On Monday, June 15th, #JusticeForToyin was the number one trending topic on Twitter after Black female activist Oluwatoyin Salau was found dead in Tallahassee. Oluwatoyin had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Black man who she went to looking for a place to stay. Toyin’s untimely death, coupled with a viral video of a Black woman being thrown in the dumpster by a group of Black men, sparked a conversation on social media discussing how Black men can better protect and advocate for Black women.
So, when rapper J. Cole decided to release a surprise song titled “Snow On Tha Bluff,” it seems he was probably thinking, What better way is there to add to this conversation than releasing a diss track directed to a Black female activist?
In the song, J. Cole addresses his grievances with modern activism. He specifically criticizes an unnamed woman, who he says should be more gentle when talking to people who don’t know as much as she does. “But sh*t, it’s something about the queen tone that’s bothering’ me,” he raps on the almost four minute record. “Just ’cause you woke and I’m not, that sh*t ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me / How you gon’ lead? / When you attackin’ the very same n*ggas that really do need the shit that you sayin’? / Instead of conveying you holier, come help get us up to speed.”
Many believe the song was addressing female rapper and outspoken activist Noname, who previously remarked in a now deleted tweet, “Poor Black folks all over the country are putting their bodies on the line in protest for our collective safety and y’all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up. n*ggas whole discographies be about Black plight and they no where to be found.” The description used in the tweet led many to believe she was either addressing Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, both who have been designated as “woke rappers” and have yet to make a public statement about George Floyd’s death. J. Cole all but confirmed the song was about Noname in a Twitter thread the day after the song’s release, starting the thread off by doubling down on everything he said.
Despite many women expressing their disappointment with J. Cole, many of them were gaslighted by his fans (nicknamed “Cole Sores” by Twitter users). Some Cole fans claimed that the women criticizing him misinterpreted what the song is about. Others reduced women’s concerns to “cancel culture”.
Cole’s fanbase, made up of mostly men, even proceeded to come up with a menu of excuses as to why J. Cole couldn’t be sexist.
My message to men is simple: calling a woman a “queen,” doesn’t absolve you from misogyny.
In fact, nothing you do means you are exempt from being a misogynist. You could literally be a woman, donate to feminist organizations, pay women a check every month, and you still could be a misogynist. None of the above excuses are even remotely proof that J. Cole, or any man in general, is not a misogynist.
Philanthropy does not mean you’re not a misogynist. Bill Cosby donated $20 million to Spelman College, an all girls university. Does that mean he’s not a rapist? Donald Trump gave funding to HBCUs. Does that mean he’s not a racist? The excuse that because J. Cole has been philanthropic towards women means that he’s not sexist is the same as racists saying “I’m not racist, I have Black friends.” It doesn’t matter if you know a few Black people, that literally says nothing about whether or not you’re a racist. In fact, saying that because J. Cole gave money means that he’s not a misogynist almost feels like men think that all you need to do is throw a couple dollars at a woman to show that you respect her, and that’s simply not true.
Complimenting women does not mean you’re not a misogynist. In fact, some women feel that compliments, especially from people you don’t know, actually feel patronizing. Men have a history of using compliments as a form of manipulation towards women. Catcallers in particular will often start out with a compliment, yelling at you on the street and telling you how pretty you are. It only takes you ignoring them for them to turn completely haywire and start harassing you. To see people imply that J. Cole calling NoName a “queen” means he wasn’t disrespecting her is actually laughable.
In addition, if you’re a man and you dispute anything I just said, you might be a bit sexist too. If women tell you that something makes them feel uncomfortable and harassed, it’s not your job to argue back. This message is especially important for Black men, because you know as a Black person what it’s like to feel like white people are reducing your experiences. You all know the feeling of being told that “racism doesn’t exist”. This gaslighting can be extremely frustrating. So imagine how Black women feel who experience both racial and gender gaslighting. Stop listening to argue and listen to hear.
No one is trying to “cancel” J. Cole. All women are asking is that he be held accountable for the problematic things that he’s said. Even your favorite rapper may say some f-ed up stuff sometimes, and it’s okay to acknowledge that they are wrong. Once you are able to acknowledge J. Coles mistakes, it’s up to you to decide whether or not he’s worth being “cancelled.”
As for me, I can’t cancel someone who I already don’t listen to in the first place.