11

Haters

“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.

 

  • LibraryLady

    Spot on!  For the past few months, I’ve been spinning the  “hate” phrase around in my head…thinking it is used too much.  If I try to give you constructive criticism, I’m hating…laughable.  Thanks for speaking what I’ve been thinking for quite some time now.  I had to use the Common quote as my Facebook status today.  Love this blog! 

  • I follow you on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve reposted your blogs on
    several occasions. You may not remember, but we even shared a brief
    debate about For Colored Girls and TP. I stay engaged because you are an
    extremely talented writer and although I am a few years your senior in
    life, you are light years ahead of me in both production and
    craftsmanship.

    I was already to disagree with you on this stance because I have been one of those people that felt it was our duty as black people to support everything black. However, when I put things into prospective… you’re right.

    I despise everything that Herman Cain stands for. His blind and ridiculous allegiance to the Tea Party and the Republican party sicken me. It sickens me not because of his ideology but because of his willingness to tromp on the backs of those who helped him achieve the success that he has. The step and fetch routine he’s performing for the right is embarrassing. Having said that, I agree with some conservative principles including fiscal responsibility and limited government. I agree because I have the means to be fiscally responsible and I don’t need as much government as I once did. However, I’m not ready to kick down the ladder of success because I’ve made it over the top rung. To me, this is Cain’s stance. I made it – you can to! (and if you don’t you’re just lazy or stuck on the plantation… the plantation? Really?)

    Since the first movie, I’ve been giving Tyler Perry the benefit of doubt. I loved his story and I appreciated his motivating rise to such a high level of success. I cheered when he was given the green light to an almost immediate syndication of The House of Pain. I even stood in line to see “us” on the big screen beaming with pride from ear to ear. Then I started to catch the underlying themes of his movies. It dawned on me that his caricature of Madea was entertaining but potentially damaging. As a black man, I was sick of seeing myself on screen as either a savior of lost women or predator of lost women. I was sick of seeing the image of “strong black woman” played out by a man in drag yielding a gun and celebrating ignorance of the bible. I guess what I’m saying is that I no longer saw me or anyone that I knew. The whole experience lost it’s luster.

    I still give Mr. Perry mad respect for even attempting to put Colored Girls on the big screen. I think it was ambitious and I think he may have come just left of the center mark with his adaptation, however I applaud the effort. If his movie caused one person to go buy and read the original choreopoem then he served a purpose.

    I believe that critique and the critic are integral parts of continued success. I agree with Sis. Assata and we have seen the results of fear to critique. I firmly believe that if Tiger Woods had a few people around him saying “no” he would still be on top. Unfortunately, like Tiger, Mr. Perry has placed himself above criticism and his work is proof. “A Madea Christmas” Really bro? Really?

    Although I wouldn’t have approached a critique of his work in the same manner as you, I agree that we must do better. However, I put the onus not on Mr. Perry but on us – the consumers. We have GOT to start demanding better from Mr. Perry and others who have developed an egregious formula to erroneously portray the black experience to the masses. Just as the NAACP, SCLC and National Urban League joined to form the Coalition Against Blaxploitation, we must do the same to rid ourselves of this buffoonery and force Mr. Perry to use his talents and influence for good and not exploitation.

    As a follower of your writing, we don’t always agree (I assure you) but the quality in which you research and present is refreshing, albeit not above reproach.

    • Of course I remember you. We disagreed about “Jumping the Broom.” I’m glad you’re still reading. I don’t think disagreement is bad when it’s kept respectable. I welcome discourse.

      I pretty much agree with your comment here except your stance on fiscal responsibility and less government spending. That may be a conversation for another day. But your observations of Herman Cain are spot on. Although I don’t agree with his philosophies, maybe he’d be more tolerable if he weren’t so uninformed. He doesn’t know anything about foreign policy, geography, history, national security or anything else for that matter. It’s like he’s proud of being so anti-intellectual.

      “I was sick of seeing the image of “strong black woman” played out by a man in drag yielding a gun and celebrating ignorance of the bible. I guess what I’m saying is that I no longer saw me or anyone that I knew. The whole experience lost it’s luster.” — This is what a lot of people have gripes with Tyler for. This is the crux of it. And your point about holding consumers accountable isn’t moot either. It’s something I’ve gone back and forth in my head about. Thanks for the compliments and comment. Much appreciated.

  • klm

    I am so glad that I found your blog. In a word? Refreshing! 🙂

  • I completely agree. I try to share these types of articles with my friends but so many of them don’t like to listen to common sense. They believe that me expressing my opinion about something is “hating”. I really can’t stand that word. I follow you on Twitter and your Fb page and I love reading your work.

  • JOHN12JONES60

    tp is, in my opinion, a stereotypical black man that has succeeded.  He forgets about the family that was there when he was struggling, didnt have a car, no money, couldnt pay rent,buy food, and didnt know how they would make it from day to day.He’ll abandon everything ever taught to him by a black woman, leave his children, and his wife,abandon his people, and change is “identity”, for a white girl. And at the same time, tell the world that black women are angry. 
    In a few words…ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST.

  • Lsarahkh

    Today, i had the opportunity to read your blog regarding Tyler Perry, I do agree with alot of your stance and some left mix feelings.  But you have made a point and it should be address and recognized.  I too was taken back with Tyler’s comments; and he should have address it from a better position (business aspect) instead of allowing his personal feelings  to dispute his whys.  I am hoping that after reading some of the comments that has been posted via black, white etc.  that he will in the future take a better stand the next time he is approach.   There is always room for improvement.            

  • Crystal T. Ash

    Critique and dislike of something does not equal “hating.”
    “Constructive criticism is necessary.”

    These are two things I’m teaching the kids I mentor now. Constructive criticism is needed for growth. People should actually seek out constructive criticism on their craft and life in general in order to gain more insight. No one is always right. I absolutely abhor the terms “hating” and “haters”. In my lifetime, I don’t think I have ever refer to someone as a “hater” and it super silly when someone states they have haters (especially over a certain age).  

    Great post, Bene!

  • Danshell

    I APPLAUD YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I wear the term Hater as a badge of honor. Nowadays being known as a “Hater” is synonymous with being an individual.

  • “We can still wish someone well while holding them accountable for what they produce for the masses.”
    “We absolutely have a right to question those things that we consume”

    Excellent post, especially in light on today’s twitter/tumblr/blog discussion about ABG. The inability to accept critique and recognize it as something different and distinct from hating is endemic, especially in online commentary. I chalk it up to diminished critical reasoning skills. Hopefully, we can get back to critique and dissent without the label of “haters”