My dear conscious Black brothers and sisters, know that I love you. This love is usually a source of great joy for me. But love does not always come with understanding. We have to work toward that. So I write this message not in hopes of stirring bees into striking, but with the goal of producing something sweeter. An accord. Or, if you will, hotep.
Let’s talk about hotep for a moment. In a very simplified definition, hotep is an Egyptian word that means “to be at peace.” But on Twitter, Hotep means something completely different. It’s an insult toward a demographic of Black people, usually men, who deem themselves “conscious.” It becomes an affectation.
However, my dear brothers and sisters, I’d like to point out a distinction. There is hotep, ideally a peace invoked by the principles of Maat (truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice), and then there is fauxtep, which is elitist ideology disguised as rebelution. I also call it NOtep. Because there are some principles of your “conscious” Blackness that slide toward intraracial oppression rather than freedom.
First, a confession. I eat bacon and other pork items. I know: this vice automatically disqualifies me from being conscious. I try to eat pork sparingly because I understand its detriments, but I offer you no apologies for my friendliness toward swine. I have seen your lip curl up in revulsion when you talk about how your less enlightened family eats the hog. And then you seek the bottom of a bottle of Crown Royal, or inhale the dank smoke of a Black and Mild. My wrong doesn’t make you right. We all have our peccadilloes.
But I am not so sure you believe this, that one man’s sin is another man’s simple pleasure.
Take Scandal, for instance. Oh, the throngs of conscious Black men berating Black women for watching… a soap opera! A frothy little bit of nothing television show just like the ones your granny used to watch on her 13″ black-and-white television. Somehow, impressionable Black women become Negro Bed Wenches over a source of entertainment. I don’t even like Scandal! But I am compelled to defend the right of Black people to just live, even if it means watching something “stupid.”
And “stupid” is not just Scandal, or How to Get Away with Murder, or Love and Hip-Hop. It’s anything you find too trivial. A few weeks ago, the Internet seized on a pair of black and white llamas on the run from a llama ranch. The jokes abounded. I cackled at every. single. one of them.
But oh, my conscious people. You couldn’t allow anyone to actually enjoy their Black lives in the middle of ongoing #BlackLivesMatter campaigns. No, no, some of you berated others for being “sleep.” You condescendingly asked us what was really happening in the world while we kiki’d over black and white interracial llama love.
Why does Black liberation rhetoric hinge on the rest of the Black population being dumber or more “sleep” than the “conscious?” You always seem to be more “woke” than the rest of us. Do you never take naps? Have sex? Play bones? Do you truly believe you are so conscious as to carry the weight of the race 24/7, 365? Do you think so little of your fellow Black folk that you cannot trust us to laugh and fight alongside you? Have you never considered that laughter is healing, is self-care, from the endless trauma of racism? Finally, Can. I. Live?
Forgive my hubris, but I am a smart, capable Black woman who can walk and talk at the same time. I don’t tap you on the shoulder rapping about the school-to-prison pipeline while you’re at the strip club. Taking a moment to laugh at Kendrick Llama in no way detracts from the passion I feel for Black issues.
What are we really fighting for, if not the right to live, laugh, and love?
But I do not think we agree on what “love” means. Your stance presumes to love and elevate Blackness. However, I find it exceedingly curious to see the vehement disdain you have…for your own people. If they attended a Predominately White Institution instead of a Historically Black College or University, you question their Blackness. You say things like, “I have no sympathy for Martese Johnson because he wouldn’t have been assaulted like that at an HBCU.”
How, Sway? Where is the love in this? If my going to the “wrong” school has you saying things about me that mirror a Republican candidate’s spiel, I don’t need that love, sis.
And finally, to my Black brothers: I love you. I appreciate you. But I don’t need you to call me “queen.” I am ordinary, Black, woman and still worthy. If you call me “queen,” I will still likely smile and say thank you. But here is why I do not find the term necessary. (Keep in mind I speak only for myself.)
Consider a queen is elevated above all others in the land. She is special because you have elevated her. But with queendom comes great restriction. And that’s where things get dicey. Once you start prescribing what a Black “queen” should and shouldn’t do, that elevation becomes nothing but a pedestal from which I am bound to fall. That pedestal also breeds a false view of superiority.
I cannot abide the sentiment that some Black women are queens and others are b*****s to be dogged.
Black women shouldn’t have to aspire to royalty to expect decent treatment from Black men. If you call me “queen” in comparison to another Black woman who doesn’t suit you, you have denigrated both of us. I am then not a “queen” but a pawn used to shame behavior you dislike. And sometimes, your use of “queen” is a ruse. There is a quiet acknowledgement among Black women in “conscious” circles that the Black men who greet us with, “Hotep, queen,” can be just as sexist, just as woman-abusing, just as predatory as “regular” Black men.
I don’t need you to call me queen if it means you treat my sisters like peasants. I see myself in them and, therefore, I cannot see myself nodding in agreement with you as you elevate me above them. I, too, am ordinary, Black, and woman. Do I need to be “queen” for you to love me? I appreciate the sentiment, but “queen” isn’t a requirement. I would much rather be sister, beloved, standing beside you, supporting you, protecting and being protected by you.
In some respect, I suppose I could consider myself “conscious.” I say this not because I stand enlightened, above other Black people, but because I know we all have different journeys to understanding who Black people are. I would rather feel compassion from you than condescension. Rather than pity, patience.
Ultimately, the difference between Black women and men truly being hotep instead of fauxtep depends on your ability to love Black people to wholeness…without breaking them down in the process. Now…can we build? 🙂