Tag Archives: Black issues

Megan Thee Stallion v Tory Lanez: Dehumanizing Black Women to Justify Violence and Victim-Blaming

by Jasmin L.K. Smith

Black women are the least protected group, I would argue, in the world. They are expected to be strong caretakers, and many view them through a lens of strength and survival through hardship. The latter, however positive, is more regressive than progressive, since it creates an idea that Black women should be viewed as a one-dimensional monolith. 

Black women have been discriminated against for centuries, not only by the misogynistic and racist outsiders within society, but in their own community, suffering at the hands of Black men and those that have more privileges than them due to lighter complexions. Black women are less likely to be attended to in hospitals, they are more likely to be viewed as aggressive and angry, and, most pressingly, they are less likely to be believed when they come out as victims.

On the night of the shooting between Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion, I was involved in a groupchat of nearly 100 black women that were attending the same university as I had been. Within minutes the groupchat had gone from a simmer to a full-on kitchen fire, everyone sending details of what had happened and what the news had been saying. Over the following weeks, when discussing the case, our topics strayed away from Megan herself in favour of addressing the responses to her victimhood. Megan, a dark-skin Black woman, was called a cockroach, online personalities began to speculate that she was a man, and others simply said that she had made it all up. The responses were disgusting and abundant, and many of us in the groupchat were exposed to the true colours of our peers and loved ones; nobody was defending Megan like they had when white women cried ‘MeToo’, nobody was sympathizing with the pain that she must have felt, and she had been stripped of her identity in favour of people referring to her as a caricature. 

Black Women as Caricatures

In slavery-era minstrel shows, white people would portray Black women as one of two stereotypes: the Mammy, or the Jezebel. The Mammy is a character that possesses no personal life of her own, sacrificing everything to take care of a white family’s home or children, and she was supposed to be grateful for the space and privileges granted to her by the family that she ‘worked for’. A modern example of this caricature would be Viola Davis’ role in The Help, a film that, rather than focusing on the complex relationships of Black caretakers and the children that they watched over in the early 20th century, told the story of a white savior that ‘felt terrible’ for what she had to witness. The image of Aunt Jemima is also an example of the Mammy in popular culture, an image, and a false story, that was only changed after outrage in 2021 (Diaz).

During slavery, it was not rare for white women to express jealousy towards the slave women that would be sexually assaulted at the hand of white slave masters. This was not romance, yet it was interpreted as such by wives that longed for the attention of their husbands. The caricature of the Jezebel originated from such circumstances as these. White women believed that their husbands had been seduced by Black women and their sexuality, thus leading them to be victims of sexual assault. This, of course, is not the truth, and Black women suffered overwhelming abuses from slave owners, which is not reflected in the Jezebel stereotype. The Jezebel’s only influence is her body, which she offers in exchange for something that she desires, and though it is no longer common in media, the Jezebel caricature has left lasting traces in Hollywood films and series.

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the caricature of the Sapphire rose to prominence, and the public believed this to be a true representation of Black women. The sapphire is the stereotypical ‘sassy Black woman’, she is loud, overbeating, hard-headed, and rude, and has directly contributed to the stereotype of Black women being angry and aggressive. The Sapphire is the ‘Angry Black Women’ that the public is regularly exposed to, and she is masculinized by portraying her as the dominant person in her relationships. The most common caricature of Black women in modern media is the Strong Black Women, also a product of the usage of the Sapphire stereotype. The Strong Black Women is a two-dimensional, emotionally incompetent character that very rarely gets to express an emotion aside from determination.

With a handful of ways to portray Black women, “the audience, and the creators alike, are going to constantly think that [they] have represented Black women in the way they are. When really, they have represented the same racist caricature over and over” (3:38 Al Jazeera). Having played the role of another Black woman stereotype, the Welfare Queen, Babirye Bukilwa sees herself as having been complicit in propaganda targeting Black women (Al Jazeera 6:40). 

