Azealia Banks: Wallowing in Her New Found Relevancy Since 2014

I don’t want to judge Azealia Banks. I don’t know her. I don’t listen to her music. I don’t feel qualified to judge her personal character. That being said, Azealia Banks is really starting to seem like an opportunist. Really starting to seem like it. Not to mention that she really seems like someone who is clamoring to gain relevance by “punching up,” and criticizing people who are more famous/more relevant than her. Now, I’m all for people with intelligent things to say criticizing people who should rightfully be criticized, and I don’t really care what the power dynamics of the situation are. If you’re a D-list celebrity who wants to point out that Tom Cruise did something wrong, go ahead. I think people accusing others of “Just being jealous and/or a hater” are idiots who are saying nothing and adding nothing and making it harder to get an actual conversation going. I don’t know that these are her intentions, obviously, but her actions are not helping her case. Her actions are not making her seem like “the genuine article.” I’m also firmly of the opinion that she would hate me, being a black person who has negative things to say about other black people, and all.

If Azealia Banks isn’t saying these things just as a way to desperately cling to the only thing that has granted her cultural relevancy in years, I would be really fucking surprised. I’ve been unwillingly following this who debacle for a while–Thanks liberal arts college friends on Facebook!–and from what I see of it, I’m really starting to get the impression that Banks likes the attention she gets by setting herself up as the voice of racial wisdom regrettably relegated to the underground scene while perpetrators of “the problem” who “just don’t get it” are given mainstream gigs by our dumb, racist society. And if Banks is the voice of “real” black America, telling it how it is, no wonder people think we’re dumb. Neil D. Tyson became the voice of science in America in an organic fashion by really loving and talking about science. He never came across as someone who was intentionally trying to become relevant. He just became that by doing what he did. Azealia Banks very much comes across as someone who is trying to become the “new voice” of the people. And she’s trying to goddamn hard.

I think it’s her targeting of specific people that’s starting to rub me the wrong way and making me thing this is just for publicity. If these problems are so prevalent and so pervasive in our culture, why does she target one specific person, one person who just so happens to be more famous than her? Why doesn’t she just talk about it? Why is it important to drag other people unwillingly into the conversation by tagging them in your Twitter rants and making fun of them both if they don’t respond and if they do and directly referring to specific people as “part of the problem?”  If these are problems everyone has, why does it seem like she’s calculating what A-list rapper to “criticize” next as opposed to just voicing her criticisms in a more generalized fashion and letting intelligent people connect the dots themselves? If Iggy is so obviously part of the problem, than people should be able to figure that out without Banks calling Iggy a bitch on Twitter (Really intelligent, by the way. Truly Azealia Banks is a voice of wisdom and objective social commentary.). Something tells me that she’s only one new Macklemore single away from dragging him out of whatever hidden bomb shelter he’s hauled himself up in since he dropped his last album and criticizing him over something, the fact that her criticisms of him line up with the time he became relevant again being totally coincidental.

So apparently, she had “intelligent social commentary” to direct at Kendrick Lamar. You know, Kendrick Lamar, one of the only mainstream rappers that has anything intelligent to say about anything anymore. That guy. Banks is punching up even more now! She’s put the cross hairs on someone with actual talent. As long as she’s not “punching down,” it’s fine. I have this to say: If people want to respond to what Lamar had to say about Ferguson, fine. I don’t care. But this particular instance of it is the most disingenuous, obviously pandering thing I have ever seen. Honestly. Banks’ reply to Kendrick Lamar seems more fake and coldly calculated to pander to a certain demographic than the Twilight series. She’s clearly trying to “get the liberal vote,” if you know what I mean. I don’t even know why liberals who agree with the general idea are sharing this article and liking it. I guess I just assumed they’d be smart enough to realize when someone is clearly just saying what they need to say to get you to like them, but apparently not.

I guess I should explain. Here is what Lamar had to say: “What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.” A fairly benign statement decrying the violence that occurred during and after the Michael Brown debacle as unjustified. People responding to what Kendrick Lamar had to say is aright by me. If they want to disagree, that’s fine. And, you know, if one of my Facebook friends said the kinds of things that Banks said in response to this, I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t agree, but I would also acknowledge that it’s something they would say. Banks’ tweets to Lamar, though, do not sound like something she would say at all. Q-Tip’s biased but generally okay text block about hip hop was something Q-Tip would say. Lupe Fiasco’s utter emotional breakdown on Twitter after he defended Iggy from “haters” is something Lupe Fiasco would say. From looking over her Twitter feed, Banks telling Iggy “If you’re down to ride with us bitch you gotta RIDE ALL THE WAY” is something Banks would say.

Now, I realize that there are only so many things to say. There are only so many points to make or buzzwords to throw around. It’s hard to not sound like you’re just regurgitating what you’ve heard elsewhere because sometimes, someone else has just said it all, and there’s really nothing else for you to add. That being said, people tend to say common things their own way. Her tweets about Kendrick Lamar do not sound like something she would say. Life is not a bad Oscar-bait movie–people don’t just stutter into eloquence whenever they have something “deep” to say. This really seems like Banks picked up a few buzzwords from her new fanbase of social justice lovers and just ran with it, sprinkling in some profanity so it doesn’t overly seem like she just copy/pasted what she said from someone else’s tumblr blog. So here they are:

“When we don’t respect ourselves how can we expect them to respect us” dumbest shit I’ve ever heard a black man say.”

