Cardi B. Reminds Us That Respectability Politics Won’t Save Black People
In a recent Instagram post, singer/songwriter Cardi B. clapped back at the haters who leave comments under her posts about reality TV being the reason black people are murdered. She says, “Stop trying to blame reality TV to try to show what’s wrong with [minorities/ black people]. “What’s wrong with us” has nothing to do with us, it has something to do with them. Niggas don’t take us serious, niggas don’t like us before TV even fucking started.”
Cardi B., one of our problematic faves, reminds us that the system and, essentially, non-black people been hated us before reality TV. Reality TV only capitalizes upon black culture and black bodies, particularly black women and femmes, from what we’ve already created out of resilience, innovation, creativity and survival. Ultimately, Cardi reminds us that the system we live in is designed to kill us, regardless of how we’re surviving and navigating within it.
Respectability politics are harmful and life-threatening in a world that requires us to perform whiteness, access proximity to whiteness and emulate whiteness to survive. We kill ourselves and our culture so we can garner humanity. Cardi B.’s career has been on the content creation platforms of Vine and Instagram, and more recently on the reality television show Love and Hip Hop New York. In this time, she’s had the platform to shift narratives of respectability politics from discussing her body modification, her pro-hoe lyricism as a rapper, her Afro-Latina identity, and her black feminist politics in her everyday videos she posts online.
She notably came to the defense of Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles when the world was perpetuating antiblackness by critiquing their hair during the Olympics. In a viral video, Cardi B. says, “If Black lives matter to y’all so much, then Black looks, Afro looks, should matter to y’all, too.”
Her mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, and her tweets on being called a hoe remind all audiences that Cardi is not here for slut-shaming or for comparing black women and femmes against each other. In her tweets responding to memes comparing her with Ayesha Curry, she says: “She’s a good woman to her man, and I’m a good one to mines. People like different things.”
Cardi also says, “Remember what Maya Angelou used to be, and she in nikkas (niggas) text books.”
Although Cardi B. has some work to do on her queer and trans politics, she has galvanized a black feminist hoeism politic that allows for black women and femmes to feel empowered in whichever way they perform, present and navigate outside of the gaze of respectability.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, nonbinary Black fat femme writer, artist and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com.