There was a disturbance in the Black Twitter force yesterday.
Blavity, an online magazine focused on news and culture for Black millennials, ran a piece on Hidden Colors 4, the latest in a series of documentaries that explore the possibility that many internationally recognized religious and cultural touchstones assumed to be European in origin actually have African roots and that those roots have been deliberately hidden by historians and scientists to perpetuate white supremacy. The films have a large following among young urban males. Among young urban feminists, not so much.
The trouble began with questions about whether Blavity was being objective in giving Hidden Colors so much space for what some felt was a glorified ad. The conversation then focused on whether Blavity should be featuring Hidden Colors at all, considering that it’s creator, Tariq Nasheed, has the reputation among certain Black feminists as a misogynist, along with the sociologist Dr. Umar Johnson, who is prominently featured in the film series. Before long, prominent Black feminists on Twitter with large followings voiced their displeasure and their followers retweeted in agreement, and the original article was removed by yesterday afternoon.
Hotep vs. Black Feminism Order of Battle
A little background: For many young Black feminists, especially on Tumblr and Twitter, the word “hotep” has the same effect that a crucifix does on a vampire. They see the people who participate in hotep as using Ancient Egyptian symbolism and Afrocentrism as a mask to hide patriarchy, homophobia and hatred of Black women.
The reverse is true for the Black men who label themselves “hotep”. Many of them see Black feminists as agents of white supremacy, using feminism to mask their hatred of Black men and to further the destruction of the Black family. Any online meeting of the two usually results in an insult filled exchange that leaves both sides hating each other more than they did when they first engaged, and Tariq Nasheed and Dr. Umar Johnson are considered the top two Hotep Public Enemies.
Revolutions Devour Their Own
As many a business has found out, you risk the wrath of Black Twitter at your peril. I admit that I’ve enjoyed watching as a racist who makes a hateful comment online gets a one way ticket to the unemployment office courtesy of Black Twitter. It’s a powerful weapon for influence and a platform that launched mass social justice movements, opened conversations about media representation, and created safe spaces for marginalized people. Social media has sparked a revolution in the way that individuals can come together and build group power.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of revolutions, usually the hunt begins for internal enemies, real or imagined. Asking questions becomes treason. Opposing voices are labeled “counterrevolutionary”. Simple disagreements and settling of personal beefs get elevated to purges. I’ve seen this behavior taking place online, in situations where people can’t seem to tell the difference between someone with a genuine question and someone trolling. With people who are in constant attack mode, firing at any perceived threat, even when the target is someone they could have a dialogue with.
For whatever reason, Blavity made the choice to remove the article. I’m neutral on the subject of the Hidden Colors, but I’m not a fan of shutting down discussion of an idea because the idea is one that we don’t like. If you don’t like something, fine. But taking away someone else’s ability to make that choice for themselves is censorship. Ideas need to be expressed freely so they can be tested, debated, and those that don’t hold up can be rejected.
We gotta let go of the idea that unless someone’s worldview matches up exactly with our own, that the other person is trash. They may very well prove themselves to be, but they need to be given the chance to prove it.