Racialicious

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations. If you've been on the blog, you know how this Tumblr works, too. Including the moderation policy.
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Posts tagged "Emmett Till"

**TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual violence, violent language**

We need intergenerational conversations—“beating the pussy up” is a hip hop metaphor for sex that’s not new. We need and have been trying to have a conversation about the violence this metaphor (and others) conjures but folks using it don’t understand themselves to be talking about intimate partner violence when they use it. It is used by men and women to describe sexual prowess, not violence, despite its employment of the violence of “beating”. In reading the framing of the outrage we see elders taking issue with Till being compared to the “anatomy of a woman” and “domestic violence.” That’s not quite what’s happening and we wonder if intergenerational strategies can help alleviate some of these misreadings. Rather than domestic violence, perhaps we can shift our frame to think about sexualized violence and violent sexualities more broadly, which, to be clear, are not always practiced in the context of traditional understandings of intimate partner violence or under duress or coercion. Patricia Hill-Collins already hipped us to the violence that undergirds many discussions of black sexual prowess in her incisive reading of black colloquial usage of the term “booty” and it dual meaning/invocation as both the spoils of war and conquest (i.e. violence) and as the long standing icon of black women’s sexual desirability. Too much connection to be coincidental, no? This framework might allow us to see how violent sexual prowess acted out on the bodies of women of color is a staple of hip hop and popular culture more generally. The issue is not just the ill-informed invocation of Till’s brutal murder but the normalization of brutality acted on women’s bodies.

Is it because it’s Emmett Till? Perhaps we are bugging but doesn’t it disturb people that sex= “beating the pussy up” in the hip hop landscape already? Like “beating the pussy up” is only offensive insofar as Emmett Till is implicated through Wayne’s simile? In no way are we excusing this lyric but it’s interesting to us that the invocation of Till seems to move people in ways that regular misogynoir does not. Perhaps it’s because folks understand the dangers of the US’ ahistorical forgetting, a result of which is that many younger folks might not even know who Emmett Till is (even MTV had to assume the ignorance of their young audience when they first reported the fiasco). What a shame for those who will first come to know of Till through Wayne’s verse. Yet, what shame for us all that we are yet again confronted with violence to women bodies and our outrage seems limited only to the context of its description. We are not surprised by the lyric as it seems to follow the logic of “shock” that we see in verses by Wayne, Odd Future and others. Perhaps this outrage is a way to capitalize on people’s reverence for the freedom struggles of Black people but it makes us incredibly sad that the most women can hope for are comparative politics that attempt to equate our humanity to someone elses for it be understood as valuable. I shouldn’t have to be your sister, mother, cousin, daughter, Emmett Till for you to care when I say your words grate on people’s understanding of me as a person.

Moya Bailey and Whitney Peoples, “Trigger Warning – How to Love?: Thoughts on Wayne’s ‘Emmett Till’ Lyrics and More,” Crunk Feminist Collective 3/1/13

The document, which was given exclusively to Vibe, the Till family asks Weezy to think before he speaks and to take ownership of the power of his celebrity status:

"Yesterday marked a week since the ‘unofficial’ release of ‘Karate Chop~remix’ inclusive of your lyrics. The words we speak are powerful enough for preservation of life but also have the capacity to destroy it. When you spit lyrics like ‘Beat that p—-y up like Emmett Till,’ [sic] not only are you destroying the preservation and legacy of Emmett Till’s memory and name, but the impact of his murder in black history along with degradation of women.

"The tongue possesses power! I could offer you a history lesson and talk about the trailblazers that paved the way for our people and lyricists to engage in freedom of speech such as Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mamie Till Mobley; but this isn’t an argument about freedom of speech. It is critical that we stay true to urgency of the hour… our youth! Your “celebrity” thrusts you into the spotlight affording you the opportunity to embrace your role as a black man, father, friend, and artist that has the ability to reach international audiences. Are you bothered in the least by the staggering statistics of the extinction of our children?"

While Epic Records removed the Till verse from its release, is it time for Lil Wayne to respond personally?

Kyle Harvey, “Emmett Till’s Family Pens Open Letter To Lil Wayne,” The Grio 2/21/13