These stereotypes, even when put together, do not create a real character with personality and understandable motivations. None of these stereotypes or caricatures will ever be honest to the experience of Black women, because they lack depth and dimensionality. While there have been a few shows in recent years that have come out with honest stories about Black women, like Scandal, Insecure, and The Photograph, the startling lack of colour in media production has kept century-old stereotypes and caricatures alive, and these caricatures and stereotypes continue to thrive and work themselves into public opinions. 

Defeminizing Black Women

Michelle Obama is successful, her birth name must be Michael; Francine Niyonsaba has a hormonal disorder, she must be competing as a woman to cheat her way to a gold medal; Megan Thee Stallion has taken agency and embraced her own sexuality, she must be .Marcus Thee Stallion’. Do you recognize a pattern? Successful, dominant Black women are constantly torn down and defeminized, and Black women that identify with traditionally masculine traits are rumored by the masses to be men themselves.

The defeminization of Black women began, again, with minstrel shows and slavery. When Black women were stripped of their agency, or when they were only portrayed as being voiceless, or mothering, their ability to embrace their own sexualities ceased to exist. Black women, in the sense of the Mammy trope, were seen as being nurturing, without desire for anything themselves. At the same time, the only sexual experiences of Black women in slavery were those defined by their slave masters, creating a culture that connected victimhood and sexuality when examining relationships of Black women. 

Non-Black society has attributed masculinity as a whole to Black communities. They attribute perceived hypermasculine traits, such as violence and likelihood to commit a crime, to Black men, and both Black men and Women suffer as a result. Black men are more likely to be targeted by police violence, while Black women must suffer as they must prove themselves as being feminine beings to those around them. The default for femininity is the white damsel in distress, a character like Snow White, thus assuming Black women to lack femininity since they lack a light complexion (Blake). Even men in the Black community portray and discuss Black women as if they are lesser than because they have dark skin or because they have been brainwashed by the stereotypes of white society. 


During the Womanism Movement in the 60s and 70s, Black women coined the word ‘misogynoir’ to encompass the extremely specific circumstances of which they are discriminated against. ‘Misogynoir’ is a word that not only captures the racism and misogyny that Black women endure at the hands of society as a whole, but also addresses, arguably, the biggest perpetrating group of stereotypes against Black women, Black men. 

Issues faced by Black women are usually not as bothersome to Black men as they should be. In Why Are Black Men So Quiet About the Things That Matter to Black Women?, Allison Wiltz talks about Black conservatism and how it directly affects Black women. Black conservative men have, for decades, described abortion as being a tool for Black genocide, however, they do not speak on the fact that Black women are more than three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women (Wiltz). Often times, these same men claim that Black women are living off of welfare or cheating the system, but they never bother to comment on wage disparities between Black men and Black women, or even Black women and White women. 

In recent years, books like Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall have addressed the way that ‘ratchet’/’hood’ women are viewed as ‘ghetto’ or ‘uneducated’. Books such as these suggest that Black men view Black women as being less than white women because they have chosen to use AAVE, or because they wear certain clothes. These mentalities and styles invented by Black women often end up in mainstream media, by which point they are deemed as being socially acceptable while Black women are still being labeled as ‘ghetto’ for trendsetting. 

Black men have, in the past, picked up many of the stereotypes towards Black women that have been created by non-Black communities. Rather than speaking out against them, many Black men have, instead, chosen disbelief or complacency in order to advance in life.

In one apology addressed to Megan, a Black man said that he initially could not believe it, and that is why he chose to be hateful towards her. The “everyday violence that [Black women] deal with“sounds so crazy”as to be met with incredulity,” but this is the type of violence that they are faced with everyday of their lives, including from their very own community (Lane 295).


The Oxford English Dictionary defines parasociality as “Designating a relationship characterized by the one-sided, unreciprocated sense of intimacy felt by a viewer, fan, or follower for a well-known or prominent figure” (“Parasocial” O.E.D). In other words, a parasocial relationship is one in which a fan believes that they have a realistic, everyday relationship with a celebrity or creator because of the accessibility of their content. 

