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Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monet Prove #BlackGirlMagic Is Nothing New

Well, I know where I’ll be on January 13 of next year: watching a few of my favorite Black women pay homage to the Black brilliance. Last night the trailer for Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monet (*waving* Heeeyyyyy, ladies!), premiered. Hidden Figures tells the story of three Black women who became NASA mathematicians during a time when women weren’t supposed to be anything more than a secretary and Black women weren’t even allowed to vote.

Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan managed to fight through Jim Crow and all it’s dehumanizing terrorism to make some of NASA’s most famous projects possible. How inspiring! And how appropriate is it that the trailer aired last night during the Olympics were Black women have been setting records left and right?

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From left Johnson, Jackson and Vaughan.

Get into this!

Are you here for Hidden Figures? Let me know in the comments.

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Michelle Obama, Melania Trump and Protecting White Women At All Costs

When I first heard about First Lady Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and subsequent efforts to push for healthier school lunches, I was certain that these were bipartisan concerns. Encouraging children to be more active and providing them balanced nutrition couldn’t possibly be a source of controversy. Well, my grandmother always said, “People will make a liar out of you.” Sure enough, Republicans found a way to demonize even this seemingly most agreeable of efforts.

Outspoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was notably vocal about the First Lady daring to overstep her boundaries by campaigning for more nutritious standards in the school lunches many children are forced to eat. Of Obama’s endeavors into fitness, the governor said, “The first lady has no business being involved in this. She wants to give her opinions? That’s fine. She can give her opinions about what people should have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She’s like any other American. She can give her opinions. But using the government to mandate her point of view on what people should be eating everyday is none of her business.”

What I had forgotten in my haste to praise Michelle Obama for undertaking such a noble cause is that there is no such thing as incontrovertible benevolence in Black people in this country, particularly when it comes to Black women in positions of power and high visibility. Michelle Obama’s womanhood, motherhood and humanity are always open for ruthless critique. The reverence granted to former (read: white) First Ladies does not extend to her. Any misstep, perceived or actual, she makes will be amplified. Any success she has is scrutinized. Every word she says is scrutinized.

EVERY.WORD.SHE.SAYS.IS.SCRUTINIZED. Or at least I believed so until last night when Republican nominee Donald Trump’s wife gave a speech at the Republican National Convention.  Standing before thousands whose party peddles the rhetoric that Black people — lazy, entitled and uneducated — are ruining this country, Melania Trump recited a speech she first claimed to write almost entirely by herself which contained nearly an entire paragraph plagiarized from the first Black First Lady, Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

When acute Twitter user Jarret Hill noticed the obvious copying and pulled the transcripts, Trump’s camp predictably denied the allegations, issuing the following statement which read, “In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking. Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”

Many Republicans followed suit. Trump’s campaign chairman called the allegations “absurd.” While Chris Christie, who a few years before was offended by the audacity of of Mrs. Obama wanting to replace french fries with apples, was swift to vouch for Mrs. Trump’s integrity, stating, “I know Melania. I think she worked very hard on that speech. A lot of what I heard last night sitting on the floor sounded very much like her and the way she speaks about Donald all the time.”  He went on to firmly declare, “If we’re talking about 7% of a speech, that was really, universally considered to be a good performance by Melania. I know her. There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech.”

Despite being caught with the smoking gun, any indictment of the character of this woman is preposterous. Despite Melania Trump initially taking credit for composing the speech with “as little help as possible,”somehow calling her a plagiarist is offensive. Despite Trump supporters touting this woman as the classy, wholesome First Lady this country needs, her blatant theft of Michelle Obama’s intellectual property should not be used against her. Her reputation must not be challenged even with irrefutable evidence that she is not above lying and stealing.

And there we have the number #1 entry in the White Women’s Rulebook: Any mistake made  or offense committed by a white woman can and should be easily excused, blamed on the head not the heart. And the #2 entry: Black women exist solely for our labor, style and intellectual creations to be adopted, copied and appropriated by white women with no homage paid, credit given or compensation offered. And the 3rd entry: Turnbout is not fair play.

