Ableism and Misogynoir in Hip-Hop: In Defense of Azealia Banks

To be black, mentally ill, and woman or femme is to be the villain of your own origin story. Azealia Banks has been prone to manic episodes and bouts of violence. However, so have I. Where would my mental illnesses leave me if I were in Azealia’s position?

While I am considerably lighter and on medications for my mental illnesses, I am not perfect. I am still comprised of mostly sharp edges. The stigma of mental illness surrounding black femmes and women is considerably violent. There is no room for us to make mistakes or voice our “unpopular” opinions without being deemed “crazy” or a “psycho”.

Azealia has been thrust into the spotlight without consideration for her illnesses and the personality flaws that accompany them. This coupled with the abhorrent colorism she faces has set her back. While Azealia is an abrasive, imperfect person known to mince words with anyone, people often fail to take into consideration what causes this. Azealia is often justified in how she feels about a particular situation but due to her uncanny reactions she is continuously gaslighted and vilified. The further demonization of her will only contribute to her episodes.

While Banks’ counterparts are just as “problematic” most do not face mental illness. They are granted wiggle room and forgiveness. Why isn’t a dark skinned black woman granted the same forgiveness? People were quick to write her off with the first mistake she made.

Azealia has issued several apologies for past comments she made during uncontrollable manic episodes but those are largely ignored. She has shown willingness to unlearn harmful ideology and has displayed changed behavior. Why is say, Cardi B forgivable when she’s never issued a sincere apology for her harmful words regarding trans women? Of course that’s merely an example but this question remains: Where has the understanding for Azealia Banks been?

There is an all encompassing expectation to be a “good person” at all times, but what if I’m not? What if my illnesses make me vile and cold hearted at times? Am I no longer worth respecting or trying to understand? There needs to be a general understanding that as people with personality and/or mood disorders we are not capable of being one dimensional. That does not make us any less deserving of empathy. We have the capacity to be kind and caring. Do you?