“Lol do you know about the generational effects of poverty, racism and discrimination?”

“There are things in society that benefit a select few of us. fine…. But don’t put down the rest by saying they don’t respect themselves.”

“HOW DARE YOU open ur face to a white publication and tell them that we don’t respect ourselves…. Speak for your fucking self.”

Let’s go one by one, shall we?

“When we don’t respect ourselves how can we expect them to respect us” Dumbest shit I’ve ever heard a black man say.”

I don’t know, Azealia. I feel like any one lyric from No Flex Zone is infinitely dumber than even the stream of consciousness drivel that falls out of Kendrick Lamar’s face when he’s talking in his sleep. And I’m just gonna throw out some totally unironic Kanye West quotes now: “I am God’s vessel. But my greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live;” “Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books;” “I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it.” But yeah. Kendrick Lamar’s quote about how people need to respect themselves before others respect them–no, that was the dumbest thing a black man has ever said. Hyperbole does not suit you, Ms. Banks. Quit using it. Also, what does him being black have to do with it being “dumb shit?” If it’s a dumb thing to say, it’s a dumb thing to say. The race of who says it should be irrelevant, though something tells me you’d be calling for his racist head on a fucking stick if Lamar was white and said that.

Next.

“Lol do you know about the generational effects of poverty, racism and discrimination?”

This is the one that really seems like she copy/pasted from something. Also, once again, adding “lol” as a preface to talking about racism does not make you seem wise. It makes you seem like a condescending prick. “Oh, hahaha, he doesn’t know about something I took an intro course on in college. How quaint, haha.” Now that the generally punchable tone as been addressed (great tone for “an educator” to use, by the way, really makes people want to learn from you), let’s look at the actual content.

I have my qualms with claims of institutionalized racism for the same reasons I have qualms with things like the patriarchy. Creating some nebulous historically connotative problem is interesting from an academic perspective but falters under scrutiny and application. Not to mention that it always seem infinitely cynical. I’m a cynical person, I acknowledge that–but claims of institutionalized racism don’t seem to help anything. They make “good white people” feel bad for no reason, and they enforce the idea that black people are just always going to have it worse in every situation ever no matter what. It’s like rape culture: simultaneously absolving people of all blame for negative outcomes yet also somehow making them look universally terrible anyway. Not only are black people exempt from having to take any responsibility for the negative aspects within the black community/black culture because anything bad they do is because slavery was a thing once, so it’s the white man’s fault; but they’re also implicitly depicted as a perpetually broken group of people unable to recover from any hurt dealt them, no matter how minor or how long ago–people who are just expected to turn out badly because they are nothing but puppets controlled by the strings of a universe stacked against them, pure victims of circumstance with no choice but to become criminals, so we can’t judge them. And that’s the left saying that. I don’t know what’s more racist, Fox News putting all the blame on black people even when it doesn’t make sense, or leftists just patting black people on the head and talking to them like petulant children who should have lower standards of decency because we shouldn’t expect much from them anyway.

What about all the other racism in America’s past? What about all the Chinese people who died horrible deaths building our railroads, and then that one tiny span of time where we put Asian people in internment camps and continued to treat them like shit afterwards until pretty much the 60s, right along with black people? What about all the Jews we kicked out of the country when they fled here in WWII? Hell, what about Italians? America treated them like shit. They still make up disproportionately huge chunks of the lower and working class communities in cities, they also created race-based gangs to protect themselves and foster kinship in the past, and the “poor Italian American thug” stereotype is just as prevalent as the “poor black thug” one. And all of that happened closer to now on the timeline than slavery did. But for some reason black people are the only ones held to a lower standard because their race got screwed over in the past. What about Native Americans–they got massacred in the past, yet the ones who are left are generally expected to have good, non-criminal lives if the significant proportion of Native American children applying to/getting into/going to prestigious schools is any indication. A Jewish Italian woman  is still expected to do well. A Jewish man in Germany is expected to do well. A Chinese immigrant who hardly even speaks English but who comes to America and gets put into the school system despite that language barrier is still expected to do well. It’s only black people who’s “inherently oppressed” circumstances give them an out to just suck at life and have people accept that without question.

The difference, then, is not that black people were treated badly. Tons of people are part of groups that have been treated badly. Most people are. actually. As it turns out, humans are dicks with a tendency to not be nice to anyone ever. All you have to do is look at English/Irish relations to know that having white skin does not make other white people treat you well by default. The difference then has to be more internal in nature. Because if Indians can bounce back from Andrew Jackson and Jewish people can bounce back from the Holocaust, it’s not just history being mean to someone that keeps their entire group down decades and even centuries later. You’ve got to take culture into account at some point. And black culture has some problems that you can’t blame the white man for. So, I am sorry, Ms. Banks, but I do not buy that institutionalized racism is a justification for acting like an ass. And many a person during the Ferguson debacle acted like an ass.