For centuries, white women’s words were evidence enough to hang Black people. For centuries, white women have studied Black women, mocking our bodies, speech, hairstyles and mannerisms, only to imitate them for the world, capitalize and monetize off them, and feign offense when confronted with their cultural leeching. For centuries white women have harassed and antagonized Black women only to turn around and paint themselves the victim of our retaliation.

Melania Trump is Taylor Swift, blatantly lying and then arrogantly playing verbal gymnastics when receipts surface. Melania Trump is Iggy Azalea miserably mimicking Black women’s swagger while denying our universal influence. Melanie Trump is the white woman in the office who has been combative, disrespectful and petty to her Black coworker who burst into tears and marches to HR when that Black coworker returns her shade gloriously. This is the quintessential performance of white womanhood, comprising every element that has preserved and protected white women from accountability and punishment for their actions, malicious or not.

The same people who saw no problem with the racist caricaturing of the First Lady as hyper masculine juxtaposed with a depiction of Melania Trump as the personification of feminine beauty are now shielding Trump from due criticism. After years of claiming that Mrs. Obama’s success as an attorney and Ivy League degrees are solely attributable to Affirmative Action, Republicans are now faced with a white woman (ironically from the group which benefits most from Affirmative Action)  lifting an entire section of that woman’s speech.

But per usual, Melania is the victim in this. After all, the collective purity of white womanhood is what’s really at stake. The collective dehumanization and devaluing of Black women is always in play. Class politics are always at play. To simply concede that Mrs. Trump’s speech plagiarizes Mrs. Obama’s, would mean to contend with the fact that all they believe about Black deviance and white superiority is a lie. Republicans and their racist supporters would need to accept that Michelle Obama has been targeted and attacked not because she fits their racist stereotypes but because she’s Black. It would mean eating shit. And we all know shit in the mouths of racists only travels one way.

 

 

 

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Heard It All Before: On Jesse Williams and Biracial Privilege

Sunday night actor and activist Jesse Williams was the recipient of the Humanitarian Award at BET’s 16th annual awards show. In a speech that left the internet buzzing, Williams simultaneously uplifting the oft and maliciously neglected demographic of Black women, demanded white people do the work of dismantling the system of oppression designed and maintained for their exclusive benefit, addressed cultural appropriation of our arts and style, and called Black people to action. If you didn’t know who Jesse Williams was before last night, you knew after that speech.

I’ve been following Williams for a few years now. I was introduced to him via a brilliant CNN blog post he wrote critiquing Quentin Tarantino’s Django, which Williams calls a “lazy, oversimplified reduction of our history.” I became a fan when I watched him castigate a white America that emboldened Michael Dunn to murder 17-year-old Jordan Davis. I became a stan after watching his impromptu interview with a fan in Ferguson in which he minced no words discussing how America preys upon Black people. His ability to examine and deconstruct the complex and covert ways in which media representation shapes society’s perception and expectations of Blackness and willingness to potentially jeopardize his stable career by confronting the same white audience that loves him on Grey’s Anatomy about their silence over the routine state-sanctioned murder of unarmed Black people earned him my nearly impenetrable adoration.

So I was elated to watch my social media feeds filled with appreciation for Williams’ speech and activism. Many of my friends, Black women particularly, still reeling from the relative lack of media attention to and perceived callous from Black men toward the murder of 25-year-old Jessica Hampton, were moved by Williams’ promise to do better by Black women who “have spent their lifetimes nurturing everyone before themselves.” But for as much acclaim as the speech garnered, many noted Williams’ biracial identity and consequent non-threatening perception to white people as at least partial motivation behind all the adulation.

If I’m being candid, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed Jesse Williams haranguing America for its patently inhumane treatment of Black people is surely easier for white viewers to swallow than a brown-skinned Marc Lamont Hill with indisputably Black features holding no punches on CNN. A denial of the privilege Williams’ proximity to white standards of beauty affords him would be disingenuous. The actor himself said as much in an interview with The Guardian. “…I have my [looks] – you know, European beauty standards give me access to things,” admitted Williams.