Parasocial relationships can be dangerous, as the person that perceives a parasocial relationship may defend the celebrity, creator, or character, as if they are a friend, and they are unable to decipher that their relationship is one-sided. In a study published in Psychology and Marketing, Siyoung Chung and her team discovered that, the more a celebrity tweeted or interacted with fans online, the more likely they were to be endorsed by their audience (Chung). Not only is this excellent branding, creating falsified, and seemingly personal connections with an audience, allowing for significantly more successful marketing, but it is also a wonderful PR tool.

When celebrities with large, parasocial audiences get into scandals, any bad publicity can be easily overshadowed by their fanbase spreading other information, or simply polluting related hashtags with unrelated events/media. For Tory Lanez, his parasocial audience mixed with racism, misogyny, and misogynoir from members of the Black community, created a perfect storm to distract from Megan’s retelling of the events. Rather than finding conversations about what happened on the night of the shooting, or seeing evidence on your timeline, it is much more common to come across tweets calling Megan a liar, or claiming her to be a man.

So What?

In the midst of her trauma, Megan Thee Stallion was forced to relentlessly explain herself, blame and insults being spewed on every platform. At the time of the shooting, it is reported that she lied to a police officer regarding what had happened. Many ridiculed her for this decision, overlooking the historic relationship between Black men and police departments, especially in the United States. Others called her a snitch for saying anything at all, “as if she were involved with some crime ring with Tory Lanez” (The Takeaway 4:45). Megan, like other Black women, could not win, and this trial has grown to be as much of a minstrel show as the ones that took place 100 years ago. If Megan is a Sapphire, she can’t feel pain, right? If she is a Strong Black Woman, then she must not be a victim. 

If you have gotten this far, and you feel anger towards my defense of Megan Thee Stallion, towards my defense of Black women as a whole, let me remind you: Tory Lanez is not your friend. Why are you defending him? Why are Black women stripped of any talents and education, viewed as even subhuman, once they reach fame? Why must Black women suffer no matter their position in life?

This trial is about Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez, but it has never been solely about Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez. This trial is about society and Black women, about Black men and Black women, this trial is about Black Women and pain. Nobody believes Black women, because society, including Black men, do not view them as people. If Black women are supposed to be protectors, who will protect them?

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. “Mammy, Jezebel and Sapphire: Stereotyping Black women in media | The Listening Post (Feature).” Youtube, uploaded by Al Jazeera English, 26 July 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2teqoyPe3TU&ab_channel=AlJazeeraEnglish.

Blake, Arana. The Masculinization of Black Women. Nubian Message, 14 April 2022, https://www.thenubianmessage.com/2022/04/14/the-masculinization-of-black-women/.

Chung, Sarah., & Cho, Hichang. “Fostering Parasocial Relationships with Celebrities on Social Media: Implications for Celebrity Endorsement.” Psychology and Marketing, 34(4), 481-495,  https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21001.

.Diaz, Jaclyn. Aunt Jemima No More; Pancake Brand Renamed Pearl Milling Company. NPR, 10 February 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966166648/aunt-jemima-no-more-pancake-brand-renamed-pearl-milling-company.

Jim Crow Museum. The Sapphire Caricature. Ferris State University, 2023, https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/antiblack/sapphire.htm.

Lane, Nikki. “Ratchet Black Lives Matter: Megan Thee Stallion, Intra-Racial Violence, and the Elusion of Grief.” Linguistic Anthropology, 31, 293-297, August 2021, https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jola.12323.

“Parasocial, adj.” OED Online, Oxford UP, 30 March 2022, https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/99961331?redirectedFrom=parasocial#eid.

Wiltz, Allison. Why Are Black Men So Quiet About the Things That Matter to Black Women?. Zora, 3 March 2022, https://zora.medium.com/why-are-black-men-so-quiet-about-the-things-that-matter-to-black-women-a8a5a865ec35.

