Another day, another problematic fave trending on social media while most people, beside ride and die Black Twitter, are sleep.
In a series of tweets last night, former Love & Hip Hop star turned newest hip-hop sensation, Cardi B, defended her use of the term “roach” to describe herself years ago. The slur is often used to demean dark brown girls, and people were offended enough to call for the “canceling” of Cardi B. But it wasn’t the first time she got served. She previously used the words “tranny” (she has since apologized) and “Arab,” and was slammed on Twitter after.
I understand why folks were mad. Colorism has forever been a problem in Black and Latinx communities, creating a hierarchy where those who appear close to white have been treated with more dignity than those with darker skin. I realize how the use of derogatory words like “roach” impacts the way we view beauty, our acceptance of it, and how dark skin women are treated socially, politically, and economically.
Cardi, however, has used the term roach to describe people many times. She explained it was a universal term used in the hood. Let’s assume she didn’t know any better, as if she used the term innocently, but even if she didn’t we can challenge Cardi to understand the impact of the term without dogging her out.
People are quick to point their fingers and roll they eyes when celebrities do wrong. In this age of rocket speed social media engagement, it is easy to forget someone can actually say, or tweet, harmful shit, realize their mistake and change. Unfortunately, the “call out culture” so many social media users participate in does not always allow the critical distance necessary for people to acknowledge and learn from their wrongdoing. We should definitely hold people with platforms accountable when they mess up, but we have to allow room for teachable moments, growth, and the capacity for one to learn and atone for their mistakes.
We need to do better. So many of us believe people are disposable. We cancel people out, and while some wrongdoers deserve to be cancelled (i.e. abusers of any type; individuals who continually do us harm; the unrepentant; etc.), we can constructively engage folks in a way that can bring them back around when they eff up.
We talk about how we want people to grow, yet are quick to pull receipts from years ago to challenge that same expectation. We have all been apologists for the people, places, and things we like but we would never offer the same to those we don’t. We should check our favs and hold them to the same standard as we would someone who was less desirable. And I hope we are able to move to a place of patient accountability when checking people who haven’t proven they are unwilling to learn and do better. The goal should always be progress, not perfection. Cardi is making progress. She ain’t perfect. But who among Black Twitter is?
George M. Johnson is the Managing Editor of BroadwayBlack.com. He has written for EBONY, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.