I’m cautious to cancel people when they’re problematic.
Bolu maintains I wasn’t dragged but my Twitter-life flashed before my eyes when members of the disabled community descended into my mentions to draw my attention to the lack of intersectionality in an article I’d written. I interviewed New York Times best-selling author Nicola Yoon about the film adaptation of her novel Everything, Everything. I fell head over heels in love with the story of Maddy, a girl with a rare illness who falls in love with her neighbour Olly and experiences the world outside her house for the first time. I was so proud of myself when the interview came out in Teen Vogue… until Jay Rattray tweeted “You didn’t think to ask her about the harmful message this book/film send(s) out about disability.” Then Brooke Winters asked “What did you think of the ableism in the plot?” My legs turned to jelly as I realised I’d done something terribly wrong. The tweets kept coming. I dived headfirst into the private messages of Rosie Knight, a fellow writer and an advocate for disabled voices. I felt like a fraud, a fake- there was an opportunity to bring awareness to the very real, very valid feelings of a marginalised community and I missed it? It was very Margaret Cho/Tilda Swinton of me asking Rosie to help me understand what was happening but she was patient with me and explained “the “sick girl” trope is one that is really rampant in YA (young adult fiction) and it’s steeped in ableism and the idea that disabled lives are worth less or somehow not worth living…” That night I cried myself to sleep and in the morning, I told Jay and Brooke I was ignorant to their experiences and would do better in the future.
While on the surface it might appear like false equivalency to compare my situation to Cardi B’s, it’s important to highlight in both instances lack of knowledge and ignorance to wider discourse led to the failings. I needed educating about the experiences of disabled people that appear to just be obvious to those who know and in that same vein Cardi needs access to patience. Take my hand, beloved, as I walk you through my hesitation to co-sign this cancellation.
In the light of the resurfacing of tweets where Cardi called dark skinned black women roaches many Twitter users demanded we all vote the chart topping rapper off the island. In an attempt to defend herself Belcalis Almanzar, the rapper's real name, explained that she has called herself a roach in the past, it’s not a complexion issue, simply anyone can catch her twitter fingers. Doubling down on the anti-Cardi sentiment receipts were presented to the court of Cardi using a trans slur. The prosecution then produced the final nail in the coffin, a 2016 video of Cardi describing how she’d get revenge on a cheating partner; getting him drunk and tricking him into a threesome with a transwoman. This is inexcusable. It is deplorable, egregious and an act of violence to weaponise the historical hatred towards the trans community by insinuating together with a transwoman you’d rape your cheating man.
In a Dazed Digital interview last year Martine Thompson directly addressed Cardi’a failure, asking the star outright about the incident. Cardi explained “From the time you’re little, you learn certain words are bad words. People don’t tell you ‘tranny’ is a bad word. I didn’t know that… I’m OK being corrected, but don’t come for my neck tryna talk about I’m transphobic or that I’m against something I believe in so much.” It’s clear she learned that word is unacceptable and what she deems as explicit transphobic behaviour upsets her (“I was in Trinidad with one of my trans friends and they gave us such a hard time. There were so many people saying fucked-up shit, whispering, giving mean stares, to the point where I wanted to fight them. That’s the real definition of transphobic.”) However, the problem is accountability, a firm apology and atonement for advocating for rape is plainly absent and why twitter users like Nomonde Tshomi cancelled her.
This year is on track to be the most violent year on record for transgender women people in the United States. Black transwomen have been murdered at higher rates than non-black transwomen according to Samantha Allen’s reporting in The Daily Beast. Emotions are running high because there is a plague of violence against the trans community that has been exacerbated of late with you lot’s dry-face president’s transgender military ban and equally dusty lil duval’s appearance on The Breakfast Club. The combination of the increased visibility of the lived experiences of trans people and the re-emergence of Cardi’s past comments during the height of the success of Bodak Yellow have forced Cardi and her supporters face up to the fact that her comments, regardless of when they took place, were violent and disgusting.
Just as one section of Twitter was rigging up the gangplank to march Cardi across, in the hopes of shipping her off to the land where Twitter dumps black women they once enjoyed but now deem unacceptable, a defence team assembled. Myles E Johnson’s thread encouraged those on the prosecution not to use “black people as marketing/branding tools to authenticate your own blackness” because “Cardi never said she was your feminist/black/queer icon…she said she was a stripper from the BX who don’t wanna dance.” Christiana Mbwakwe goes further explaining “On Twitter academic jargon is used casually and there’s an expectance people know what these words mean. The real world is nothing like that.” Her thread goes on to speak directly to the heart of my learning experience with the disabled community “most of the time it’s because they haven’t been exposed to an alternate view point. It’s a symptom of ignorance not evil or bigotry.”
The performative nature of this cancellation lies not in the fallacy that those on Cardi’s defence team are merely caping for her because she’s a light skinned black woman where they gleefully threw Azealia Banks in the trash because she’s a dark skinned black woman but rather in the refusal to genuinely seek a teaching opportunity. The argument Cardi has been given a pass because of her hue ignores that we all watched Azealia Banks self-destruct over a period of time in which she conducted a sustained campaign of self-sabotage that drew attention away from her phenomenal debut album and instead focused it entirely on negativity. Recently Banks explained in an interview with XXL Magazine “I’m disappointed with myself.... I got mishandled a lot. It made me really bitter for a very long time, very, very, very bitter, so bitter to the point that I would just kind of say things that I didn’t mean…” I remain as concerned today as I did last year when I wrote about Banks’ expulsion from Twitter about how people, especially black women without access to both forgiveness and discourses surrounding genders other than their own, reconcile with their failings and are able to move forward with thriving careers the way Chris Brown, Neil Patrick Harris, Dave Chapelle and countless others have been.
No one wakes up woke and my calls for leniency for Lianne La Havas, Azealia Banks and Cardi B are all based on my very selfish fear that in the future, some opportunist trouble maker with too much time on their hands might very well dig up terrible things I’ve tweeted in the past when I was ignorant, apply them to the issues happening at the time in attempt to dismantle my work. Worse still, use the interview to prove I am not the intersectional feminist I claim to be. The façade that we all are born with words like “trans-antagonism” in our vocabularies and possess a fully working understanding of how it operates denies us room for growth.
Click here to shower me in cash (thanks in advance).
Click the heart below.