Vega, Tanzia. “Megan Thee Stallion and Misogynoir in the Music Industry.” New York Public Radio, uploaded by The Takeaway, 31 August 2020, https://www.proquest.com/docview/2731268096?accountid=14771&parentSessionId=2YDtk50apX1Ex6Vp%2BiEgCQaImk5TT6JR8lJQanuITJQ%3D&parentSessionId=Q4gzv5f48uqTqetjiEQTYWS5JbSyG3BbLCKXgUIib0k%3D.

‘Are you sure? I think you might just be overreacting’: The “Nothingness” of Microaggressions and Brandon Taylor’s ‘Real Life’

by Jasmin L.K. Smith

Courtesy of Riverhead Books

Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is a beautiful, silent, creeping story of Black sexuality and the hidden anti-Black aggressions of academia. When I finished this novel, I was at Old Mill Station, sitting on the TTC on my way home from class on a chilly September night, not quite a flashbulb memory, but very close given the impact this story had on me. This is a novel that I will always recommend, and, having faced racism in an academic setting on multiple crushing occasions, it is a novel that brought me to tears. Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is a love letter to every Black academic, acknowledging the frustrating microaggressions deeply embedded into academic structures that often go ignored by our peers, but, more importantly, it is also a love letter to himself.

Brandon Taylor’s debut novel is a novel, seemingly, about nothing. When I had first read the climax, I had to go back and read it over again to confirm that it was, in fact, the climax. I easily fell in love with Taylor’s ability to accurately portray such a multi-dimensional situation, a life being lived; the ‘nothingness’ of the novel was not like watching paint dry, or waiting for water to boil, it was like a walk through the woods at night, hoping and praying for nothing to jump out. It was beautiful and tragic and redeeming, and it felt like, for the first time, I had the words and the stories that I had always been in search of.

Real Life begins with Wallace, the only Black student in his PhD program at a university in Alabama, going to the lake to meet his friends. The scene introduces his group of five, all of which are white PhD students that attend the same school. Throughout the novel, Taylor builds characters that anybody could encounter in their academic career, with the honesty of portraying Wallace as someone that often feels like an outsider within the cliquey dynamic of his friends. 

In the laboratory where he spends much of his time, Wallace is subjected to impatience, frustration, and thinly veiled racism from the other scientists around him. Out of the lab’s characters, Brigit is the only redeemable personality, being a loyal and compassionate friend to Wallace. Much of his time in the lab portrayed in the novel is spent attempting to restart research that had been ruined by Dana, a scientist in the lab that seems to hate Wallace for no reason. Of course, the explanation for Dana’s behavior is much less simple, and her constant attempts to alienate and typecast Wallace make it very obvious that her behaviors are microaggressions. To outsiders, or non-Black people that have never had to see a woman’s knuckles turn white around her purse strap the moment you walk into a room, microaggressions often seem absurd, and they are often dismissed as being a figment of Black imaginations. Being Black, particularly in academia where faculty and peers refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room, it is unimaginably frustrating to experience the same daily patterns of small, racist acts and get told that they are being imagined. Taylor doesn’t beat around the bush with his depiction of microaggressions, he does not shy away from the frequency of them, nor does he create a magical solution to them for the sake of narrative. As is the nature of microaggressions in real life, nobody believes Wallace when he tries to speak up. Rather than someone recognizing Dana’s behavior as stemming from racism, Wallace is blamed for creating a toxic environment in their lab. 

