of the politics of respectability occurs among Black people because of the history dehumanization because of slavery.”

The humanity of Black people and People of Color, has to be earned in other words. Rather than all of our humanity being accepted as a gift of God, Respectability Politics is a heretical rejection of the Imago Dei, the infinite sacred worth of all human beings. Respectability politics is an attempt by limited human beings to measure the immeasurable. When it comes to respectability politics, writers usually start with political and social commentary without regard for the religious sources behind respectability, and the blasphemous theology behind.

Last February, conservative evangelical theologian Roger E. Olson referred to Respectability as “most pernicious and pervasive heresy in the U.S. American Church.” Olson’s class analysis and use of Karl Barth as an argument against pastors who exist simply to make us feel comfortable and the exclusion of ordinary congregants from participating in worship is only part of the problem when it comes to Respectability and Christendom. Olson’s observation falls short because he fails to address the racialized nature of respectability and therefore Christianity’s complicity in the history of White Supremacy.

Speaking from a Church History standpoint, the adoption of Respectability Politics has been a long time practice for Black Protestant communities. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones endured persecution while working for the social uplift of both Free and enslaved Africans. Allen was well-respected and somewhat duplicitious in his actions, being friends with revolutionaries such as Morris Brown and Denmark Vesey (Wilmore, page 104), as well as playing the respectability card in the name of holiness (Wilmore, 124) as he participated in temperance societies, encouraging Blacks to avoid drunkenness so that they would not give White people any ammunition to perpetuate racist beliefs (See Gayraud S. Wilmore’s Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation Of the Religious History of African Americans). Wilmore’s text neglects the religious life of Black Catholics particularly during the time of African enslavement due to its soft Protestant triumphalism.

In Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience, Diane Batts Morrow’s essay “The Difficulty of Our Situation: The Oblate Sisters in Antebellum Society,” tells us of some of the history of the Oblate Sisters of Providence who were located in Baltimore, Maryland. This was a society where Coloured Women “renounced the world to consecrate themselves to God, and to the education” of Black women. Very much like Richard Allen and Absalom Jones in Philadelphia, these sisters encountered opposition and persecution from Baltimore’s Catholic community. In 1829, the Oblate Sisters of Providence were finally allowed to “pledge themselves to a life of service and faithful observance of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.” Clergy remained disapproving of a Black sisterhood. Black women were deemed as incapable of embodying virtue. “The image of Black women as the sexually promiscuous Jezebel became fixed in the white public consciousness. Negative stereotypes of black women remained so widespread in American culture that long after the history of slavery,” religious leaders could not imagine “the creation of a virtuous black woman.” The White enslaver class believed that biology and morality were inherently fixed. Not matter what Blacks did to earn respect, it would never be enough. Grace was insufficient.

In thinking about nature, grace, and Respectability Politics, my friend Tapji Garba and I have arrived somewhat at a tentative theological case in fierce opposition to the false god of Respectability. Critiques of “respectabilism” are part of a quite Protestant stream of thinking that lends itself toward iconoclasm. Taps used the example of Martin Luther’s criticism of indulgences, that just as indulgences were viewed polemically as ladders to reach God, so too does respectability function as a ladder for the oppressed to achieve their full humanity. If marginalized persons do so choose to appropriate respectability, they should only do so as what Taps rightly observed as engaging in the task of naming that which is fictive. Respectability is a false atonement, and is as just a falsehood as the racist stereotypes the Oblate Sisters of Providence fought by practicing chastity and poverty. A respectabilism that is used to sustain these untruths means the continued humiliation of Blacks and People of Color. Ultimately, bowing at the alter of Respectability is an atonement TO sovereignty: the state, the market, and privileged elites. To the extent that the oppressed use Respectability Politics to expose imperialist lies which tie biology to virtuosity, they assert their own God-given human dignity.

(Photo description: picture taken at a bus stop on the eastside of Fort Worth. The poster read: ‘Why they respected us then’ underneath a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. and friends locking arms, dressed in suits. On the bottom of the poster:’ why they don’t respect us now’ as a caption of what seems to be a screen shot of a hip hop video, with young black men sagging, looking quote/unquote “thuggish.’)