On a personal level, I was mostly disinterested in the recent beef between hip-hop artists Snoop Dogg/Lion and Iggy Azalea.
On a symbolic level, however, I found it to be emblematic of the political dynamics of black men and white women in hip-hop and beyond.
More importantly, I found it to be crucially demonstrative of the ways in which black women inevitably lose in the context of these dynamics. A critique that seemed to be lost amidst bad memes and misguided analysis.
White feminists fell over themselves writing lazy think pieces about the misogyny in hip-hop that ignored the racial and cultural context of the music. Black men derailed conversations about Snoop’s sexism; turning legitimate callouts into rants which seemed to imply that if we couldn’t handle the dog-eat-dog nature of the rap game, we shouldn’t grab the mic. Black women were effectively erased in tug-of-war of gender or racial loyalties.
So business as usual.
If Snoop Lion and Iggy Azalea will represent the figurative marriage between black men and white women in America, this beef might as well be the divorce.
Even in the marital aftermath, black women had to be ones to ask the more pertinent question: where had black men in hip-hop been when we needed them? Or, as @SorahyaM said on Twitter, “show me one time anyone (other than black women) stood up for a black female rapper when she was being dragged.”
As if the epistemological history of hip-hop was lost on them, black men seemed to have forgotten that it was never been a safe space for black women. Rather, than challenge black male misogyny, it was more often an opportunity for it to become more formidable.
Virtually no one came to Nicki Minaj’s defense when rapper Gucci Mane spread sexually denigrating rumors about her on Twitter. Or Azealia Banks when T.I took to Instagram, calling her a “monstrosity of a maggot ass bitch”. Certainly not Karrine Steffans (aka “Superhead”) who was ruthlessly slut-shamed after authoring the Video Vixen series, which divulged the details of her sexual (and abusive) relationships with black men in hip-hop.
Relatively speaking, hip-hop has been a safer space for white women to enter. Even those like Miley Cyrus whose appropriation of blackness (to the point of caricature) was seemingly less offensive because it took gendered form. It was black female bodies she used as minstrel props in her 2013 VMA performance and her video for “We Can’t Stop”. It was twerking–a catchall for black female depravity–she found “risque” enough to live out her white girl sexual empowerment fantasies.
This is still the honeymoon phase of interracial matrimony, when no one is concerned about having not invited black women to the wedding.
Certainly not Iggy Azalea, whose entire capital appeal lies in her ability to commodify black female bravado, without suffering the social consequences of actually being a black woman. She earns her coins making us palatable to the white audience; a way they might encounter our style, beauty, and culture without having to accredit it. Black women then, must act as the subpar backdrop by which her whiteness can be centered and reaffirmed in black femcee spaces. And we become the wallpaper in the house in which we built.
Perhaps life as newlyweds is so blissful in the beginning because both partners have such high expectations of the relationship.
Black men seek white women for all the obvious reasons: internalized anti-blackness, fondness of Eurocentric beauty, or markers of class status. But also as a consequence of male privilege. White women provide the incentive for fulfilling white supremacist patriarchal ideals. Part of the eagerness in which black men seek non-black women is predicated on the belief of their inherent submissiveness relative to black women. Its the grand hope that they will finally crack the color code of femininity that guarantees complete control. Women who can be tamed and groomed properly, who know how to treat a man, who stay in their place, who stay in the back.
The black male role in interracial relationships is often cast (particularly in pop culture) as unbridled racial worship. But black men only really praise white womanhood to the extent that they provide patriarchal leverage.
Snoop came for Azalea because she somehow challenged black male authority in a way that made her whiteness (as it pertained to him in that moment) obsolete. When she failed to perform his idealization of white femininity she became just another bitch.
White women seek black men for other, more obvious reasons. That is–lust, awe, and respect for which their proximity to white men makes them feel entitled. It was easy to see why white feminists could be indignant about Snoop’s sexism and discern Azalea as the only one of its victims who needed to be rescued. They’d witnessed a type of voracious misogyny they never thought they’d be subjected to.
The pedestal of white womanhood is contingent on its physical and moral superiority (relative to black women) which requires patriarchal endorsement. Their attraction to black men derives from the tantalization of danger and sexual exoticism (via racialized myths) but also by their need to solidify female superiority.
Iggy Azalea was offended not only because the source of the misogyny was black and male, but also because it potentially leveled her with black women. When Snoop failed to do his part to uphold the feminine racial hierarchy he became just another nigger.
To be clear, i’m not suggesting the social and structural power of black men and white women to be equal (obviously white women access more) or that those power differences disappear in the context of interpersonal conflict. But I am suggesting a commonality in the ways by which they seek to climb these structural and social echelons on the backs of black women. Moreover, how the mutual subjugation of black women (and each other) become the litmus test for achieving it.
And its precisely the potential to finally wield white male power–more than the proverbial “forbidden fruit”–that makes the black man/white woman dynamic so inciting. The push-pull of abusive tactics and manipulation that fuels any sick love story.
Inevitably though, there comes the divorce. And like any good divorce, it is messy and public: property is divided, daggers are thrown, sides are taken.
During the beef, Snoop recognized Nicki Minaj as a successful hip-hop artist who is “sitting with other female rappers” a diss which implicated Azalea as a less reputable femcee. He did this while caricaturizing her blondeness in a meme which compared her to the film White Chicks (where black actors Shawn and Marlan Wayans disguise themselves as white bimbos).
Ironically, her Barbie image (the very thing black men fetishized) was now a justifiable reason to criticize her lack of realness and talent in the game. It was only when he needed to instigate female competition (using Nicki as the crux of offensiveness) did black women become visible at all.
Azalea’s response to Snoop was pointedly feminist. She tweeted: “women are supposed to sit back and let men shit on them,” then “If we question it, we are ’emotional’, ‘butt hurt’, or just a BITCH. nothing new tho.” A response made absurd by her history of racist/homophobic/transphobic comments in regards to women. It was only when she needed a (black) scapegoat to frame her victimhood in a misogynistic attack did she illicit Sisterhood.
Upon the demise of their political courtship, it’s as if all the things they once loved about each other become the spawn of bitterness and broken hearts. And black women, of course, must be there to pick up the pieces.
The black man will need us to be the Patient Ex-Wife who held it down when he left her for bigger and better things, so grateful to have him back she’s willing to forgive it all. They will need us–as always–to forge racial allegiance at the expense of ourselves. To help curate black male misogyny because for once we aren’t its primary target.
The white woman will expect us to be the Supportive Girlfriend who listens while she bitches over cocktails about all the ways he fucked her over; hoping to be seen, hoping to finally be let into her super secret feminist club.
Inevitably, the Snoop Lions and Iggy Aszleas of hip-hop will find themselves squaring off for a battle of dominance that neither can ever really win. Like the black men and white women who find new partners to walk down the aisle in search of bigger power, only to end up bitter and empty-handed.
Black women will continue to pose a threat to these unions, for which we must remain silent and invisible for the sake of the relationship. Until they need our help to fix it after it’s gone.