In two hot-fire tweets, Cooper melted Ice Cube and other Black men who would follow his lead. "Apparently y’all want to be to 2020 what white women were to 2016,” she wrote. “I mean Black women are out here doing all we can to salvage anything like credible liberal/left/progressive politics, and summa these brothers are like: but Trump might wave at us and make us feel like real men.”
Cooper, a professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, continued her eloquent rage in an interview for my podcast “Cape Up.” She held forth in a 35-minute tour de force that ranged from Ice Cube and the appeal of Trump for some Black men to the role of Black women in their families and the political life of the nation to the meaning of seeing Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) under Secret Service protection as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. I cannot possibly capture the power and nuance of her arguments. To slice and dice her words would be to rob them of their ferocity. So, below are four areas where Cooper’s words must be read in their entirety.
The appeal of Trump to Black men
The ostensible sort of argument is that there is no distinction between these candidates and that they’re tired of the Democratic Party taking them for granted. But really what this is about, in my estimation, as a feminist scholar who thinks about these kinds of concerns around gender, is that this is Black men being actually enamored with the kind of masculinity that Trump performs, right? Look, there are plenty of hip-hop songs that have celebrated Donald Trump for the better part of 30 years, because he’s literally the dude in the club that’s making it rain. He has lots of ladies. He cheats on his wife...And as I sort of said on Twitter, this is a man who aspires to mediocrity in every part of his life, and yet it does not keep him from rising to the top, from getting access to the American presidency. And there is a way that Black men have been made to believe that because white supremacy has worked on them, primarily by restricting their access to all the spoils of manhood, to the money, to the political power, to even to the sort of noble power of protecting their women, for a lot of Black men, their racial freedom aspiration is to just be equal with White men, which is to say they wanna be patriarchs or male-dominant in the way that White men are...I didn’t come after these Trump dudes because I just wanted to come after Black men. I came after them because the increasing levels of support, if these brothers go out in any level of numbers to vote, actually can swing the tenor of this election. So, it’s dangerous…I’m not coming after the brothers who are, even if they’re having to hold their noses to do it or going to show up to the polls and vote, going to vote Biden because he’s the only other viable candidate as an option that we have.
Black men and Black women
I also need brothers to do their emotional work that when Black women are asking you to evaluate your own political stances, it’s never in the aggregate, a prelude to us throwing Black men under the bus. We are out here risking our lives in a pandemic to vote and to turn out votes precisely because we know how devastating conservative politics is for Black communities...from liberals who practice fiscal conservatism like the Clinton administration did, but also particularly when it comes from the GOP.We are voting in solidarity. We’re trying to create better conditions for our brothers, not trying to undercut them. And what these brothers want is for us to tell them that the b------t that they sometimes engage in, it smells like roses, and that it’s fine for them to do it. And meanwhile, we’re all out here fighting for our very lives. And let me say this last thing, brothers do this radical performance about how they’re “woker” than everybody else, and then they depend on sisters to go out to the polls and make sure that the lights stay on. We’re the ones who make sure your baby has somewhere to go to school, make sure that the bills get paid, make sure that tax refund checks show up every spring and summer, and you use that little bit of space that we give you in this onslaught of white supremacy, to act like you’re “woker than thou.”That is so deeply offensive. Sisters see the whole picture. We work up close to White folks. We understand the game, but we also know that part of what our job is...you play the hand you are dealt, and then you try to work your way to a better hand. And some of this is about the hand you were dealt, but some of this is about the art of how you play the game. And I’m tired of people thinking that Black women ain’t got no game. Of course we do. And if I can’t say it for sisters I can say it for me: I got a mean hand of spades all day, every day.
Why Black voters chose Joe Biden
BC: The reason that Black folks chose Biden...Look, I was, I’m more to the left of Biden, so I wanted one of the more progressive linking candidates. But I know why Black women across the country chose Biden because that is who we thought White people would let us get away with.JC: Yeah. [laughter]BC: Come on, it's not about what we wanna see. We’re like, we understand who these White folks are. We understand that the Barack Obama administration traumatized these White people in ways that they have yet to fully acknowledge or process. And so what White people are demanding for America, whether they’re more liberal or more conservative, they want a status quo that feels reasonable and familiar to them, and Joe Biden is on the liberal side of that familiar status quo.Black folks deeply get the psychology of White people. Black women get it, I would argue, more than anybody else, because of all the decades and centuries we spent cleaning White folks’ houses and raising their children. We get it. And so what we have said in the aggregate as voters is that the country ain’t ready for that. That what Trump proved is that these White people need a return to some kind of status quo that they can build more slowly from. And for the sake of our people, we’re gonna get on board with this and do it. And I think Black folks also finally said, ‘And since Biden is the kind of White man who would serve as the No. 2 to a Black man, who would help a Black man get over the line, then he’s worthy of support from us. He’ll do for our purposes and he’ll also do for our other purpose, which is to pull a sister over the line.’
The meaning of Secret Service protection for Harris
We live in a world where no one ever thinks Black women and girls are worthy of being protected, and so we just hear endless stories about Black women being assaulted. There’s a whole meme culture dedicated to people stepping to Black girls the wrong way and then dudes standing around watching Black girls and Black women get into fights to defend themselves…Black women’s bodies built this empire. We reproduced enslaved children who did the capital and the back-breaking labor to produce American wealth, and we were never seen as worthy of protection. And so the idea that the heaviest resources of the state would be marshaled to protect the Black woman who is potentially going to be in the No. 2 position, it does matter. It’s not everything, but it matters. It resets this imagery about Black women as being too strong and invulnerable, and it says that we, too, can break and we, too, deserve for people to value our lives and our contributions and our minds and our political acumen in such a way that [the Secret Service] would risk their very lives in order to protect it.
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