Azealia Banks’ Twitter Ban Reminds Us Freedom Of Speech Is For Whites Only
Azealia Banks’ tweets are absolutely chaotic. She may have had it right when it came to all things Iggy Azalea. She may have had it right when she called for reparations. But in the end, no matter how much fans of her music coaxed her to drop her strange antics — defending Bill Cosby, tossing around homophobic slurs while claiming it’s okay because she’s bisexual — Banks seemed determined to burn her own fledgling career to the ground. She may have finally succeeded with her most recent Twitter rant, in which she hurled racist and homophobic slurs at One Direction singer Zayn Malik because he may or may not have copied her style that one time in that one music video that no one saw because they were too busy cringing at her absolute lack of chill. This time, her account was banned.
Judging by #AzealiaGotSuspendedParty, which trended on Twitter, the masses are out of patience. As her latest controversy unfolded, I wanted to scream Tyra Banksisms at her: We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! But the incredibly- talented-yet-shameful-24-year-old-rapper from Harlem just cannot get it together, resulting in her Twitter demise. And yet, I cannot help but wonder, of all the threats and verbal abuse that routinely happen on social media, which are usually touted as falling under the protection of “free speech,” why act on this one?
Let’s get two things clear: 1) Azealia Banks deserved to be banned. 2) Azealia Banks’ ban is not because she’s pro-Black. Banks cannot be pro-Black while laying misogynoir solely at the feet of Black men (no matter how painful their antics become), and she certainly cannot be pro-Black with her proclivity for verbal abuse towards other disenfranchised groups. In her tirade against Malik, whose father is British-Pakistani, she called him (among other things) a “sand nigger” — a violent slur on its own, but one that is also rooted in anti-blackness. And then she goes on to call his (non-Pakistani) mother a “dirty immigrant” who will “never be granted asylum?” Hell to the no, goodbye Banks! You are not pro-Black. You are pro-Azealia, always have been, and until you descramble the strange pathway in which your neurons fire, and make amends, you neither deserve our love, support, nor our respect.
Yet here I am again, trying to keep the bile down — because white supremacy is so gluttonous and unyielding, so capable of deforming morality, that I’m almost tempted to defend Banks’ inexcusable actions. During the entire Banks fiasco, major outlets reported her actions with such glee, branding her “racist” and “homophobic.” Meanwhile, these stories ran concurrent with the of news George Zimmerman auctioning off the very gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin. Those articles are written in grossly neutral language, at most referring to Zimmerman’s actions as “racially insensitive” — I mean, really? Then of course there’s Donald Trump and his followers, about whom thinkpiece after thinkpiece surfaces: is he really racist, or is he just passionate? Because his ugly comments, perpetuation of ugly stereotypes, and pervasive encouragement to his followers to physically attack black and brown ethnic groups are apparently not enough to universally condemn his actions. Where’s Azealia’s benefit of the doubt?
While I celebrate that festivals have dropped Banks as a headliner and Twitter promptly suspended her account for her actions, I find it absolutely disgusting that I can pull up my mentions right now and point out several white people who have tweeted to me that I am a worthless nigger with no future and looking for a handout — and no matter how many times I report them, the response is the usual, “this is not a violation of policy.” Oh-ho really? Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by white privilege on social platforms. Everybody who isn’t a straight white male better have both hands waving in the air, lemme tell you, but Twitter and Facebook won’t see you. They’re too busy vigilantly protecting our rights!
That is, they’re protecting the rights of every of every male user who threatened to rape and murder women during the infamous Gamergate. That’s “freedom of speech,” but heaven forbid a woman posts a picture of her breastfeeding to Facebook. That’s like porn or something! They’re protecting the rights of that one white female user I reported to Facebook, who called me a hateful nigger bitch and let me know in no uncertain terms that she had a Glock next to her with my name on it. Alrighty then, that’s free speech? But heaven forbid someone type “Black Lives Matter.” Facebook was so vigilant on censoring these words that Mark Zuckerberg actually sent a letter to his employees to tell them to chill out.
Yet, for their commitment to free speech, they are equally committed to getting rid of hate speech. That’s why all those Pro-Black Facebook pages are erased and the Black Panther party is referred to as a terrorist group. Never fear though, those white power and pro-men’s-rights-to-rape groups are still going strong. YAY FREEDOM! DOWN WITH PC CULTURE! We must protect the Ku Klux Klan (who, unlike the Black Panthers, have started no community projects beyond a bloody history of torturing and lynching). They’re simply a group with an unpopular opinion, am I right or am I right?
Someone please let me know what I’m missing here. Or maybe I’m not missing anything, considering that major media outlets are entrenched in white male politics. Considering that the demographics of Silicon Valley are starkly white and male. Considering that Twitter’s staff is predominately white males, despite the service being primarily used by Black Millennials. Considering that Facebook’s staff is 70% white males, and its efforts to hire diversely are, frankly, pathetic. Considering that way too many Americans don’t even appear to understand what free speech is, judging from how often it’s invoked by those who simply don’t want to be challenged on their opinion (another word employed all too often to excuse ignorance) despite its actual intent being to protect American citizens from government retaliation. Considering all these factors, it seems clear that freedom of speech and hate speech are simply defined by whoever has the power. White supremacy has the power, and therefore it has privilege to determine who is racist and who is “racially insensitive” or “impassioned.” This means that we can universally celebrate a Black celebrity being checked for her verbal abuse against another celebrity, but be challenged and gaslighted if we dare step up to authority and demand it be punished for the abuses we’ve suffered at its hands.
This raises the question for all those disenfranchised communities: Why do we put up with this? We make up a huge percentage of their target audience. We put money in their pockets, and yet they freely dismiss us without consequence.
But racism needs to have consequences, always — not just for Azealia Banks.
Lead image: Tim Boddy