The microaggressions don’t end at Dana, who non-Black readers could dismiss as being raised in a racist environment or simply hateful of Wallace’s success, but it continues into Wallace’s own friend group. At a dinner party with every single one of his friends– save for Brigit– in attendance, Wallace’s thoughts of leaving his program are openly shut down because of what Roman, a friend of a friend, calls his “deficiencies” (Taylor 109). Prior to using this term, Roman describes how, without his doctorate, Wallace would suffer because of “the prospects for . . . black people” (108). He continues to describe Wallace’s thoughts of leaving as selfish and ungrateful, because Wallace apparently owes his department for even being so gracious as to let him in. The entire table is privy to the conversation between the two of them, but no one says a word, nobody makes any attempt to stand up for Wallace, or address the very obvious racism from Roman. During the encounter, “Wallace can only taste ashes in his mouth,” and reading the scene, I felt much the same (109). Despite the feelings of irreverence that I had towards the characters in Taylor’s constructed world at that moment, I had been in situations entirely too similar, and just as off-putting and disharmonious. 

Wallace’s most poignant relationship is the one that he shares with Miller, a friend of his that swears to be straight in spite of his ongoing affair with Wallace. Miller often downplays the situation between him and Wallace, hiding it away from the world. Wallace is made, as he was in his childhood, to feel dirty, to feel like he is the one to be blamed. Despite the constant, underlying pulse of wanting Miller to do and be better, Miller never changes, he is always the wolf of the fable. What’s worse is Wallace’s easy acceptance of the way he is treated by Miller, and even their other friends; he cannot see himself ever being in the right, he is alway on the offering end of an unneeded apology. 

We, as readers, get to earnestly consider the complexities of Wallace’s grief, having been a victim of his father’s cruelty in the past, and presently refusing to acknowledge that he is even experiencing grief for someone that had cared for him so little. Wallace must reconcile with the fact that he may not fit in at his university, but he may not have fit in during his childhood either. So what does that leave him with? What kind of place can he make for himself with what he has left? Though Wallace may seem like a pushover at some points, throughout the story he allows himself to think the thoughts that scare us too much to examine ourselves. He has spent years of his life in a scientific field, and he has gotten as far as being in a doctorate program, but he is now doubting whether it is something he really wants. After losing so many years of his life on his program, even entertaining the thought of leaving is brave, and it’s not something that many people would consider doing themselves. Wallace is not thinking of quitting because of the difficult dynamics of his program, but because maybe he has spent his entire academic career being driven by the opposite; maybe his academic career wasn’t in spite of others, but to prove that he could survive their spite.

Wallace’s story is painfully relatable and uncompromisingly truthful, and much of that is because it is semi-autobiographical to Taylor’s own life. Taylor himself had been born and raised in Alabama, and he dropped out of his own PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue writing (Wheeler). His own university experiences were often filled with microaggressions and dissonance, well reflected in the progression of Wallace’s story in Real Life. Taylor “didn’t write this book for the white gaze,” he wrote it for people like his “queer, black friends” that felt as if modern campus novels didn’t “represent [them] in any sort of substantive way” (Wheeler). Though the novel does create a digestible framework for non-Black people to understand how deeply racism is embedded into academia, the novel’s purpose is not to educate, it is to show Black students, Black lovers of academia, that their experiences are real and their stories are worth being told. As a Black student, it is incredibly difficult to love an institution that will always be systemically against you, but Taylor understands it, and Wallace lives it. 

Wallace’s struggles throughout Real Life do not fall on opposite ends of a spectrum, they don’t go from a bad hair day to saving the world from an apocalypse, no, Wallace’s problems are mundane; from silent, internal mental health issues, to being on the losing end of a difficult situationship. Wallace has problems that you would hear friends talking about over coffee, or see questions on an advice blog about. In an interview with the writers at the Booker Prize Foundation, Brandon claims “close observation” to be “how [he makes sense] of the world” (Booker Prize Foundation). His concentrated, persistent scrutinization of the regular and mundane creates a story that feels so exacting and sharp that, at points, it feels almost monumental in the way that it encapsulates a life lived. I struggle to find words to describe the various complete and incomplete feelings I was left with at the book’s finish because ‘mundane’ reduces it to something unworthy of a read. Real Life is melancholic, celebratory, validating, and unrelenting, but, above all else, it is honest.

