The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
“But Some of Us Are Brave”: On Kanye West and the Disposal of Black Women & Femmes’ Mental Health
Kanye West was hospitalized on Monday for a mental health evaluation amid canceling the rest of his Saint Pablo tour and his latest rants about Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Donald Trump. The support for him has been overwhelming and has opened up very visible conversations centering mental health in the Black community.
In contrast, when Azealia Banks is publicly crucified for her mistakes, including endorsing Donald Trump – she is constantly and continually dragged and disposed of, no matter what the circumstance. No one comes running to her defense, nor is the question of mental health ever discussed. Azealia grew up in an abusive home and lost her father at a young age to juxtapose her trauma next to Kanye’s. It’s evident that being a dark skin, bisexual black woman doesn’t elicit the same sympathy and defense that Kanye does regardless of her story and experiences.
Similarly, Lil’ Mama’s trauma was turned into a meme. The crying face meme that went viral was a still taken from an interview in which Lil’ Mama was discussing how her mother’s devastating death sent her into a deep depression and loneliness. But no one came to her defense nor did folks stop posting the meme. Although Lil Mama went on record to laugh with others about the meme, it doesn’t change the levels of violence and dehumanization Black women and femmes experience around our pain and trauma.
When Kid Cudi announced that he was admitting himself into an institution for his depression and deteriorating mental health, mad Black folks flocked to protect and defend him. The vibe was that Black men’s mental health needs to be discussed and centered to divest from toxic black masculinity and white supremacist ideology. But this movement was led by Black folks of all genders, but every movement around Black women and femmes’ safety and well-being is led and initiated by us.
In retrospect, Kid Cudi’s affirmation compared to Kehlani’s attempted suicide is laughable. The disgusting commentary she received from public figures such as Chris Brown and Lil’ Duval reaffirmed that Black women and femmes will always be seen as disposable, even during their most vulnerable moments. Anything could’ve been going on in Kehlani’s life, including past or present trauma, that made her want to kill herself. But none of that was considered, like Kid Cudi or Kanye West, because our sympathy is political, and misogynoir makes the pain and mental wellness of Black women and femmes invisible.
Additionally, Lil Kim’s navigation of self-worth and internalization of white supremacist beauty standards has been under a microscope for her entire career. When she recently came forward saying that she was a “Spanish girl trapped in a Black girl’s body”, she was dragged and laughed at. No one stopped to diagnose her around the violent colorist misogynoir she had suffered at the hands of an antiblack society and violent Black male partners. Yet, family histories, death, white supremacist violence, and struggle are all themes and analysis around Black men.
We are always denied humanity. In a world where Black women, femmes and girls are denied love, access, support, resources, safety or protection, we are always set up to fail. And subsequently punished when we can’t perform mental wellness for the world to be inspired by.
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.