I Cannot Believe I am Defending Cardi B

By:  Asher Primus

Bodak Yellow is one of the hottest tracks of the summer.  It is the stripper anthem that empowers black women sexually.  The key to creating the perfect black woman anthem is by giving them what they want to hear, which is entitlement and an infrasonic superiority complex, “I am the baddest bitch in the game.”  Make the listeners feel like they are the boss and how bitches are hating and niggas cannot get enough of the good stuff.

The audio alone can stand on its own, but the music video invites Cardi B to the exotic lifestyle of Saudi Arabia and Middle Eastern culture.  It did surprise me that Cardi B was called out by Muslim activist Amani Al-Khatahtbeh.

She accused Cardi B of cultural appropriation by having no ties to the Middle East or an Arab heritage.  Amani cries foul that the rapper is playing dress up and insights the notion of Islamophobia and “orientalism” in pop culture.  Her article that was featured on Refinery29, seems to address more so white men’s view of Islam rather than how black people are supposedly practicing reverse racism.

In my opinion, Amani is applying respectability politics that (Arab) Islam is disgraced by Cardi B’s ratchet behavior and blackness.  I am not saying Amani is racist, just misinformed, privileged and Arab-centric.  In her article she subconsciously uses Islam as the metric stick for the faith and culture, yet neglects that Africans and African Americans practice the same faith with their own cultural blend.  For the hoteps, yes, we can say Islam is a colonist religion or that it was whitewashed.  Regardless, there are black Muslims and Amani’s critique would have been more valid with me if she also asked for their perspective.

Last week, I debated the founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet over the same article.  She defended Amani, but I pressed on that Islam has a bad habit of being the perfect religion as it appears they are beyond the temptations of the flesh.  Despite their humble flaw, it shows how the humanity of Islam goes away once they interact with black people.  On a passive aggressive assessment, the Arab Muslim never or rarely addresses himself to black people on anything constructive.  The Arab stereotypes, such as black men with harem trinkets, they would not sell to their own people.  I am tired of them coming to me at the mall with the outdated street lingo.  No, I do not need a gold chain.  The younger Arab American thinks they are bridging the racial gap, but they make it worse by continuing to run their parent’s businesses in the black community.  The very black community that they could care less about and who their product harms.  They never address us with “As-Salaam Alaikum.”

It is unfair that even Arab artists appropriate black culture and we do not even try to set the tone by policing their actions in our spaces?  DJ Khaled and French Montana are getting too many passes.  In vice-versa, black artists (or people in general) have to be monitored on what they can do with foreign culture.  In Korea, African features are mocked and used on live television.  The world has to constantly remind them that blackface is not funny.  Alexandria Reid is the first African American to become a Korean pop artist.  She was a part of the girl group Rania.  Surprisingly, K-Pop does have a strong black female fanbase.  So, Reid did represent the desire of black women wanting to be with the Asian media and their men.  Yet, her journey with Rania was cut short as she was released from the group.  Even when she was an official member, being the token black girl did not save her from criticism.  She was accused of skin bleaching and cultural appropriation.  Now that is funny because when Korean men appropriate blackness, it is redefined as edgy and something new, while the blackness they borrowed from is too raw or that it is not really a “black” thing.  A prime example is their usage of dreadlocks.  Fans are usually split down the middle, but it irks me to see white and Asian people explain to me that dreadlocks are not black hair and that it originated in Rome.  Reid’s attacks were unwarranted since she was in invited in the K-Pop world.

This correlation ties with Amani’s disapprove of Bodak Yellow because black people are never given a pass to appropriate other cultures under fair use.  It is not like black people have a history of destroying cultures or stealing concepts to be claimed as our own.  No Arabs were harmed in the making of the music video.  Romanian artist Inna also made a hit song that features her in Islamic attire and I could not find any ties to her being Muslim or of Arab decent.

Since the traditional clothing were brought up in her article, I can still defend Cardi B without being disrespectful to the personal beliefs of Muslims, but the hijab and abaya are old concepts of modesty and a patriarchal code of conduct that are as old as time itself.  The hijab (veil) predates Islam and goes as far back as to an Assyrian text from 13 B.C.  Head covering in order to maintain the chastity of women are intersectional in many non-Muslim faiths and cultures, even in Christianity.  All 3 modern religions had patriarchal perspectives that women were impure and that their beauty must be tamed to prevent men from (adultery) sin.  The coverings in some cultures determine the prestige of women via classism.  God perceives the need to cover women because their bodies are shameful, but in reality, it is a guilty-pleasure.  Due to my proximity, southern Christians are the best example because they are conservative.  The white and Arab man has a lot in common, but all races of men want to create hierarchy so that they can prove to each other that they are alpha.  Modern religion and culture burrows from previous ideologies during the erasure of indigenous cultures.

Nothing is truly original as history reveals the war, rape and pillaging of women and children as they enter colonialism.  This is not to say that religions do have an inclusive meaning, but faith and culture only stand under the basis of theory and a center point that their religion is superior and the correct way to talk to God.

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