The recent murders of 19 year old Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau and transwomen Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, reignited calls that ‘All Black Lives Matter’ to emphasise the need to include black women and especially black transwomen. For a long time, black women have expressed their exhaustion from being met with multiple forms of abuse due to their intersecting identities - now termed misogynoir by queer black feminist Moya Bailey. After those tragic deaths, many black men were parading on social media that they will do better, asking how they could help women of colour and vowing to protect them in the future.
Though the recent recognition that more does need to be done to protect black women, many are already used to moving through life without it. That’s why the recent drama between Noname and J.Cole felt all too similar to so many black women.
The back and forth started with Noname tweeting that she was tired of male rappers who had built a following for being woke but then had been silent during this time. Noname did not mention anyone in particular and to be honest, it could have been about many male rappers, however, there was much speculation that it was about Kendric Lemar and/or J.Cole. Well, Jermaine (aka J.Cole) took it to be about him and released a track called Snow on Tha Bluff which alluded to be about Noname’s deleted tweet.
I could easily go through each line and highlight the gaslighting, however I will pick out a few key ones to explain the overall issues. Jermaine states that “It's something about the queen tone that's botherin' me”, and this is the first instance of tone policing. At that specific point in time, Black women were rightly angry from being erased in the broader BLM conversation to then seeing women being killed at the hands of black men. Black women time and time again have been told to watch their tone as they sound too aggressive, too ghetto or angry. This has been used as an excuse to justify their maltreatment as they do not adhere to “traditional femininity” which is mostly associated with whiteness.
Jermaine then goes on to state “Instead of conveying you holier, come help get us up to speed.” At this point, many black women recognised this sort of request: the expectation that we should stop what we are doing to teach men in a way that suits them is tiring. He also claims that “She strike me as somebody blessed enough to grow up in conscious environment”, but this is contrary to the truth where we have whitnessed Noname’s re- education. Not so long ago she tweeted that Black capitalism is the solution to black oppression. Many of her fans informed her that this mindset, while admirable, is not it: capitalism but make it black is not the solution to the oppression that black people face everyday. Her followers suggested thinkers, activists and books for her to check out and so she did. A few months later she created a book club that aims at dismantling the white supremacy capitalist patriarchy. She has committed to providing accessible revolutionary education that goes beyond borders. This was even before there was this public pressure to be “anti-racist” or “radical.”
Now, imagine a man like J.Cole with an abundance of resources requesting a black woman who already does work to do more free labour for him. Jermaine is so rich that he could probably afford to hire Dr Kimberle Crenshaw to give him a private lecture on intersectionality. Yet he was spending his time tone policing and gaslighting for 3 minutes.
Men who a few days prior were declaring that they “will protect black women” were now chastising those who were rightly critiquing the way in which J.Cole went about this. Many men were dismissive and exclaiming that it “always leads to gender wars” when it comes to women. Also that “women are never happy with the efforts of men” because J.Cole was requesting to be taught and that is enough effort for a lot of men to prove that they care. He doubled down on his remarks after subsequent dragging, yet he even mentioned in one tweet that “I don’t read but I think a lot.” Therein lies the problem.
Noname responded with a 70-second masterpiece, which realigned the focus on the main issues while highlighting the plight of black women. The fact that the conversation was even derailed to assess the manner in which a black women conducts her activism was unhelpful. Noname emphasising the very real misogynoir is not divisive but necessary if we want liberation for all black people. We are in a time where more and more women are finding the voice to express their experiences. The powerful chorus which reads “One girl missin', another one go missin'” seeks to platform the number of black girls who go missing in the US every year which are under-reported. The song ends on a positive note declaring that there is a new Vanguard, that despite the claims of divisiveness and gender being a “distraction” she will continue to do the work. Like many other Black women who put in more than they receive for their community because of the greater goal.
Written by Leonie Mills