The Root writer Michael Harriet wrote an article yesterday that provided extensive context on the term whitewomaning. The article defined the term as follows:
Whitewomaning: a term used when a woman of Caucasian descent complains after learning her white privelege key does not open every lock in the universe.
The article implements the term “whitewomaning” to compartmentalize the outrage following a Diddy tweet extended solely to black women. What did the tweet read you ask:
Shout out to black women just because…
The Tweet itself, proved far less significant than the retaliation. The general response exposed a white need for hyper visibility . Despite continually excluding blacks from nearly everything, including the word woman, any attempt to display black pride or unity never ceases to foment white outrage—an outrage oppressive in both nature and execution.
But before Diddy and his campaign for pseudo black excellence, was the Black Arts movement which followed the assassination of Black Nationalist leader and icon Malcolm X in 1965. The Black Arts period captured a unique period in black culture, in the brazen blackness it demanded. Perhaps the movement is best articulated by the late Amiri Baraka in his poem” Black Art.” In “Black Art” Baraka demanded blacks reset their ideology in order to implement the necessary changes to black life. The poem is vulgar– its word choice contentious and unapolegtically so. The poem acts as a weapon enabled by the confidence, and the nerve blacks need in order to rise from their subordinated place in America.
My instructor read this poem in an African American Lit class at small “women’s” college in Oakland, California. By women I mean “white women,” who put on quite the show during and after the reciting of this poem. What the common gaze would label outrage was actually entitlement, an entitlement prompted by an inability to process an inclusive gaze critical of whites. Instead these white women were faced with the height of black pride written by black man who rejected his white wife for the black woman and the revolution. The line that seemed to get under everyone’s white skin, happened to be my favorite. It reads:
Black poems to smear on girdlemama mulatto bitches
whose brains are red jelly stuck
between ‘lizabeth Taylor’s toes. Stinking
This line is my favorite because it casts aside the beauty standards of white America. It also functions to satiate the need for white visibility simultaneously acknowledging the ever-present white body in the lives of black people. The images however are yanked from their societal placement. Instead of residing above blacks, the poem caricatures whites to reflect the ugly nature of their deeds, symbolism, and motives. This particular image of Elizabeth Taylor, stains the height of European beauty by desecrating her porcelain white skin with the scattered brains of those who aspire to walk in the shoes of a “beautiful” white woman, but instead stick between her toes.
The poem succeeds because it is black art. Black art should upset those who have upset our story for centuries—those who continue to interrupt and abduct our narrative making it about their concerns and fictive oppression. Diddy’s tweet, although brief and unassuming is therefore a piece of black art.
I may not support Diddy’s assertion of materialism as black excellence. Yet, his simple tweet acknowledging the darker and often overlooked body cast along the shores of womanhood, personifies black art. Black art should speak to black people, and black people solely. Black art should not concern itself with who or what grows indignant in our collective glow. We have been careful for far too long. We have apologized far too frequently. Baraka writes:
Let Black People understand
that they are the lovers and the sons
of warriors Are poems & poets &
All the loveliness here in the world
We want a black poem. And a
Let the world be a Black Poem
And Let All Black People Speak This Poem
Perhaps a paramount step towards self-determination and a collective esteem is deeming our words, thoughts, behavior, dance, movies, films, books, poetry just because they are ours. So they are in English–but black art will lead us back to our indigenous origins by way of our coerced language. Never granted our forty acres, a mule, or a space to call our own, we must create a black world with what we have, and what we have is our melanin and each other.
May whitewomaning be the inadvertent encore to black art, signaling not what we have done wrong, but what we have done right.
Moral: Black Art: It’s not for everyone and it shouldn’t be.
Black Power ❤