But judging the value of Black activists by their palatability to white people is dangerously counterproductive on either side. If Danny Glover’s or Roland Martin’s activism are no less valuable, no less brave, no less insightful because white America can’t stomach passion from a Black man who fits the phenotype, then neither is Williams’ commitment to force-feeding America the bitter truth any less admirable because they adore Dr. Jackson Avery’s blue eyes and freckles. Perhaps it’s a little easier for white people to hear the message coming from a man who looks like Williams, and perhaps it’s a little easier for him to speak to them because of whatever familial and community ties he has to whiteness, but easier doesn’t mean easy.

It would be easy for Jesse Williams to collect a paycheck from his role on a hit primetime drama, bask in the celebrity that opportunity affords him, indulge in the post-racial fairytale and keep quiet about structural racism and the open season on Black lives. Taking every opportunity to remind the white viewers who support his show, white relatives, his white costars and any other white person who thought his Blackness was exceptional or inconsequential that Black people are literally dying because of their willful ignorance and indifference to Black suffering is anything but easy. And I’m not prepared to downplay his efforts because white people, and maybe even some of us, will never be ready to hear the truth as told by Saul Williams.

Moreover, while Williams’ words on capitalist exploitation, extrajudicial executions of Black bodies and white apathy are constant themes in Black critiques of the American system, the explicit address to Black women is a modern anomaly. Many of the Black men at who speak about Black liberation see Black patriarchy as the best alternative to systemic racism. So Williams’ unwillingness to continue the practice of offering Black women as sacrifice to improve the position of Black men within the white supremacist hierarchy is the full circle liberation Black women have been craving. We cannot write off the centering and protecting Black women by a biracial Black man raised by a white woman when monoracial Black men raised by Black women are epidemically infected with strands of misogynoir that prove detrimental if not fatal to Black women.

At an awards show celebrating Black people, an Black man stood before Black people and poured gasoline on the revolutionary fire. However his speech was received and interpreted by the white masses, those five minutes were for us. Justin Timberlake’s self-righteous misinterpretation or white media’s praise (so ironically oblivious to the implication of their complicity) of the message are irrelevant to the value of his words to us.

And yes, much of what Williams said has been said by Black activists — with two Black parents who fit whatever perceptions of Black phenotype who have been silenced by the media, persecuted by the government and all but forgotten by history  — a thousand times and thousand different ways, but “I love you” is as sweet the 1,000th time as it the first.

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On LeBron and Useless White Approval

I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.” As a woman who would rather do just about anything – fold laundry, watch paint dry, even listen to an entire Iggy Azeala album – rather than watch a basketball game, even I know that infamous line. I remember that day back in the summer of 2010, the morning after Lebron James announced his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in a special that ran for 75 minutes on ESPN, clearly. All of the basketball fans I knew were ecstatic to see if James’ pairing with Dwayne Wade would finally win the superstar a championship ring.

Obviously, I had no opinion on the strategy behind James’ move. The only hoops I’m concerned about are in my ears. I did, however, have a strong opinion about the open letter penned by majority Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert in response to James’ announcement.

Dripping with the arrogance and contempt synonymous with racism, Gilbert’s letter branded James a “former hero” who had “deserted” his hometown before lambasting the player for the “several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.” The letter’s verbal venom devolved further, calling the Akron, Ohio native’s decision to abandon the team (notably before he delivered on the promise to bring the city the glory of an NBA title) a “cowardly betrayal” and a “shocking act of disloyalty.” But the disgusting display of audacity reached zenith when Gilbert noted, “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.”

The racial implications of branding a Black man of enviable talent, wealth, fame and confidence a traitor cannot be overexaggerated. Cleveland residents and fans seemed to echo the sentiment in Gilbert’s letter, burning James’ jerseys and sending the player angry and racist tweets. In a city ranked the most segregated city in America with a history of riotous racial tensions (Hough riots, Glenville shootout) and alarming rates of economic disparity between Black and white residents (the Black residents suffered poverty and unemployment rates more than 3.5 times that of the their white counterparts), I suppose it doesn’t take much for mildly suppressed racist attitudes and feelings to surface.

But many fans who’d labeled LeBron a modern melanated Benedict Arnold for betraying his beloved hometown changed their tunes when he announced he was returning to the Cavaliers for the 2014-2015 NBA season after four seasons and two championships with the Miami Heat. All was forgiven. One fan, a police officer with the Cleveland PD said, “He could be second-in-command in ISIS. If he’s got an outside shot, we’d love him.” Esquire magazine writer and Cleveland native Scott Raab was so bitter about James’ departure that he wrote and entire book about it titled “The Whore of Akron,” in which he “wishes a career-ending injury upon Mr. James.” Of James’ return, Raab said, “I’m … thrilled he came back.” One fan even sported a burned Jersey.