Works Cited

Booker Prize Foundation. “Brandon Taylor Q&A.” The Booker Prizes, 2020, https://thebookerprizes.com/brandon-taylor-interview-real-life.

Taylor, Brandon. (2020). Real Life. Riverhead Books.

Wheeler, André. “’I didn’t write this book for the white gaze’: black queer author Brandon Taylor on his debut novel.” The Guardian, 5 March 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/05/brandon-taylor-author-real-life-interview.

Do the Right Thing: Black People and the Problem of Police Brutality

by Cassandra Nyimbili

Do the Right Thing (1989) - IMDb
Courtesy of 40 Acres and a Mule, 1989

In 1989, famed director Spike Lee created Do the Right Thing, a film following the story of the Wall of Fame inside an Italian-American-owned pizzeria in a Black community. As tensions rise in the community due to the Wall featuring only famous Italian-Americans instead of also including famous African-Americans, due to the pizzeria being located in a predominantly African-America area, conversations are held to understand the treatment of Black people by other ethnicities, especially white people. Parallels can be drawn between 1989 and the present while keeping the messages of trailblazers Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X throughout the call to action. The main message of the movie is brought to the attention of the main character Mookie when the Mayor tells Mookie to “always do the right thing,”1 although he brushes off 1 the advice in the moment, the message becomes more apparent as the movie continues. All around the neighbourhood are conversations and actions with racial undertones and overt instances. Prevalent topics in the film include stereotypes, Black people’s influence on society, and the relationship between police and Black people.

This film creates an environment for viewers to understand the climate the characters were living in and compare it to the present day. The successes of Black people are constantly left out of the conversation when discussing people who have impacted the world we live in today. The central conflict in the film is the lack of inclusion for Black people on Sal’s wall of fame. The white characters in the movie continually disregard the importance of Black people. Pino takes away his favourite celebrities’ Blackness because they don’t fit his idea of what Black people should be like; the landlord wears a Larry Bird shirt, and when Black people don’t act according to how Sal and Pino think they should, they disregard their business and resort to using the n-word to describe them. The blatant mistreatment of the Black people in their neighbourhood directly translates into the main conflict of the hall of fame. Buggin’ Out wants people such as Malcolm x, Nelson Mandela, and Michael Jordan as people who should be on the wall, but Sal doesn’t see their importance being on the wall; he threatens his patron with violence and kicks him out as a result2. This scene is the beginning of Sal’s overt mistreatment of Black people, that catapults the movie into its following stages.

Radio Raheem’s death reflects the society where police violence against Black people is repeated. When Lee released this movie, he dedicated it to Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Griffith, Arthur Miller, Edmund Perry, Yvonne Smallwood, and Michael Stewart. Five of these people were murdered by police while Griffth was a victim of the mob3. 36 years after this film’s release Black people are still victims of police brutality; the only difference in the headlines being the names. The names that many people today recognize are George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah Mcclain, Atatiana Jefferson, Daunte Wright. When comparing the victims of the 80s to now, it is evident that police brutality is still prevalent. Sentiments of characters in the movie reflect the opinions of people today when similar events to Radio Raheem’s death occur, such as, “They didn’t have to kill the boy,” “They did it again,” and “He died because of a radio.”4 This repetition of death within the Black community shows society’s disregard and disrespect for Black life. Black people are seen as less than their white counterparts and less deserving of their rights.

Spike Lee immerses viewers into a world similar to ours with the community, the personalities, and the heartbreak. Getting to know the characters who ultimately end up hurt by the events that play out reflects the real lives that are being affected every time the police murder a Black person. As a society, it is our job to fight the powers working against Black people. Through advocacy, action, and doing the right thing, the trajectory of Black lives can be changed.

Works Cited

1,4Do the Right Thing (Universal Pictures, 1989).

2 Ibid

3 Richard Brody, “The Enduring Urgency of Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ at Thirty,” The New Yorker, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/the-enduring-urgency-ofspike-lees-do-the-right-thing-at- thirty.