WHAT DOES THE WORD MEAN? WHAT IS ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THOSE WHO PRIZE CLASSICAL AFRICAN CIVILISATIONS? HOW HAVE TWO FORCES COLLIDED TO DEGRADE THE WORD, AND WHOSE INTERESTS DOES THAT DEGRADATION SERVE?
During the last few years, the catalogue of online slurs has grown considerably, but none has been as disturbing to me as the rise of the word “hotep.” What does the word mean? What is its significance to those who prize classical African civilisations? How have two forces collided to degrade the word, and whose interests does that degradation serve?
Joining me to discuss the issue is C.R. Sparrow. She’s a writer and assistant editor at Black Girl Nerds.com, an Africentric website, podcast, and video series addressing pop culture, politics, feminism, and technology. Sparrow describes herself as “an avid fan of science fiction, fantasy, and afrofuturism… an alumnus of Temple University's School of Media and Communication [and a] Black Queer Woman in a world that frequently attempts to dehumanize each of these identities. She actively centers Black/queer/woman-ness in her lens as she looks out at the world.”
Sparrow recently wrote a powerful article for BGN called “Hotep is the Modern Day A.B.S. and It’s Not OK”. After I read it, I knew I needed to speak with her for MF GALAXY.
I appreciate how Sparrow reinforced for me that people’s self-description is profoundly personal, and not easily changed or wished-away. I’m strongly reminded of the lesson from Elijah Muhammad: Tell a man he’s drinking dirty water, and he’ll resent you and keep on drinking. Instead, simply put a clean glass of water next to his and he’ll figure it out himself and maybe even thank you. My own lesson: If people aren’t buying, change your product, change your marketting, or change your market—but whatever you do, don’t blame the customer. It’ll get you the exact opposite of what you want.
For Canadian listeners, Sparrow uses the African-American colloquialism “bougie,” meaning “bourgeois,” and cites Kim Burrell, a gospel singer and pastor who has preached from her pulpit that LGBTQ folks are “perverted” and will die in 2017 from what she called their “sin.” Before her remarks surfaced, Burrell contributed a song to the soundtrack for Hidden Figures, a docu-drama about African women mathematical geniuses who were indispensable to the success of the US space programme.
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