It’s safe to say that LeBron’s betrayal was forgiven. And this Sunday after he finally delivered on his promise to bring Cleveland an NBA title (despite Gilbert’s arrogant assurance that he’d make sure the Cavaliers received a ring before LeBron, this was Cleveland’s first championship), LeBron is once again Cleveland’s crowning jewel. He’s “King James” again.

At least until the next time he addresses racism and anti-blackness or leaves Cleveland or does whatever thing that betrays the impossible and wholly irrelevant standards of loyalty white people demand Black people uphold. White approval is fickle and useless that way, though. Black people are only valuable to white people when we’re valuable to white people.

LeBron James is unquestioningly valuable. Besides the financial benefits to Dan Gilbert personally (a 224% spike in the average ticket price, a 700% spike in Cavs merchandise sales, etc.), the return of four-time MVP brought a much needed boost to Cleveland’s struggling economy, and since collective financial benefits usually hit white citizens first and most, white Cleveland needed Lebron.

When white people realize they need Black people, that our labor and existence are what sustain their own, any refusal to place our bodies in service to them feels like a betrayal because they make themselves believe the relationship is mutually beneficial. They’ve tried to separate the Blackness they loathe from the extraordinary ability that awes them. They have convinced themselves that they are somehow, at least partially, responsible for his success. They’ve stayed true to form and claimed ownership of what could never be theirs.

White Cleveland mourned LeBron leaving, but just four years later, all but cheered Tamir Rice’s murder. If a 12-year-old Lebron had been in a park in Akron, just 40 miles from Cleveland, and had been shot dead by two cops who “thought he was a man” before the world knew what he could do on the court, those now willing to bow at his feet wouldn’t have given a damn. Or if he’d never made it and was in a Walmart holding a BB gun and a “concerned citizen” called the police to report that a Black man was holding a gun, and when the police arrived, they executed him on sight like they did a 22-year-old John Crawford, would they feel as betrayed by their state police as they did by LeBron leaving? They’d be locking their doors and crossing streets if LeBron wasn’t dribbling a Spalding and instead, just a 6’8 Black man walking down a Cleveland street.

But like I said, white approval is fickle and useless like that. We’re not valuable to them unless we’re valuable to them.

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I Can’t Afford to Forgive Hillary

 Last summer I enrolled my son in robotics camp. Though we live in an almost exclusively black neighborhood in a city with a predominately black population, he was one of only two black children at the camp, a fact that made me apprehensive to say the least. When I went to pick him up on the last day of the first week, one of the counselors asked to speak to me. She told me that my baby had gotten into a little shoving match with one of the other children. “Because he’s a big boy we want him to be mindful that he could hurt others easily, especially kids who are smaller than him.”

Now my son was just shy of his 7th birthday at the time. Because of the birthdate, grade and age requirements, I was positive that he was one of the youngest, if not the youngest child there. I asked her if she knew how the shoving match started and found out that the other boy had pushed my son because my son had refused to give him a Lego he wanted. Fuming, I replied, “The fact that my baby is bigger and possibly stronger than him should have been a fact the other child considered before turning violent. I’m 5’11 and my son’s father is 6’3. My son is tall because of genetics. He won’t be penalized for that. Special expectations for my 6-year-old based on DNA won’t happen.” That was the last day my son ever went to that camp.

As the mother of a black child, I am hypervigilant about my son being perceived as an adult prematurely. A recent study which found that on average, black children were perceived to be more than four years older than they actually were only reaffirmed what I already knew first hand: Black children are afforded abbreviated childhoods at best. Couple that unfortunate phenomenon with research proving that white people believe that black people experience less pain, or at least have a higher threshold, and the results are detrimental — often fatal — for black children. And through a strategic mix of propaganda touted as scientifically-sound research, fear-mongering, and historical brainwashing, black people have been billed as some hybrid of human physiology and mystical strength, having the effect of branding us simultaneously sub and super human.

