“If I don’t like it, I don’t like it, that don’t mean that I’m hating.” – Common
I don’t even like the word. I also don’t use it in every day conversation.
My recent post, “An Open Letter to Tyler Perry,” has been quite the buzz for the past week. It has been reposted on various online publications and discussed on local radio stations (shoutout to 97.1 in Greensboro, NC for reading an excerpt on their program Sunday). Readers set the comments on fire with their agreements and disagreements with my position. Total strangers on Twitter and Facebook have hit me up with their thoughts, and my email hasn’t stopped buzzing since the day I posted the blog. In the majority of those emails both women and men have thanked me for writing the “truth” about TP’s depiction of black women. What I found interesting was the number of people who expressed that in their attempts to have this same discussion in the past, they were immediately called “haters.” People accused them, just like some commenters accused me, of hating on Tyler Perry because we disapproved of the tropes he uses in his works.
Black people, this has to stop.
It has been nearly a decade since the term hater has been frequently used by the masses. Loosely translated, we consider someone a hater if they hate seeing someone do well or doing better than them. When hater became the latest pop culture catch phrase, rappers went in the studio to lay tracks about their haters. Pastors preached from the pulpit on Sunday morning about letting God take care of your haters. And folks couldn’t wait to tell you how many haters they had. “She’s just hatin’,” your bestie would say. Then they’d rattle off a laundry list of everything people were allegedly hating on: “She’s hating because her man wants me.” “He’s hating on me because he’s broke.” According to some, everyone was a hater. And everyone had haters.
Due to our history in this country black people have had an unspoken rule that we don’t air out our dirty laundry for white folks to see or hear. Any internal issues within the black community we must air them out behind closed doors so the white folks can’t look on and pass judgment. Doing otherwise would result in major backlash and could get you accused of being a traitor to the race. But the truth is that within the black community we’ve always had public disagreements. We’re not monolithic so everyone isn’t going to be on one accord.
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois publicly disagreed. DuBois and Marcus Garvey had a major public beef. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were heavily critical of one another’s ideologies. Despite what Alex Haley wrote in Malcolm X we learn in Dr. Manning Marable’s book that in actuality Malcolm X was never moving toward aligning his ideas with integration as inaccurate history will suggest. Langston Hughes was an extremely vocal critic of Zora Neale Hurston. Only during those times the Internet didn’t exist so one’s critique of another artist did not spread all over the world wide web. But the critiques still existed.
Clearly I don’t subscribe to the notion that blacks should not critique one another in the public sphere. Nor am I of the belief that because something is black it should automatically be supported (even though I try my hardest to support things that are black owned, black written, black produced, black art, etc., but if I don’t like it I don’t like it). We have to think beyond this philosophy that someone not being a fan of someone’s artistry means they’re hating. It’s illogical and an anti-intellectual lazy argument.
Critique and dislike of something does not equal “hating.” It really does us a disservice to continue thinking along these lines.
The other day I wrote about finishing Assata’s autobiography in two days. One of the passages that stuck with me was toward the end when she was describing joining the Black Panther Party. She went on to explain the party she fell in love with was no longer what she’d envisioned, which eventually led to her leaving the BPP. What struck me was her personal opinion of one of the major reasons she believes the BPP didn’t thrive beyond a certain point. She writes:
…That was one of the big problems in the Party. Criticism and self-criticism were not encouraged, and the little that was given often was not taken seriously. Constructive criticism and self-criticism are extremely important for any revolutionary organization. Without them, people tend to drown in their mistakes, not learn from them.
Preach Assata! Constructive criticism is necessary. We can still wish someone well while holding them accountable for what they produce for the masses. We can critique President Obama, but still vote for him in the upcoming election. We can gripe about how Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson did not train up our generation to take their place while still giving them their due props for all they’ve done and continue to do in the black community. Or we can just plain ol’ critique folks without outlining anything good.
How one can come to the conclusion that myself or anyone else who doesn’t support what TP does as hating is beyond me. It’s the same argument I hear when I divulge that I am not a fan of Bey. Do I congratulate their success and the strides they’ve made as black people? Yes. But I don’t have to like it because the masses may. It’s not personal. True constructive criticism seldom is an attack on the actual person.
We absolutely have a right to question those things that we consume, what is constantly fed to us through the media and those things we support with our dollars. And we have the right to do so without being called haters. Just know, when you’re discussing a topic with someone who is expressing their distaste for whatever it is you’re discussing, and all you can come up with is, “You’re a hater,” well, let’s just say you lose all credibility. And people typically stop listening to you at that point.