Why Azealia Banks Was Right And Where She Went Wrong

September 24, 2015  |  

If I were Azealia Banks, and I had been caught on camera calling a Delta airline flight attendant a gay slur, I would probably just go on ahead and apologize immediately.

Yes, I know that she is bisexual, which makes her a part of the LGBTQ community. And I also am down with the train of thought that the oppressed can reclaim and repackage words of their oppression. Sort of how Black folks have done with the N-word or women with the B-word or poor white men with the term “redneck.”

Still, fa**ot is very gender specific slur, which is more often than not is used to demean men (be they homosexual or otherwise) in particular. Therefore as a non-target of that slur, it is probably best that Banks not only apologizes for using it, but vow to eradicate that word completely from her entire vocabulary. As this is not the first time she used that slur. And at this point, it is becoming extremely problematic.

Speaking as a woman who identifies with the likes of Banks (i.e. strong-willed, outspoken and very protective of myself), I know making an apology isn’t going to be easy, especially when you have been wronged.

And let’s be clear: there was a wrong committed against Banks too.

If you watch the 43-second video of the now infamous airplane incident, you can clearly hear Banks demand that the flight attendant let go of her bag. You can also see her struggling with the attendant to get herself and her bag free from his grip. And you can also see he vehemently refused her demands.

I understand that not everyone is as passionate as Banks. But I also don’t know too many people who would have stood calmly around as they were being held against their wills. Could you imagine this happening to a White woman? I certainly can’t. Not without this fictitious White woman squealing bloody murder and crying those magical White tears, which seem to always get them out of trouble.

I also can’t see this happening to a White man neither. That hypothetical White man would have called the corporate offices and had that attendant fired before the attendant even thought of grabbing his bag without permission. And I definitely don’t see this happening to a Black man. And not because I feel like they would have held a particular power in this situation. But thanks to the media, which projects toxic images of Black masculinity, the flight attendant would have likely been too petrified out of his mind to touch a Black man or his things.

So while I personally do not condone her calling him the F-word, I would have certainly understood if she had decided to use other choice words instead. After all, what gave him the right to try and keep her from leaving the airplane at all?

Although flight crews on most commercial airlines can legally restrain, or even use force against, an unruly passengers, they can only do so in event the said passenger is a threat to both passengers and the crew. In fact most airlines see restraining and the use of force as an act of last resort and ultimately prefer that flight crews alert the proper authorities and document said incident instead. You know, the people with handcuffs, badges, training and actual authority to detain and arrest?

Considering the flight was over and most other passengers had already exited the plane, the threat to the passengers and the flight crew had ceased to exist. And although there are conflicting reports about Banks engaging in a potential fight with another passenger on the plane, that situation had already been diffused by the time the cameras started rolling. Therefore there was no need to lay a single fingertip on her. And by unnecessarily doing so, he helped to aggravate and escalate an already heated and emotional moment even more.

He should have just called airport security and given them a detailed description of her appearance. Instead he, a White guy, held onto Banks while she was forced to plead her case to one White guy (the pilot). And we wonder why she might have felt a tad bit threatened?

Whether folks like to admit it or not, Black women are some of the least protected and most marginalized people in this country. We are worked more and yet paid less than most others. We are disproportionately affected by poverty and domestic abuse. We are called fat, unmarketable (marriage wise) ranked by the hue of our Blackness and hair types. And until President Obama’s recent speech in front of the Congressional Black Caucus ,about the need to prioritize Black women politically, very few leaders outside of Black women ourselves spoke up for our interests.

As Black women we are told – and most importantly shown – from birth that while we are expected to abide by all of the rules and standards of this patriarchal, White supremacist capitalist society, we shall not expect that system to come to our defense in our times of need. That is why I am not surprised at how easily her victimization has been ignored in this incident. And why she might feel some type of way about apologizing.

And yes I know: many of you think Banks doesn’t make it easy. She is brash, loud, opinionated and occasionally wrong, but she is no more brash, loud, opinionated and occasionally wrong than Kendrick Lamar, David Banner, Lupe Fiasco and any other male Hip Hop counterpart who pops off on Twitter. And yet no one claimed their careers over for using slurs or being obnoxious [a claim that proves itself erroneous every time Banks’ name appears in the news and is subsequently dragged across Twitter. If she don’t matter, why do we talk about her so much?]. For those men, the benefit of doubt would be without question.

In a culture, which regularly regards women and girls as untrustworthy, liars and manipulators, any behavior outside of a curtsy and a huge plastic smile is deemed threatening. This is particularly true of Black woman who have the added burden of overcoming stereotypes of being hyper-aggressive.

But astutely noted by Public Enemy’ frontman Chuck D on Twitter shortly after the airplane incident went viral: “Hiphop blogs posting @azealiabanks because she hurled the F-word on flight attendant. Yet they allow the N-word in their biz model. Both wrong”

Yet, the only wrong we see here is what Banks said.

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