Last week, Kanye West and Jay-Z premiered their video for “No Church In The Wild,” their incendiary song about rebellion in the forms of ideas and laws. Watching the video, one gets remnants of the protests happening from Wall Street and Portland to Italy and China. Activists once again get a morsel of thought from The Throne, vividly depicting open anarchy versus totalitarian rule.
Just one problem: there were no women.
At least as far as the eye could see. The whole video looked like a battle amongst men, yet the lack of women jarred me for the simple fact that any of the big revolutions / riots we’ve had in this country involved women as active participants. Originally, I didn’t notice because my privilege and perspective gave me blinders. For one, Jay and Kanye are obviously two of my favorite rap artists, contradictions and all, so I’m likely to defend their actions because they’re a reflection of me and anyone else who considers themselves a fan. Secondly, I’m a man, and, despite my best efforts to do so, I don’t always recognize the privileges I have as a man in this patriarchy.
But at least I admit it and try to tackle it to the best of my abilities. That might also be because I too have a few labels of my own that put me in a disadvantage against the mainstream. Being Black / Latino and having a poor man’s mentality, I get what it’s like when the dominant don’t get why I’m angry when my very valid point gets ostracized, ignored, or “othered.” I could just as easily curse out and hurt those who benefit from this structure much the way women hip-hop fans can to Kanye and Jay.
But to what end? You can’t change people’s hearts and minds by going after their person.
That’s how I feel when people who should know better act extra rude to others. In the 21st century, as with any, I envision activists speaking truth to power by drawing the line between personal attacks and making valid points. What we often miss about the great orators of the last century or so isn’t their taglines or their emotions, but the valid reasons behind what they believe. Points sting more, which is probably why they’re called points to begin with. If what you say has no substance, then it won’t hold up, and if it won’t hold up, then it won’t get active.
And if it doesn’t get active, then … what really makes people an activist?
Now, during some of these conversations, I was told that now is not the time for pleasantries. I agree, but there’s a sharp difference between “hey, how are you?” and “you’re a sellout.” That’s never going to get anyone who you want listening to listen, and also, it makes you open to sharp criticism in your own right. Plus, just speaking up won’t do anything. We need pointed action, and a coalition of people who, despite their differences, have a belief in making fundamental changes to what’s happening in this country. The language around it can’t just sound like you’re talking to the person that already knows, but also to the one that wants to find out.
I know that once I put this out there, the conversations may get heated once more, but that’s just it. I don’t need to be the hero. Speaking truth to power often means telling your own allies about the piece of lumber in their eyes. I’m still working on my own pick.
Jose, who was definitely talking about last week’s #SOSChat …
p.s. – I’m not referring to the entirety of the participants. Just those that made things far too personal. -shrugs-