So when a Presidential candidate has promoted a devastating stereotype, the people damaged by her rhetoric have no duty to forgive.

During a now infamous speech at Keene State, Hillary Clinton championed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act stating, “They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.Despite her skillful employment of the political strategy of using ambiguous language, Clinton’s message was crystal clear for her intended audience. The “they” Mrs. Clinton alluded to were black boys.

When Princeton political scientist John I. DuLulio, Jr. published “The Coming of the Super-Predators” in 1995, his language was anything but ambiguous. The article was a catastrophic cocktail of pseudoscience, racism and religious dogma warning society that a new brand of marauders was emerging. After declaring that the “surge in violent youth crime has been most acute among black inner-city males,” DuLulio went on to explain how “the demographic bulge of the next l0 years will unleash an army of young male predatory street criminals who will make even the leaders of the Bloods and Crips — known as O.G.s, for ‘original gangsters’ — look tame by comparison.”

With such seemingly Hollywood-script inspired narratives, DuLulio provided a citable source for Americans already primed to fear black boys — the purse-clutching, door-locking, “Hello, police, there’s a suspicious looking man in my neighborhood type — to validate their fears. The article not only confirmed that black boys were as violent and morally-bankrupt as white America believed, but that birth rates and aging ensured these boys without conscience or compassion would grow to men more dangerous and ruthless than we’d ever seen, whilst boys then in preschool entered adolescence and began their descent into violent predators. That was the unspoken understanding the then First Lady relied upon.

In the twenty years between the day she uttered these words back in January of 1996 and when a protestor confronted her about her violent rhetoric at a Fundraiser this past February, Clinton has never denounced the fiber of her statement. And for all her backtracking and convenient regret, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton used the thinly-veiled phrasing to brand black children. When called out for her use of the shameful term, Clinton responded, “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.” Even with her campaign in full swing when her entire mission is to secure votes, including the votes of the black people she sacrificed with her recklessness, she still didn’t apologize and condemn her actions. Expression of regret for the way you said it doesn’t equate to an apology for the sentiment.

The societal impact of the belief that black people are anything other than human cannot be overstated. The theory that black people possess super strength goes back centuries. Enslaved black people were tortured medically under the frighteningly faulty logic that lacked the ability to have the complex range of feelings and emotions that comprise pain while possessing a similar enough genetic structure to white people – true humans – to make us ideal subjects for horrific experimentation. Black people have been sacrificed, healthy bodies literally cut open without even the benefit of anesthesia. Black people have been made guinea pigs without their knowledge as they were purposely infected with life-threatening diseases so that the effects of such diseases could be studied on the human body. Black people have been deliberately exposed to fatal levels of radiation because of endorsements and permissions granted by powerful political figures like Hillary Clinton. So her opportune remorse could never be enough.

As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton had no problem capitalizing on the fear the myth of the super-predator provoked. Support for her husband’s Crime Bill was buttressed by those words she shouldn’t have used. Those words helped convince the public that the criminals the bill targeted were unprecedented in their potential damage because they were of a different breed. Such monstrously irresponsible language has disastrous penalties for its subjects, as a society already trained to “other” black people continues to cling to the idea that we are naturally aggressors and thus, excessive, unusual and deadly force is not only justifiable but expected. This kind of thinking puts targets on the backs of black people, most relevantly black children.

Jordan Davis was a super-predator to Michael Dunn. A 17-year-old boy sitting unarmed in the backseat of a vehicle posed such a threat that a grown man fired into the vehicle blindly. Jordan and his friends were “not just gangs of kids” and Dunn was emboldened to “bring them to heel.”

Darren Wilson’s testimony to the Grand Jury in the case of 18-year-old Mike Brown echoes of the super-predator reference introduced to America by DuLulio and served up by Hillary Clinton. Describing his deadly encounter with the 6’4 nearly 300-pound teen Wilson recounted that after retreating, Brown “made like a grunting, like aggravated sound” and came back toward Wilson. Brown’s killer continued, “At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there. I wasn’t even anything in his way.” Wilson’s testimony paints Brown as not merely a threat, but a force outside of human capability. Brown wore “the most intense aggressive face,” one Wilson could only describe as “like a demon.” Mike Brown could only be brought to heel with a hail of bullets.

