It's An Honor To Be Talked About
For the past 48 hours or so, my colleagues and I have been under attack for an editorial decision people know very little about and, despite the attempt at making it a viral moment, I'm also sure truly care very little about as well.
I've always been someone who lives by the mantra "my work speaks for itself," so it was the personal attacks about my weight, my hair, and my ancestry even, that hurt me more than assumptions that I've willfully taken money out of the mouth of a Black woman. I know how many Black women writers I've personally onboarded during the past eight years -- and how many opportunities I've extended that fell on deaf ears for one reason or another -- not to mention the names I've spoken up to be compensated as hosts, talent, makeup artists, hairstylists, and more for various projects. Just two minutes of the effort that was directed at exposing what's being perceived as some dirty little secret would've shown my record is more than intact.
Because I'm not new to this, I knew my size would be the first thing people would come for because that's how we operate as a society. But it was the "that's what she looks like?" and "I always pictured her looking like this" remarks that I couldn't shake. The thought that a Black woman could look at me and be disappointed by my appearance hurt me in a way I didn't even know I was still capable of being hurt. But then a tiny bit of intel shed greater light on what was actually happening here. What seemed like a random Internet discovery gone semi-viral was actually a targeted act of retaliation.
Without getting too deep in the weeds, rapper Talib Kweli had been harassing a Black woman on Twitter for two weeks straight because she critiqued his colorism. After several days, many media outlets covered the harassment, including my own. After having his Twitter account removed, it appears he has taken to imploring and even employing people to harass members of the media who have exposed his disgusting behavior, my team included. The minute that discovery was made, my perspective immediately shifted and I thought about what a fellow journalist friend said to me the night before when I called him upset over the disparaging threads I'd spent too much time digesting online: It's an honor to be talked about.
The adage you must be doing something right if people are talking about you has always given me pause, but in this instance, it rings true. If we're being talked about because we stood up for a Black woman, then that is indeed an honor. Further, it negates the very assumptions that have been made about who we allow to take up space on our platform. Hint: It's not Black men who hate themselves and, by extension, hate Black women.
When I woke up this morning with fresh (non-puffy) eyes, I realized I should've seen what was happening all along. There is only one other time in my career that I've been cyber-bullied and the contributing factors are exactly the same. In 2017, Veronica Wells, the same editor who exposed Talib Kweli, wrote an article that had Black men up in arms. (She's a truthteller y'all, check out her magazine No Sugar No Cream.) Subsequently, a Black man made a 51-minute YouTube video just to talk about how fat and disgusting I am and some 200-plus commenters jumped in right along with him. Here we are in 2020 witnessing the same M.O. -- Black men publicly ridiculing Black women under the guise of wanting to eliminate divisiveness in our community. Yes, you are correct, that is indeed an oxymoron.
Sometimes you don't want to fan the flames when people create false narratives about you that are a non-issue, but when you operate from a place of integrity and actually care about the work you do, sitting silent simply isn't an option. That being said, it's an honor, not only to be talked about but to work with Black women who fight for us so much that it causes others to become uncomfortable. If people weren't talking about us, we'd be doing something wrong.