Ascendant rapper and fashion plate Azealia Banks has taken more than a little heat these past few days about her use of the word “faggot” as a diss on celeb gossip monger Perez Hilton, and her use of “manlike” (I’m paraphrasing) as a diss on fellow rapper Angel Haze. When faced with criticism from everyone from lowly bloggers to GLAAD, she grew defensive and attempted an “apology” that only contained more transphobic remarks. How did a bisexual, generally queer-friendly rapper come to such a point? That question might be too complex to answer in a single blog post, but here are the basics.
The trouble started with her well-documented Twitter beef with Angel Haze. I’d say Azealia won, but she scored major queer frownie points for trying to insult Ms. Haze by saying she has an Adam’s apple. Then, when Perez Hilton blogged about the feud, Azealia responded by calling him a “messy faggot” (also on Twitter), which made a lot more people mad.
Azealia Banks responded by posting a half-assed apology for her “foul language”:
She also said some more vaguely transphobic things by way of “explaining” her use of the word against Perez Hiton:
And she soon began walking back her apology:
Here is the difference, as I see it: the n-word is a slur traditionally used to refer to black people in a violent and oppressive context. Azealia Banks is black, so it is hers to re-appropriate if she wants to. “Faggot” has an analogous history, but with one key difference: it was, and is, used primarily against gay men, a group to which she does not belong, no matter how much she thinks her status as a bisexual woman may give her a pass. Hence, Azealia Banks should not be using that word if she wants to remain an LGBT ally, and no amount of yammering on about political correctness, etc. is going to change that. She is wrong about this, full stop. Or, as Jamieson Cox writes at Buzzfeed:
Azealia is only 21 years old, and it’s possible that in later years she will come to realize how hurtful and misguided she’s being right now. Learning to understand and recognize issues that affect others but leave us untouched is a lifelong process that casts our earlier behavior in harsh light. I still appreciate the catchiness and confidence of her music and the potential she’s only begun to realize. But her position as a queer person and ally doesn’t mean she’s infallible, and her pride and ignorance have led her into a place of severe wrong. It’s a mistake I and many others won’t soon forget.