My son is just 7-years-old. He now stands 4’11 and weighs more than 100 pounds. He’s already been marked. So forgive me if I don’t view Hillary Clinton’s weaponized jargon as a simple slip of the tongue. Where my baby’s life is literally at stake, I can’t afford it.

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Mayor Tweets Calling Black People Racial Slur

Michael Ihle, the 29-year-old mayor of Ravenswood, West Virginia and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, tweeted a quote attributed to Lyndon Johnson referring to Black people as “niggers.”

When called on his use of the indefensible slur, Ihle responded by claiming he was merely “pointing out a historical truth.”

Ihle announced in January via his Facebook page that he would not seek re-election when his term ends on June 30 of this year. Instead, he will seek re-election to the House of Delegates where he feels he can “continue to make the most difference,” noting that West Virginia is “so far behind the times.”

One area where West Virginia is on par with the rest of the country is apparently bigotry. When a politician doesn’t even try to clean up his racist statements, there’s no denying that he will “make the most difference” in the lives of the Black people he thinks are niggers. Unfortunately, that difference can’t be positive.

The city of Ravenswood boasts a total population under 4,000, with around 1% of residents being Black. The state of West Virginia has a higher percentage of black citizens with a total population over 1.8 million and around 63,000 or 3.4% of that population being black.

Ihle’s House of Delegates profile can be found here.

 

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Put Away Your Glasses, We’re Not Sharing Our Lemonade

 

Like almost every black woman I know, I was a Girlfriends fanatic. One of my favorite moments of the entire eight seasons of the series happened on an  episode where Maya went to New York City to meet with the publisher of her book, “Oh, Hell Yes!” In a meeting, Maya was sitting with one of the editors discussing the changes they wanted to make to the book before publication. Sensing the publishers were covertly trying to “take the Black out”of her book, Maya brilliantly declares “If white women, Asian women, Latina women wanna read it, fine! But I wrote it for the sistas.”

That moment stayed with me because it was a quintessential display of Black sisterhood: a Black woman testifying that her art, which tells her own story, was produced because she knew that other Black women would identify with and appreciate it. Lemonade makes just that kind of affirmation. Beyonce’s stunning visual album, is a monologue made for Black women who love being Black women. Her audience is clear. Her messages coded for our ears and hearts. Lemonade echoes Maya’s statement because Beyonce did this for the sistas.

And though black women heard her loud and clear, those outside the circle did not. Critiques and reviews from everybody but black women abound. Black and white men, and white women, groomed to believe that Black women deserve nothing exclusive to us and that their musings hold value to us, have all penned incomplete, incoherent and/or incorrect think pieces bursting with misogynoir and confirming that Beyonce’s dog whistle was not blown for them.

Noting that “many fans failed to realize is that ‘Becky’ is not just a nickname,” E! Online posted “guide to all of the slang in Beyoncé’s newest record, so you won’t make the same mistakes.” The guide defines such foreign terms as “yellow bone” and “bopper” for those fans who need a little help picking up and what the Beyonce put down. What’s next, a seminar? Cliffs Notes? A tutoring program?

We’ve seen this attempt at decoding Black culture for the masses — and by “the masses” I mean white people — before, like a couple of months ago when a white girl interpreted the patois in Rihanna’s “Work” and white people who had considered Rih-Rih’s words gibberish loved it. The fact that white people feel compelled to try to make Black art poured from Black bodies accessible to non-Black people speaks clearly to the unshakable spirt of colonization that teaches them that they have no duty to respect esoteric cultural expressions. My grandmother always said, “Everything ain’t for everybody.” Chances are that if you need a guide to the terminology, Lemonade was not made for you.

Equally as frustrating as E!’s laughable translation of Beyonce’s slang was the bizarre stretch made by an article in The Guardian comparing Lemonade to Hillary Clinton’s memoir, Living History. “It was Lemonade without Serena Williams, Zendaya, explosions, dozens of costume changes, and highly woke intersectional feminism. In truth, it was a book by a rich, old white lady, but close enough.” Nah.

