Don’t Teach Me Nonsense: On Bill Cosby, Fela, and Other Wrongly Exalted Misogynists

by Marissa A. L. Jackson

Do I see man as being naturally superior to women? Naturally. ~ Fela Kuti

Since we're telling truths about our community "heroes" lately...

Are we not OVER the narrative, propagated by progressive, pan-African and Afrocentric artists (mostly men), of Fela Kuti as a revolutionary hero and symbol of global Black liberation?

If you know anything about him, you already know that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti hated, used, and abused women. There is nothing revolutionary about that.

Shame on us for tolerating him anyway.

Fela was a brilliant, iconic musician who fought a powerful and honorable fight against British colonialism. However, like too many pan-Africanist men, he did not seek liberation for all, but only equal access to the same patriarchal power enjoyed by colonizers. He, too, wanted access to and control over women as vessels and labor and chattel, over which he would be Lord. That explains the commune, the self-proclaimed sovereign state inhabited by himself and all the slave-wives, that Broadway, and highly respected media outlets have recently glorified, and exoticized (even while acknowledging that Fela was the King of Misogynoir). While the New York Times has perpetuated the myth that Fela's concubines were subversive queens instead of victims and survivors of gender-based violence, the website for Fela! On Broadway dares to label Fela a "human rights activist." Fela would have agreed, as he made it clear, even with his own words, that he believed that women were just a little less than human. His idea of revolution was one that would benefit men only.

Fela, who was also explicitly homophobic, never wanted anything Different. He wanted to rule over his little piece of the Same.

She go say, I be lady o / I wan tell you about “lady” / She go say im equal to man / She go say im get power like man / She go say anything man do, imself fit do / I never tell you finish / She go wan take cigar before anybody / She go wan make you open door for am / She go wan make e man wash plate for am kitchen / She wan salute man, she go sit down for chair 

~ Lady, Fela Kuti

And while some of us are getting all gussied up for Kwanzaa, let us not forget to read up on Maulana Karenga, or, better yet, to remember all the things we conveniently forgot about him as we subordinated gender to race, again. Unlike Bill Cosby, Karenga never made the mainstream media any money, he was never an example of a "good Black" that could be trotted out against the stereotypes about thugs and welfare queens, and he only terrorized (as far as we know) Black women, so don't expect Jezebel, Salon, or CNN to drag his vile skeletons out of the closet any time soon. And what's the need? WE already know that he, and so many other so-called pan-African “race men” are a liability to the Earth and a direct threat to Black womanhood, and yet, too many of us we have decided to tolerate, and even celebrate him, because of the stubborn belief that a rising misogynist tide can lift all boats, while Black women continue to capsize and drown at sea after falling off their men's surfboards (because hoes ain't loyal)...

A Jamaican proverb best sums up this sermon: "Nuh buy puss inna bag." If we can learn anything about Cosbygate, it’s that we must be informed and be honest and responsible about what we know. We cannot keep drinking cultural kool-aid. Kool-aid isn’t good for you, and it’s easy for rapists, of the body and mind, to spike the drinks, leaving us to wake up years later, dazed, confused, and bitter.

Wouldn't you rather have some fresh water instead?

Marissa Jackson is an Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering at the NYU School of Law.

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