“There are things in society that benefit a select few of us. fine…. But don’t put down the rest by saying they don’t respect themselves.”

No, I’ll totally do that. I’m not going to say that black people don’t respect themselves. But I will say that the mainstream black culture that many black people adhere to is not one that cultivates self-respect. Black American culture has plenty of cool things, but–like every culture–it has its flaws. To stop talking about “the coloreds” for a moment–I love Japan. I am on my way to being fluent in Japanese and I hope to live there for at least a handful of years after college. It’s a cool place with a beautiful culture that I wouldn’t mind living in. It’s also repressive to a fault, oddly hypocritical when it comes to expressions of sexuality, more than a bit racist toward its Chinese and Korean neighbors, and on par with Russia when it comes to how isolationist it is. No culture is perfect and no culture is beyond criticism. Black American culture has flaws, and like how Japan can’t blame all of its flaws by being atom-bombed by America, black culture can’t sweep its flaws under the rug by writing all of the off as a byproduct of racism. Because when you blame your faults on someone else, it turns out that you don’t really do anything to even begin to fix those flaws yourself.

So back to black culture and self-respect. I’m sure that plenty of black people have fine self-esteem. But when you live around people who make fun of you for doing the right thing (because being an upstanding citizen is being white y’all), that is not a culture that values self-respect. That’s why black kids don’t like being smart a lot of the time–because being smart isn’t “being black.” It’s why black people with money are automatically deemed “less black” and “less authentic” because they don’t come from the hood and have shitty lives. It’s why black people who live in ghettos complain about gang violence but also do nothing to discourage it and get flat out angry when people actively try to stop it. And when you live in a country where the people “on your side” are telling you that you pretty much have no autonomy, that if you become a gangbanger who kills people for wearing the wrong colors, well you’re just a victim of circumstance and nothing greater should have been expected of you anyway, so you met the low standard they had and that’s all that matters–that is not something that encourages self-respect. That’s something that internalizes low standards as being perfectly acceptable. And when significant numbers of black people go on the record saying that they’re okay with rioting–not protesting, mind you, but rioting–just because they’re angry, that is not something that indicates very much self respect. (Even the peaceful protesting at Ferguson was questionable in my opinion: How is shouting down cops who may or may not have even done anything to you, and calling them loads of terrible things and then getting mad when they react to being called terrible things for hours, a protest?) And when others defend that reaction because “what else could they be expected to do–they’re mad–that’s how black people react to being mad, they don’t know any better” that doesn’t help. A culture that respects itself would go through effort to cut the bad fruit off of the tree, not continually act like the bad fruit is perfectly acceptable because that’s “just how we are, stop judging us, that’s racist.”

“HOW DARE YOU open ur face to a white publication and tell them that we don’t respect ourselves…. Speak for your fucking self.”

Azealia Banks is racist, guys. I know I said that in my last post on this topic too, but yeah. She’s racist. She is the stereotypical, as-seen-by-Fox-News black person with a chip on her shoulder and a nostalgic longing for Malcom X style race activism. Oh really, he told this to a white publication [enter scare chords here]? How fucking dare he? The nerve of him. It’s almost like he doesn’t relegate himself to only associating with people who have the same skin tone as him. The fucking race traitor. Doesn’t he know that all of us sit together at the cafeteria and no one is allowed to break from that?

That’s essentially what’s she’s saying. Kendrick Lamar is a race traitor for saying something bad about other black people around white people. I guess that makes me a race traitor too. Awesome. So, if he had said this to a “black publication” would it have been alright? Is it only when someone tells white people to their face that *gasp* “some of the problems black people have aren’t white people’s fault” that there’s an issue? Is deviating from the fucking hivemind of “Black person always victim, white person always bad guy, does not matter what actually happens–wash, rinse, repeat” an offense now? How dare he say something like that? Black people can only talk to the whites with a pre-approved script that doesn’t say anything too racy now? Azealia Banks is the kind of person who sat with all the other black kids at the lunch table and was perfectly okay with that arrangement. And I still have no idea how she became the liberal darling for “telling it how it is” when her treatment of white people is to be overtly racist and exclusionary toward them, and her reaction to a dissenting black opinion is condescension, righteous indignation, and betrayal. How could a black person say those things? E tu Kendrick?

I’ve officially had enough of this woman, guys. I have had enough. And why has no one called her out for being racist?! You’d think calling out racist rhetoric would be kinda important right around now. Oh, wait a minute, she’s only a bitch to white people and race traitor black people with internalized racism. It’s okay then. Barf.

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One thought on “Azealia Banks: Wallowing in Her New Found Relevancy Since 2014

  1. Well, to be fair, I’ve seen folks on the Rap Genius forums suggest/assert she was racist, but it’s generally countered by “she mite b harsh butt she speekin da truf tho” and stuff like that. Maybe you meant called out by other famous people, though.

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