Only Black Women Get Canceled
Photo by Johnathan Kaufman on Unsplash
Yesterday, I wrote about the backlash and abuse Gayle King has been receiving for asking Lisa Leslie about the late Kobe Bryant’s potentially complicated legacy, given the 2003 rape allegation. It was a story I wanted to save for No Sugar No Cream. But with the way people were coming at Gayle, I felt the words would have been better served on a larger platform where more people could see that somebody in the Black community recognized that what was happening to her wasn’t right.
Normally, when I come home from work or shut my laptop for the day, I’m done with the news. My husband is not too into pop culture and he’s not on the internet as much as I am so a lot of things that I spend hours talking, writing, and contemplating, he hasn’t even seen.
Last night, I assumed that when he picked me up to go to my favorite restaurant (The Cheesecake Factory) that I’d finally be able to stop talking about Gayle and the Black men who were all too ready to throw her under the bus.
As soon as I got into the car, I saw he was playing the Oprah interview where she explained that Gayle was not doing well and had received death threats. So we had to talk about it.
Not only did we discuss Gayle, her question and the subsequent backlash, I spent half of our lil date telling a Black man how Black men habitually and gleefully betray Black women.
My husband, Soils, is someone who likes proof, concrete examples. And simple conversations end up playing out like court room dramas, with me being the screaming, impassioned attorney and my husband the stone-faced, impartial jury. And while I have lost many arguments, partially because I be too deep in my own feelings, last night I was on my shit.
After discussing Gayle King I just got quiet. Really because the way all of this played out has just reminded me that Black men don’t ride out for us. I hear Black men complain all the time about cancel culture. Now, after today, I want to tell them to rest assured. They’ll be just fine. If they manage not to perpetuate any R-Kelly type actions, they can avoid cancellation entirely. Because as history has shown, cancellation is for Black women.
When Chrisette Michelle decided to perform at Trump’s inauguration party, in a room from which he was completely absent, the Black community was done with her. Prominent Black men, including Spike Lee, came out publicly to withdraw their support from her and her career.
Meanwhile, Kanye West met with Trump, before and after he took office, complete with a MAGA hat, and y’all swear his Sunday Sermons have revolutionized gospel music. Anything for a pair of Yeezy’s, I guess.
After I cited that example, Soils said perhaps people don’t judge Kanye too harshly or take his words and actions too seriously because they recognize that he’s battling a mental illness.
I said that might be the case for some people. But even Black women with mental illnesses aren’t given those same allowances.
Azealia Banks has opened up about her mental illness. And it wasn’t met with the same type of compassion. In fact, another prominent Black man, rapper RZA from the Wu Tang Clan, stood idly by while a White man, Russell Crowe, spat on her. He did nothing.
So the allowances for foolishness aren’t due to an understanding of mental illness.
People are still raw from the tragic and sudden passing of Kobe Bryant and so perhaps this reaction is a result of Black people’s belief that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.
But that reminded me of another Kanye misstep. We can argue that in terms of beloved Black women, Whitney Houston, for all of her struggles, might be close to the top of that list.
But even she didn’t get the collective protection from Black men.
Two years ago, Kanye West paid $85,000 for a photo of Whitney Houston’s bathroom in the middle of a drug binge. In a photo sold to the tabloids by a friend, you see all types of drug paraphernalia on her bathroom counter. And for whatever reason, Kanye felt it important for that to be the art as the cover of Pusha T’s album.
Not only did Pusha T. not object, neither did any other prominent Black man, with the exception of Bobby Brown.
There was no respect the dead there. And the reason is clear. Because a Black man’s legacy or reputation wasn’t at stake. Because it was just a Black woman’s, there was no need to say anything.
But Gayle King asks a question—perhaps in an effort to allow Lisa Leslie to respond to a conversation that was already happening—and now she’s being called out of her name, with thinly veiled threats being issued by our “Uncle.”
I understand why Black men don’t feel the need to protect us. They know we’ll never abandon them. In fact, based on what I witnessed last week, there’s a good chance that Black women will carry out the misogynoir in their honor. Black women birth Black men. We can’t turn away from our children, our fathers, ourselves. But Black men, in their quest for the power White men wield, often leave us by the wayside to fend for ourselves—and for them when the White man reminds them of their place.
I understand that Black folk, across the community, had a problem with Gayle’s line of questioning. But the very least she deserved and the least she’s owed as a Black woman and an elder to many of us, was the dignity of being corrected with respect and maybe even some love.
That lack of consideration, the historical, perpetual, and consistent abandonment and betrayal is hurtful although not surprising.
And though I’ve grown tired of feeling this deep disappointment, I still have enough energy and enough hope to ask the brothas, when are y’all gon show up for us?