The sets, cameos, costumes and wokeness are what make Lemonade epic. Clinton’s account of her marital problems wasn’t written with Black women in mind. It wasn’t produced to give Black women and girls a soundtrack to work through our growing pains. It wasn’t crafted to pay homage to the power of sisterhood. It wasn’t published to celebrate the beauty of our culture. It’s not “close enough.” And the fact that this Black is so casually dismissive of the elements which make Lemonade a how-to for Black women navigating our way through the nearly inevitable woes of love found, tested, lost and reclaimed echoes the typical misogynoir exhibited by Black men who certify themselves as experts on the unique journey of Black womanhood.

Still, though, none of the misguided attempts at validating or invalidating Lemonade were as egregious as Piers Morgan’s op-ed for The UK Daily Mail. In it, a white man, pens a piece full of unsolicited opinions about why Beyonce’s recent public embrace and celebration of her Blackness turned him off. He first notes, “There’s a clip of Malcolm X, the radical and controversial black separatist who opposed Dr Martin Luther King’s creed of non-violence, saying: ‘The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,’” before going on to explain that Sybrina Fulton and Leslie McSpadden were exploited Piers tells us, used solely boost sales of Lemonade. Morgan then discusses an interview he conducted with Beyonce five years ago in which she responded to his question about experiencing racism growing up by saying, “A bit, but I feel like with my career I’ve now broken barriers. I don’t think people think about my race. I think they look at me as an entertainer and a musician and I’m very happy about that because that’s how I look at people. It’s not about color and race, and I’m happy that’s changing,” only to end his piece with, “But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé. The less inflammatory, agitating one. The one who didn’t use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse. The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily. The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same.”

I, like Morgan, have preferences too. I prefer that white men, who stand at the ultimate intersection of privilege, who are considered superior to Black women from the moment they take their first breath, who continue to perpetuate and administer the system of privilege of which they are the greatest beneficiaries, do not arrogantly offer unsolicited opinions on a Black woman’s presentations of her own interpersonal struggles with love and life. It’s not surprising – AT ALL – that a white man would be offended by Beyonce’s use of a sound bite of Malcolm X — a Black man who represented the absolute opposite of the docile, peace-loving negro content to decimate the psyche, image and spirit of the Black woman to improve his own place in the white supremacist system that a white man such as Piers appreciates – declaring that there is a culture of disregarding, degrading and damaging Black women. The irony is definitive, however.

More disgusting, though, is the assumption not only that Beyonce is an opportunist conveniently interested – obsessed even – with the oppression of Black people. I make no claims of knowing Beyonce’s journey other than our shared kinship of Black womanhood, but I’d bet that she, much like many Black women, was indoctrinated into the idea that if we work hard enough and stay in the fight, we can progress our way into equality. Right around 30, many of us start to realize that we cannot wait for equality when our blood is staining sidewalks. We see our own children when a Black child is the victim of systemic, state-sanctioned violence. When one of us falls, we all die a little. Beyonce didn’t just feature the mothers of Oscar Grant, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin. She is Leslie McSpadden and Wanda Johnson and Gwen Carr and Sybrina Fulton. One of our stories is all of our stories. It’s a black thing, Piers, you wouldn’t understand.

The world was wholly unprepared for Black women to say, “This is ours. We don’t want to share.” It’s something we never do. We give of ourselves relentlessly, putting everyone before us, our own happiness always an afterthought. We fight our entire lives to gain the wisdom that comprises our #blackgirlmagic, and the world feeds from it like it did our lactating breasts. We are perpetual givers and this time, we got brand new. We refused to let everybody else have any of what was selected, perfected and presented to us for our consumption, evaluation and comprehension.

Recipes usually include caution to flavor “to taste” when calling for sugar and spice. That’s what Beyonce did with her Lemonade. She sweetened it just perfectly for the taste buds of Black women who know her story intimately. She made it just right for little Black girls like Quvenzhane who’ll one day blossom into beautiful Black women who need a blueprint for tackling heartache. And we sipped. We sat on the porch with her sipping from our glasses of Lemonade poured from that bottomless pitcher. We savored that cocktail of equal parts water pumped from our wells, lemons plucked from our trees and sugar harvested from our cane, and delighted in watching those uninvited sneak a sip and gag because it just didn’t taste right.