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The continued harassment of Noname highlights the narrow margin of error for Black women

It’s clear that, as a Black woman, Noname is held to a different standard compared to her music industry peers. 

By Ebony Purks

If you follow Chicago rapper Noname on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with the harassment thrown her way on a regular basis. Noname’s rap career took a unique turn around 2018 when she shared with Twitter her willingness to unlearn regressive capitalist ideals after she received criticism for perpetuating just that. Since then, Noname has become an anti-capitalist, started a “radical reads” book club, is opening up a literary headquarters in Oakland, California to coincide with said book club, refused to perform for predominantly white audiences, and more. 

And regarding her journey into the likes of socialism, Marxism, and communism, Noname has been very open on social media about how she’s learning the ways to achieve true liberation for Black people globally. All while she’s still publicly unlearning the western, capitalist propaganda many of us have internalized since grade school. However, amidst the progress Noname is trying to make while using her platform to encourage others to learn alongside her, she is often on the receiving end of unfair or unfounded criticism. 

This last point is mostly because Noname’s frequent critique of capitalist exploitation will occasionally include people’s favorite celebrities. For instance, last May Noname tweeted criticism towards silent members of the hip hop community after the murder of Goerge Floyd; especially spotlighting those who’ve created their rap personas around Black consciousness. The tweet stated, “Poor black folks all over the country are putting their bodies on the line in protest for our collective safety and y’all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up [in solidarity with the Black community].” 

In addition, the following month Noname criticized Beyoncé’s visual album Black is King for appropriating African aesthetic, imagery, and culture all within a capitalist cloak. Her tweet stated, “We love an African aesthetic draped in capitalism. Hope we remember the Black folks on the continent whose daily lives are impacted by US imperialism. If we can uplift the imagery, I hope we can uplift those who will never be able to access it.” 

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These now-deleted tweets opened Noname up to a slew of retaliation from fans of both J. Cole and Beyoncé, that are still ongoing, and even garnered a direct response from Cole himself. The North Carolina rapper addressed Noname’s tweets in a song titled “Snow on the bluff,” wherein he says “it’s something about the queen tone that’s botherin’ me… Just ’cause you woke and I’m not, that shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me.”

Both of her tweets highlighted objectively fair points many of us should be mindful of as we seek collective liberation and community care. Celebrities aren’t going to save us. In fact, their very existence stands in the way of true progress towards class solidarity. And though the abolishment of celebrity culture won’t happen overnight, criticizing the ruling class will never be unnecessary, inappropriate, or “too much.”

Consequently, Noname’s boldness in her (rightful and necessary) critique of celebrities and the ruling class frequently leaves her on the receiving end of jabs from contemptful internet users. Some of whom lay in wait for Noname to slip up so they can flood her mentions with condescension. No public figure is immune to fair criticism, but it’s clear that, as a Black woman, Noname is held to a different standard compared to her music industry peers. 

Namely, many Black male rappers are awarded second and third (or more) chances after publicly abusing women, perpetuating misogynoir, and even endorsing openly racist politicians when it personally or financially benefits them. In turn, the online harassment directed at Noname exemplifies the narrow margin of error Black women with visible platforms face. 

Many are quick to jump on Noname when she says anything remotely challenging about figures, practices, or systems that they don’t like. And people do the same to other Black women with large social media platforms such as CHIKA and Lizzo, both of whom’s size coupled with their Blackness and womanhood make the harassment they receive even more frequent and pointed. What’s clear, at this point, is people’s hostility for Noname exposes the resentment people have towards Black women who don’t settle for the status quo simply because it’s familiar. 

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Noname is a Black woman who calls out their favorite celebrities for shallow activism and challenges people’s belief in structures fueled by propaganda which we were always told and many falsely believed would protect us. To be clear, Noname is not perfect; however, the transparency of her learning process is one of the most genuine educational journeys a public figure has ever displayed to the public. So, many people must ask themselves why they’re so quick to dogpile a Black woman who openly admits to imperfection but actually does the work to dismantle white supremacy that her male counterparts merely pretend they’re doing.

Perhaps Noname’s comments make people uncomfortable as her words force many of us to reflect on the ways in which we contribute to harmful systems and harber internalized biases. Because she also regularly reminds us that white people aren’t the only ones capable of upholding capitalism or perpetuating colonialism—in fact, many of our non-white favs are guilty of doing both. Or perhaps it makes people uncomfortable to see a Black woman who dares to be loud, challenging the same ideologies telling Black women we ought to be silent. 

Whatever the reason, whether people like her or not, Noname is the marker for what dedicated, pro-Black, intersectional, and feminist education looks like. In truth, her intolerance for capitalistic distractions or false prophets (word to J. Cole) is a trait we should be mirroring in our own learning. And if anything, I suppose the pushback she receives, though unfortunate (and transparently fueled by misogynoir), is at least an indication that she is on the right path. Many of her critics can’t say the same.

Ebony Purks is a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in professional writing. She is currently a freelance writer and Junior Life Editor at The Tempest. Ebony specializes in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health, especially examining the many intersections between those subjects. Though when she’s not writing, she’s rewatching her favorite comfort shows or excessively tweeting.

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